Today’s wisdom begins with a saying about the value of peace in one’s life, followed by eight random guidelines for a life well lived. Everything seems to be common sense until we reach verse 8: “A bribe is a charm to the one who gives it; wherever he turns, he succeeds.” Is the Bible really teaching that the secret to success is to bribe one’s way through life?
Uhh, not really. This is what is known as an observational proverb. It simple points out that those who give gifts often receive special favors. It is not recommending bribery nor does it attempt to set out guidelines to distinguish a bribe from a legitimate gift. As Pastor Kevin explained last Sunday, some proverbs are statements of general truth as we observe things in this world. They are not guarantees.
Verses 9 – 16 are four collections that have interconnections in their teaching. Repeatedly wisdom is valued over folly. Perhaps the most vivid is in verse 12: “Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly.” We immediately recognize the danger of confronting a bear missing her cubs, but do we likewise appreciate the danger of dealing with a fool in his stubbornness? Both want what they want, whatever it takes. Great imagery!
The final verse is likely the source for a saying of today: “Better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and confirm it.” Ten of today’s verses deal with things we say and how we say them. As we go forward, let us all resolve to hold our tongue and use words with respect and restraint. If this is a problem area for you, it’s a great topic for prayer.