Proverbs 18 is as relevant today as when it was written. Christian Writing Contest entry.
It’s amazing how often God points me to just the right passage of scripture for whatever I need to hear. As someone who’s not particularly well versed in the Bible (pun intended ), I often have to poke around in the scripture to find what I’m looking for. When faced with a challenge like this contest (pick any chapter or verse 18), I don’t have a stable of trusty standbys or immediate go-tos. But that has proven to be a blessing, in my experience, because it allows God himself to point me in the right direction. It’s truly incredible how often my first or second selection ends up being just the right chapter and verse I need to hear. And the selection for this contest is certainly no exception.
I’ve been struggling a lot lately, particularly with friends and acquaintances who have taken to social media to incite conflict and controversy. While some are responding to the current political environment and either defending their own position or attacking someone else’s, there’s one individual in particular who fancies himself a provocateur. He authors incendiary posts on social media for the specific purpose of riling others up so he can point out what he sees as the foolishness of their arguments. He doesn't share any of his own sincerely held beliefs. He even seems to take pride in not being beholden to any particular values or world view. He delights in shaming those who do.
In the immortal words of Alfred Pennyworth in The Dark Knight, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
I’m not sure that’s any better or worse, though, than the other friends who have literally severed ties with longtime friends and family who voted for the other person, support that other policy, etc. Or the leaders in government who have put “winning” and political party identity and retaining power above all else, even policies and procedures they know aren’t moral or right.
As I’ve wrestled with my own opinions and responses to these trying times, I landed on Proverbs 18 and discovered so much of what I’m feeling now was already aptly described thousands of years ago.
An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. (18:1)
Sounds familiar, from certain members of Congress or the Trump Administration all the way down to my friend who starts fights with friends on the Internet for sport.
Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. (18:2)
This pretty much describes Facebook and Twitter in a nutshell, doesn’t it?
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. (18:8)
Have you turned on the news lately? It’s amazing how many “stories” are nothing more than who said what to whom.
The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it a wall too high to scale. (18:11)
How long have we been watching the rich get richer, influencing politics and policy in an effort to make sure there’s an even wider gap between their 1% and the other 99%?
More importantly, though, Proverbs 18 gives us a template by which we can choose to live a different kind of life. A better life.
The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (18:10)
And if that seems a little vague, it goes on to say:
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great. (18:15-16)
For me, this is the real heart of the chapter. Sure, the last verse (18:24) implies that the Lord is a friend who sticks closer to you than a brother and won’t fail you like unreliable friends will, but verses 15 and 16 are about what we can actively do to improve the world: acquire knowledge and be generous.
I have a hard time with the concept of predestination. While I don’t necessarily think we need to do anything to earn God’s love, I also don’t believe that God gave us free will with the intention that we just wait around for him to tell us what to do all the time. So I try to find ways that I can meaningfully contribute to God’s plans for the world, and verses 15 and 16 remind us that being intellectually curious and generous in sharing not just our knowledge, but our resources and kindness as well is one of the ways we're called upon to bring light to the world. We don't all have to be rocket scientists who give away our last two copper coins (Mark 12 reference, anybody? ), but we do have to be better than our natural inclination to just live in our own little isolated bubbles away from the problems of the rest of the world.
As Christians, we owe it to ourselves and to God to have a larger, more ambitious, more compassionate worldview. And we owe it to the rest of the world to exemplify a better alternative to the current environment fraught with conflict and and people who help themselves but no others.
The text of Proverbs 18 isn't just an eerily topical observation on all the problems facing the world... it's also a playbook for what we can do right now to honor God's intention for all of his children.
Proverbs 18 (NIV full text) ▼
960 words, including excerpts (but not including the full text of Proverbs 18)
Prompt: Write about any Chapter 18 or Verse 18 from the Bible.
Originally written for "The Christian Writing Contest" and "I Write in 2018" .