Applying the Wisdom of Proverbs Today
How many times have you prayed for wisdom? Or maybe you’ve wanted to bop yourself on the head when the consequences of not applying wisdom in a given situation came back to bite you. Wisdom is central to life and godliness. And right in the center of the Bible sits a book dedicated to imparting wisdom for daily life — the book of Proverbs.
Proverbs is divided into 31 chapters making it easy to cycle through the book every month of the year by reading the daily Proverb. When we practice its principles, it promises to make our paths clear and protect us from harm and regret.
Who Wrote Proverbs?
More than one author contributed to the book of Proverbs, but Solomon authored most of them. King Solomon asked for wisdom when he was chosen to succeed his father David as king of Israel (1 Kings 3:5-9). The Bible says “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. … He was wiser than anyone else” (1 Kings 4:29, 31).
Sadly, this man, who was granted so much insight, forsook it in later life to pursue fleshly cravings. For this reason, some believe he wrote Proverbs in his middle years. Solomon’s wisdom and mistakes warn and instruct us. Real wisdom isn’t found in accumulation of knowledge or a high IQ, but in the humble and consistent practice of God’s revealed ways.
The Purpose of Proverbs
Heeding the wisdom of Proverbs benefits people of all ages and stages of life. The simple will gain insight, and the wise will become even wiser. Proverbs 1 spells out the purpose of this collection.
“Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance” (Proverbs 1:2-5).
The Call of Wisdom
Using personification, similes, and metaphors, Proverbs creatively communicates principles for righteous living. Its short, pithy statements are easy to understand and remember. In Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified as a woman calling out to whomever will listen.
“Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: ‘To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind” (Proverbs 8:1-4).
In this Proverb, wisdom offers her riches to everyone who will listen. No one has to live in ignorance or continue in destructive foolishness. Maybe you’ve made some bad decisions or feel you’ve messed up your life. Here is good news: The wisdom that empowered great kings is available to anyone who will seek her and love her (8:14-17). You will receive favor if you heed her instruction. You can start fresh today!
“Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord. But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:32-36).
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Wisdom Is Sweet
Do you have a sweet tooth? Wisdom is not only valuable (8:10-11), it is sweet. It delights the one who discovers and uses it.
“Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:13-14).
Responding to the Call of Wisdom
Whenever I put something in a safe place, Murphy’s Law kicks in and I can’t remember the safe place I stashed it. I turn the house upside down looking for my treasure. I can’t rest until I find it. While wisdom calls out to everyone, only those who seek her, with the earnestness of one seeking precious treasure, truly benefit from wisdom (Proverbs 2:1-5).
Would you like better sleep, good health, a long life, peace of mind, and protection from evil? These are just some of the many benefits that go with walking with God in wisdom. Nothing else compares with wisdom — not health regimens, advanced educational degrees, or great wealth.
Wisdom and understanding will, “keep you safe on your way, and your feet will not stumble. You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly” (Proverbs 3:23-24).
Wisdom, however, is not the only voice that calls our name. Foolish and wicked influences pressure and entice those who’ll listen. In Proverbs, a father implores his son to beware of wicked men and the wayward woman (Proverbs 7). The wicked are often identified by the “perverse mouth” (Proverbs 6:12; 10:32). Their paths lead to sorrow and destruction.
Wisdom and Humility
Godly wisdom is revealed in humility, not in self-assurance. Instead of trusting one’s heart, the wise trust in the Lord with all their heart.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).
“Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them” (Proverbs 26:12).
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Wisdom and Work
Did you know that your secular work can be sacred to God? Proverbs shows us how to make everything we do, from changing a tire to changing a diaper, sacred.
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3).
Maybe you’ve heard it said that talk is cheap. Proverbs agrees.
“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23).
“Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense” (Proverbs 12:11).
Wisdom is industrious and plans ahead.
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).
Proverbs may not tell us what career to pursue, but it tells us to be honest and hardworking in whatever we do.
Wisdom with People
In many ways our culture disregards the need for discernment. But Proverbs tells us there are certain types of people to go out of our way to avoid. Consider these warnings.
“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared” (Provers 22:24-25).
“Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips” (Proverbs 14:7).
“My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, … For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. … Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house. (Proverbs 5:1-8).
If you do encounter a fool, it even tells you how to recognize and deal with him. Proverbs shows the difference between the simple, the fool, and the mocker. By practicing its wisdom, we can avoid many of the snares in life and escape the ones that come our way with the least amount of damage. We even learn how to identify wise counselors and use our tongues as tools to soothe and heal instead of wound and harm.
What is your favorite Proverb? How has its wisdom benefited you?
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Debbie W. Wilson is an award-winning author, Bible teacher, and former Christian counselor who speaks and writes to connect fellow sojourners to the heart of Christ. Her books include Give Yourself a Break, Little Women, Big God, and Little Faith, Big God.
She and her husband lead Lighthouse Ministries, a non-profit Christian counseling and Bible teaching ministry. Despite time in Boston, the Midwest, and Southern California, Debbie still says y’all. Her family, which includes two mischievous standard poodles, calls North Carolina home. Connect with Debbie, find free resources, and learn about her books at debbieWwilson.com.