Friday, October 22, 2010

Proverbs 22 – Sayings of the Wise (Part 1)

“Make no friends with those given to anger,

and do not associate with hotheads,

or you may learn their ways

and entangle yourself in a snare.”

~Proverbs 22:24-25 (NRSV).

The commencement of these thirty Sayings of the Wise provides the perfect interjection in an otherwise seamless collection of scattered proverbs.

The initial few verses provide something of a prologue, not unlike Proverbs 1:1-7 and other places in the first nine chapters of the book.

There are five sayings here in the twenty-second chapter, three of which are couplets (verses 22-23, 24-25 and 26-27). Each of the initial verses of these couplets details a cause and the latter proverb the effect.

This ‘cause and effect’ relationship is not foreign to Proverbs’ wisdom or Wisdom itself.

Do Not Exploit the Poor (verses 22-23)

We should know by now that the greatest avenger the poor and unfortunates of the world have is the Lord. This is most particularly so when they are vagrantly denied the justice they ordinarily are due.

And God is the silent avenger of these, allowing those scoundrels of deceit and injustice just enough rope with which to hang themselves. It is a vast folly to take advantage of the disadvantaged.

The penultimate verse 28 is also aligned with this thinking. What boundary lines existed before we were born should remain so to the day we die so as not to defraud God—let alone the traditional owners. What parallel could we make here regarding the indigenous peoples of the world and their land being taken from them? Apology and reconciliation—and indeed repatriation—is due them.

Do Not Associate with Angry People (verses 24-25)

As the couplet at top suggests we’re at great odds of becoming ensnared with the angry. Presumably this is either in learning by default their lack of patience and tolerance in life, and adopting same, or we become co-dependent in company with them.

Whichever way we go angry people in our midst who behave violently—and not those so much given to occasional bouts, played out in controlled ways—will sway our world along with theirs, and often well off the axis of reasonability, at times into the scary unknown.

This is but one salient example of the co-dependent relationship in full swing: the angered living with the scared. It is a constant seesaw of fear, collusion and disharmony.

Do Not Make Deals with the Unreliable or Untrustworthy (verses 26-27)

Oh how we’ve all no doubt been stung in trusting the untrustworthy.

In some ways we don’t have a clue until we trust someone or a situation. But many times we will have that nagging voice inside us saying, “Don’t do it—don’t trust him/her with this thing.”

We do well to listen to this voice, and act on its behalf, and if we do choose to trust the person or situation we put wise controls of gracious accountability in place to protect the future.

Even less should we be given to mortgage our homes for the sake of those given to bad debt. There are, of course, many lesser examples than at the scale of “striking pledges” over the family home.

To the person of integrity, promises are binding, so we therefore should take great care with what we promise.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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