Tag Archives: Proverbs 28

The Adult Version

A ruler who oppresses the poor
    is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.

Proverbs 28:3 (NIV)

One of the great, untaught lessons in the entirety of the Great Story is a sad one. In fact, I don’t believe that I’ve heard it mentioned even once in any lecture or message in my entire lifetime. It is the story of wise King Solomon’s foolishness.

As a little boy growing up in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School I learned a lot about the Bible through simple stories taught in simple ways. I remember learning them with cheesy paper cut-out images of characters placed on a “flannelgraph.” In fact, if you look up “flannelgraph” on Wikipedia, the image they use is of a Bible Story. Today we do the same thing with colorful, bright cartoons that offer children’s versions of ancient stories.

As a young man, I became a genuine follower of Jesus and began reading the Bible for myself. I studied it in college and seminary classes. I’ve been perpetually reading and studying it for forty-years. Along my journey, I’ve worshiped, served, and taught in many different churches from diverse doctrinal backgrounds. I’ve made a couple of observations along the way.

First, I have observed individuals who never moved beyond the stories of the Bible being broad and simple morality tales for children taught in bright colors and cartoonish characters. Then, as young adults, they became easily dismissed along with the rest of the cartoon characters they grew up with. Second, I have known and observed sincerely faithful, adult believers who made a conscious, cognitive decision to accept the doctrinal beliefs of their childhood church or denomination. Still, they have little or no experiential knowledge of the faith they profess to follow, and their faith is based on a combination of Bible tales told to them as a child and a life-long habit of traditions and rituals.

So, now we come back to King Solomon, the son of King David who has been known for almost 3,000 years as the “wise” and extravagantly rich king. The simple Bible story goes like this: as a child, God offered Solomon either wisdom or great riches. Solomon chose wisdom and God blessed him with both wisdom and great riches. It’s a tale with a simple moral to teach our children. Solomon then went on to have three books of “wisdom literature” traditionally attributed to his authorship: Proverbs, Song of Songs, and the book of Ecclesiastes. And, I have observed that this is about all most people remember.

The extended, adult version of Solomon’s story is (much like my own story, btw) much messier and far more complicated than the simple, story-book version. Solomon was the offspring of David’s adulterous marriage to Bathsheba, the woman whose husband David had murdered. Being the last of David’s children, Solomon should have been last in the line of male children (from multiple women) to ascend the throne. Bathsheba maneuvered events to make sure David named Solomon king. Solomon conscripted labor to build all of his great visionary projects (Solomon’s Temple being chief among them), and even his fellow Hebrew tribes complained of being treated like slaves. Solomon also appears not to have passed his wisdom along to his own son, Rehoboam, who succeeded him. Rehoboam followed his father’s example, not his wise words, in ignoring the wisdom of the proverb pasted at the top of this post. Rather than easing the oppression Solomon had placed on his own people, Rehoboam promised more oppression and irreparably fractured the kingdom into bloody and contentious civil war.

In the quiet this morning I find myself reading Solomon’s wise words knowing that he, himself, foolishly failed to follow them. And, that is the lesson for me today. As I contemplate this fact, my thinking goes to two places. One, that it’s too easy for me to be critical of Solomon for his hypocrisy of famously saying one thing while doing another. The truth is that there are plenty of examples of the same types of hypocrisy in my own life and story. Second, I’m mindful of the fact that Solomon’s human failings don’t alter the wisdom of his proverbs in the same way my own human failings don’t alter Jesus’ message. Come to think of it, it only makes His message more relevant to me. After 40 years, I’m still just an imperfect human in need of both grace and mercy as I try to follow Jesus each day. I’ve left behind a lot of foolishness, but I have by no means attained all that Lady Wisdom is still trying to teach me.

<— Click on Solomon for an indexed list of previous chapter-a-day posts from this series from Proverbs!

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Three Things Rotten in the State of [Any Country]

English: View of Capitol Hill from the U.S. Su...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily.
    But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.
Proverbs 28:2 (NLT)

Forgive my little rant this morning, but this proverb reminded me of some things that have been rattling around in my head. There three things that I find rotten in our system of government (any and all political parties included) and I would find rotten in any system of government anywhere in the world:

Professional politicians. I like the idea our founding fathers had of citizens giving service to their country while having to provide for themselves in honest enterprise back home. I believe that a government full of professional politicians is a government full of men and women who will eventually lose touch with what’s it’s like to be an everyday citizen back home. People are people. They will eventually care less about the good of the whole than they will about solidifying their power base, covering their rear ends, getting re-elected and lining their own pockets for retirement. This is why we need checks and balances. I believe we would be better off if there were term and service limits for all elected offices, not just the presidency.

Pork barrel spending. It is dishonest to attach appropriations for spending tax dollars on pet projects to bills and laws that have nothing to do with said projects. This is, however, the way our government has worked for a long time. Powerful professional congressmen who, through seniority, have attained powerful committee positions attach all sorts of spending appropriations to bills so that federal money flows to projects and causes for which professional lobbyists have leveraged and in exchange (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) powerful individuals and corporations will deposit money in their election war chest. We never see or hear about these appropriations unless we really dig, and the president has no power to veto them unless he wants to veto the whole bill. It’s a scam and a big reason that we’re trillions of dollars in debt.

Hypocritical entitlement. Government officials should be required to abide by every law they pass without exception. Unfortunately, I believe that professional politicians who make their own rules, set their own salaries, and determine their own rules will eventually rig the system in subtle ways to benefit themselves without setting off any alarms among the constituency. If congress wants to pass health care legislation for the entire country, then they and their families should be required to live fully under the plan. If they are going to hold citizens accountable for insider trading, then they should not be allowed to use information gained from their government positions for their own personal gain. That just seems like common sense.

Thank you. Rant over.

Have a good weekend!

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 28

By Justified Sinner via Flickr

In the end, people appreciate honest criticism 
      far more than flattery.
Proverbs 28:23 (NLT)

While studying theatre in college, my professor worked hard to teach us the value of honest criticism and temptation of listening to empty flattery. After a show you’ll have a throng of people tell you “good job,” but that hollow compliment does nothing for you. When someone tells you “good job,” my professor said, your response should be “What was good about it?” A specific praise about a moment, an action, or a decision you made on stage that struck them positively is something from which you can learn and build on. A simple “good job,” profits you nothing.

Better still is when someone gives you the gift of an honest piece of criticism. A character in the script I’m polishing up is given a very specific age to play. After reading the play, one of the readers commented that the lines and stage directions seemed too young for the age described. When she said that it was like a cloud parted and I saw it for the first time. She hit the nail on the head. I completely rewrote a bunch of dialogue and action to fix it.

I don’t understand people who think criticism is a bad thing, inherently negative, and something not to be tolerated. I may not like some of what I hear, but if I understand what’s not working for people I can fix it or at least I can better communicate why I’m doing or saying or acting the way I do so that others can have a better understanding of the decisions I’ve made.

Today, I’m grateful for those in my life who are willing to be honestly critical with me.