By Junjie Huang
Worship, then wisdom. David, then Solomon. In the bible, after the Psalms we have the book of Proverbs. This tells me that as we live lives of worship, we find ourselves better able to access the wisdom of God, especially the wisdom of the book of Proverbs.
The problem with the Book of Proverbs is this: the treasures don't yield themselves to a superficial glace. Let's face it, a large number of Proverbs seem to be stating the obvious. Like Proverbs 14:5, for example.
"A truthful witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies." (NIV) Reading that makes me want to say "Duh! Tell me something I can't figure out already using some common sense!"
But if you want more of the Book of Proverbs to come alive to you, you've got to deeply engage with it, to ask yourself questions about what it says and how it all links together. Let me show you an example.
Proverbs 14:1 (NIV) - The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
Let's stop to think about this verse. Does the 'house' in this passage refer to an actual brick-cement-and-mortar building? Unlikely, since women don't usually build or tear down those (we have construction workers and demolition teams for that). So, this passage will refer to the family. A wise woman builds her family, a foolish one tears hers down.
Now here's the crux: what could possibly make a woman do things that tear down her family? And what kind of actions would tear down a family, sunder the relationships and leave it in tatters? Once you draw up even a small list of actions that destroy a family, start to imagine what emotional state a foolish woman would be in to engage in such behavior.
Any deep insights yet? If not, let's move on to another one.
Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) - A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
I know this sounds very obvious. But here's my next question: why would someone give a harsh word that stirs up anger?
To backtrack a bit, this verse is really applicable in an argument. Let's say the conversation may start normally, but someone says something that offends you. And at that point you have to make a decision: gentle or harsh?
In real life it's not as simple as that, of course. Why? Because the other person may have subconsciously decided to lose their temper, and want YOU to lose yours too. (They don't want to be miserable alone, so they want you to join them in their misery) So they'll give you a harsh word to your gentle answer. What are you going to do then? Gentle or harsh?
Ok, let's take a quick perspective jump over to the other side. How does the person using the harsh word justify speaking harshly? Recognize that oftentimes they feel they are speaking the truth and you are refusing to listen to it, so they think its ok for them to speak harshly to get the point across (or that you give them no choice, they HAVE to be nasty with you, for your own good).
And when you can give a gentle answer, they can see that you're in control of yourself. That can lead to two results; either they'll be sobered by that and try to bring themselves under control also, or they will be ashamed by that and want to drag you down to their level. So they turn up the hostility even more in the hope of provoking you further.
Proverbs 27:3 (NIV) - Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but provocation by a fool is heavier than both.
So what are you going to do then? Are you going to stay or leave the situation?
Proverbs 27:12 (NIV) - The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.
At this point you are in danger of losing your own temper and saying and doing foolish things. If someone is determined to make you lose your temper it is very difficult to keep it, especially while the provocation continues. I highly recommend leaving the scene.
Don't get me wrong, I am not against anger. I believe anger is a precious gift from God, to give us energy to take action when our boundaries are being violated. The problem comes when the anger is becomes a reflex action, we snap into anger (and not thinking) when things go wrong or when people continually provoke us. This is why the Bible says:
Proverbs 22:24-25 (NIV) - Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.
And you'll see from this whether it is wise to continue associating with such a person. But when would you have no choice, you're stuck with such a person?
Proverbs 21:9 (NIV) - Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
Let's start putting the pieces together. A quarrelsome wife often infects her husband with the same quarrelsome spirit. This is very hard to avoid, since the husband is face-to-face with her everyday, and his attempts at giving gentle replies to turn aside anger are repulsed. It's very easy to just think it's no point, and he just swings to the other extreme and gets as quarrelsome as she is. In fact, out of frustration he may even decide to go one-up on her. (And then of course the wife starts seeing herself as the innocent victim).
This, my dear siblings-in-Christ, is the beginning of a toxic environment, one that may easily end up with both the spouses going physically violent on each other, since they have already started being verbally violent. Now, think about the kids. In such an environment, what are they learning about resolving conflict, relating with people of the opposite sex and how to behave when they are angry?
Could this be one of the ways a foolish woman tears down her house? If you really want to know, you'll have to read through the book of Proverbs and pay attention to how often folly and being bad-tempered and quarrelsome are spoken of together.
Then if you examine the whole process again you learn to recognize the symptoms of a person (male or female) who can go quarrelsome on you when things go wrong. And do so even before they actually quarrel with you in the first place. How much peace and freedom from strife will knowing that bring to your life? Is it worth the effort to mine the book of Proverbs for its treasures?
Do you start to see the reason why the Proverbs are oftentimes stating the obvious? Because when we are in the really negative situations in life, we often find it hard to see the obvious...
And all this is just simply on the topic of quarrelsome people in general (and wives in particular). If you want more to ponder, try this: what kind of person would regularly flop at Proverbs 18:13? How does such a person think? What are his or her assumptions? How would they behave? What are the ways they could have ended up that way? How can they get themselves out of that behavior pattern?
"Wow, JJ, that's a lot of work. Are you sure we have to go through all this?"
What I shared above is ONE example of how I engage with the book of Proverbs. There are of course other ways of doing it that I am sure will give results too. What I do know for certain is that you MUST be prepared to mine the depths of this book to get the full benefits of the wisdom God has hidden inside.
Proverbs 25:2 (NIV) - It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Well, my follow King-in-Christ, I suggest you take out your spiritual shovel, open up to the Book of Proverbs and start digging. And if you come up with anything interesting, contact me and let me know!
Junjie is a worship leader, musician and trainer with more than 14 years of experience in a wide range of church settings. To find out more about his training and to sign up for his free e-course on worship ministry, go to http://www.invisibleworshipmusician.com