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21st Century Advice from Proverbs


The Book of Proverbs was written mostly by King Solomon between 950-700 B.C. Despite its age, much of this advice is valuable and applicable to today’s day and age. The following are several Proverbs organized by categories that I think are especially important anytime. For some, I add my interpretations and advice. For others, I let them speak for themselves, and you as the reader can draw your own conclusions.


Faith

I started with faith because I believe faith is foundational to all of the advice in The Book of Proverbs.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (3:5-6). Before taking action, pray for guidance and wisdom.


“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” (16:3).


“A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” (20:24). The idea that a person should not rely on their own way or thoughts is repeated numerous times. Rely on God. Rely on trusted others. Be wary that you may not be your own best judge in a situation.


Wisdom (versus Foolishness)

“Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (4:7). Education is incredibly valuable, and this is not just about traditional education. Learn as much as you can in every way that you can. A practical point, though, even though this Proverbs doesn’t mean to go to the highest rated or most expensive college in the land. Quality education is not always commensurate to its price-tag.


“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (10:19) Think before you speak. In my old classroom, I had a poster that read, “Before you speak, T.H.I.N.K. Is it Truthful? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?”


“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult” (12:15-16). This advice is about picking your battles. You don’t need to argue with people who disagree with you and you definitely don’t need to lose your cool if you get into a discussion.


“Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright” (14:9). If you do something wrong, apologize. Fix it and make it right. Apologizing and humility are characteristics of strength, not weakness. Stubbornness and pride are behind mockery to heartfelt apologies.


“A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps” (14:15). Just think things through before you believe what you’ve heard. Does this make sense? Is this right?


Humility

According to Merriam-Webster, the word “humility” is defined as freedom from pride or arrogance; the state or quality of being humble. In modern society, this often has a negative connotation, but Biblically-speaking, humility is a characteristic that is highly encouraged.


“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (11:2) Pride is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason. Embrace humility. Recognize your weaknesses, and that will give you strength.


“Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, ‘Come up here,’ than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman” (25:6-7). Let others and your reputation speak for you. When invited, don’t take the place of honor without an invite. Don’t assume or impose.


“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (27:1).


Avoid People Who Do “Bad” Things

Before diving into this topic, I want to clarify what the Bible means by “bad” things by referring to Galatians 5:19-21: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” This passage precedes the Fruit of the Spirit, which lists the characteristics people ought to strive for if they are trying to live a life of faith.


“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way... but the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble” (4:14-15, 19)


“A scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, who winks with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart—he always stirs up dissension. Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (6:12-15)


“A scoundrel plots evil and his speech is like a scorching fire. A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends. A violent man entices his neighbor and leads him down a path that is not good” (16:27-29).


“Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away in anger” (29:8).


Relationships

Our lives are built around relationships. These relationships include family, friends, work colleagues, neighbors, members of your community, and goes on from there. Within yourself and within your relationships, strive to embody the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-26: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking, and envying each other.”


“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (11:13). If someone tells you something about themselves, keep it to yourself. If someone tells you something about someone else, walk away, and disregard it.


“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (12:25). Anxiety sucks. When talking to others, focus on kindness. Build one another up. Even if there are completely valid reasons to feel anxious, like financial, health, or current events, knowing that there are people who support you and love you can make whatever the cause more bearable.


“A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (12:26). Have you ever watched children in a playground? One of the most amazing phenomena I observe at playgrounds is when a child goes up to another child and says, “Hi, my name is ... Would you like to be friends and play together?” Children are not saddled with the hesitations of adulthood. Solomon encourages friendships, but there is wisdom in getting to know someone slowly. A first impression is just that—a first impression. Over time, over different settings, circumstances, and challenges, getting to know someone slowly builds a stronger foundation for a relationship (friendship, work colleagues, or romantic). It also allows opportunities to reconsider whether this relationship is in your best interest.


“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). Simply put, when emotions are hot, don’t escalate. Don’t say something that is accusatory or insulting. Speak with kindness, even if your emotions are hot. You can disagree amicably and if you can’t, then consider whether this is a necessary conversation.


“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out” (17:14).


“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame” (18:13). Seek first to understand, then be understood. Simply listen.


“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (27:17). Generally speaking, humans are social beings. We do better with others, whether it’s learning, growing, playing, working, whatever. Stay connected with people who you can sharpen while they sharpen you, metaphorically-speaking.


Personal Finance

“My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor... free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of a hunter” (6:1, 5)

“Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you” (22:26-27). In other words, do not co-sign for others and avoid getting into debt. If you want to help someone, make it a gift, not a loan.


“One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (11:24-25).


“Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow” (13:11). If you consider the story of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race. Follow the tortoise’s example in your savings plan.


“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (14:1). Simply put, don’t do something dumb like spending more than you make or take other actions that may seem satisfying at the moment (like skipping a workout or eating something that you shouldn’t) that will ultimately tear down whatever you are trying to achieve.


“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (14:23). Do you have a dream? You want to build a business, write a book, finish college, or whatever your goal, do the work. Talk helps in the beginning, to sort out the right path and plan the next steps, but once decisions are made, then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.


“Be sure to know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever” (27:23-24). Do you know where you stand financially? What are your debts? What are your assets? Having an honest assessment of your financial state is important. For example, if you are consistently spending more than you make, you are deepening debt. Likewise, if you consistently spend less than you make, you can build savings or investments.


Government/Business/Leadership

“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure” (11:14)

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed” (15:22)

This idea is repeated again. If you are a leader, having a team with diverse perspectives (not yes-people) who can vet through ideas is wiser than having an echo chamber. This idea is applicable in any leadership capacity, from the government to business to education.


“Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love, his throne is made secure” (21:28). This proverb may use the word “king,” but the king could be any head of state or leader. The Proverb advises rulers to use love to win the hearts and minds of followers, not fear or intimidation.


Addiction

“Do not gaze at wine when it is red when it sparkles in the cup when it goes down smoothly! In the end, it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper” (23:31-32). Some people shouldn’t drink at all. Others can drink a glass from time to time. Drinking too much too often leads to addiction and loads of other health problems for most people.


These are just a handful of Proverbs that are applicable today and the ones that stood out to me this morning. Spend time perusing the Book of Proverbs. As you read, think to yourself how does this apply to my life today? Spend some time meditating on the verses you’ve chosen and do some quiet self-reflection when you have some time to yourself.

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