Scripture Focus: Proverbs 3.7-12, 19-20
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
and the clouds let drop the dew.
Reflection: The Logic of Proverbs
By John Tillman
Predictable, logical outcomes of mathematics support the idea of a creator. Otherwise, why is there order instead of chaos? Amy has three apples and Billy has two. When they put them together, they have five. Why is it always five and not eight or four?
Proverbs begins with a father building a logical case that his son should pursue wisdom rather than foolishness and violence. The father tells his son that wisdom is the logic behind all existence—that wisdom is what God used to create the world. He presents the universe as ordered and predictable…to a point.
Proverbs in scripture are logical, but they aren’t arithmetic. They do not always add up to a predictable sum. For example, the father says that honoring God leads to wealth and other examples of a good life. Anyone recently reading Job knows that good deeds do not predictably add up to a good life.
Some statements in mathematics are also commutative. They are equally true in whatever order you want to write or read them. Whether Amy’s three apples or Billy’s two apples get added to the pile first, there are always five. 2 + 3 = 5, and so does 3 + 2.
Proverbs in scripture are often not commutative. If you reverse the statements, the wisdom within them can turn to foolishness. For example, people with “overflowing barns” often fill them, not by “honoring God” but by cheating their workers or other forms of theft.
While principles of wisdom operate in the world, there are also principalities and powers that add radical variables to the equations of life. The father is not ignorant or overly idealistic. He recognizes these factors in the equation. He tells his son not to “envy the violent.” Why? The father knows that foolishness, folly, and violence will be attractive because they seem effective. The violent will inevitably prosper. How will we respond?
Like the son, we may envy the outcomes of violence or grift. We may be tempted, for reasons of practicality, to use questionable means justified by good ends. But there is another unseen variable—God’s judgment. God’s equation subtracts salt that loses its savor and deletes whatever profit folly or violence accrues.
Wicked means taint righteous intentions. Light cannot partner with darkness. Their ways that seem right to us lead to destruction. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.”
Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. — Psalm 119.174
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Power, wealth, indulgence, sexuality…nothing escapes the corruption of sin and no gender is exempt from responsibility.
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