Bible Reading Plan – June 4-10
Bible Project Reading Plan (June 4-10):
Proverbs 7-27; Psalms 1-6, 150
The book of proverbs is known for its short, pithy, practical statements. These statements take over the bulk of the book, and offer great insight into what we might call “the way of life” or how we can best live a life that flourishes in this world. There is good reason to believe that a good portion of biblical revelation is taken up directly with this theme, even those portions that seem to press upon us to delay our satisfaction until we reach heaven. Christ often appeals to us on the basis of our own good, and Scripture often assumes that we are to love ourselves, not in a sinful way, but as a natural impulse that is to be directed rightly in the world. This is true, even in marriage:
In the same way [as Christ loved the church], husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Ephesians 5:28 (CSB17)
This Scriptural wisdom directs against two extremes. The first is somewhat embodied in the ascetic practices of many throughout the history of the church. They thought that it was God’s will to deny themselves any pleasure, and to live harsh and demanding lives. This line of thinking motivated, partially at least, the monastic life in the early church. Such monks would deny themselves earthly pleasures, including any social interaction, severely limited food, and the meekest of earthly dwellings. Proverbs speak against such actions, simply denying oneself the good things that God has given:
From the fruit of his mouth,
a person will enjoy good things,
but treacherous people have an appetite for violence
Proverbs 13:2 (CSB17)
The slacker craves, yet has nothing
but the diligent is fully satisfied
Proverbs 13:4 (CSB17)
Hope delayed makes the heart sick,
but desired fulfilled is a tree of life
Proverbs 13:12 (CSB17)
These examples are all culled from one chapter of Proverbs, and there are many more. God wants us to be happy, to flourish, even in this life.
But, secondly, this flourishing is of a specific kind. It is not the “get all you can now” variety. This is the problem with the push to live “your best life now”. Our lives don’t just consist of the now, but we are eternally ordered. Just like we can’t, even in the span of 20 years, think just of today, but must think of our future. Such decisions are a normal, instinctive part of life. We educate our children for the future. We work, not just for lunch during the working hours, but for dinner after them. We save for things in the future. We plan for the future. Jesus likewise, even when giving us hope for the now, pushes us to consider the future inheritance we have.
Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21 (CSB17)
Proverbs also speaks to us about such things. We are not to simply live it up here on earth, thinking that our lives here are the only considerations of our time and planning.
Ill-gotten gains do not profit anyone,
but righteousness rescues from death.
Proverbs 10:2 (CSB17)
When the wicked person dies,
his expectation comes to nothing,
and hope placed in wealth vanishes.
Proverbs 11:7 (CSB17)
One who is good obtains favor from the LORD,
but he condemns a person who schemes.
Proverbs 12:2 (CSB17)
So, the book of Proverbs fits well into the teachings of Jesus. And so it should! Jesus is the Word, the great dispenser of wisdom! So, while we are to understand that living a good life now is what God wants, often that good life will not look like what the world tells us a good life is. We live both here and now, and with eternity directly before us. We give thanks for all good things, all the while reserving our great hope for the better things to come.
Such balance is difficult. It is no less than a high-wire act, knowing when to accept the pleasures that God affords in the world, and when to push our hope into the future. To master this act we need time, patience, and knowledge. Friend, read Proverbs wisely, for they are a sure guide to this balance, and they provide the balance we need.
My son, pay attention to my words;
listen closely to my sayings.
Don’t lose sight of them;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and health to one’s whole body.
Proverbs 4:20-22 (CSB17)
While these are the same videos from last week, they deserve another look as we slowly progress through Proverbs: