Have you learned to put Proverbs into daily practice in your life? Here is a sensible approach to getting more out of these practical, God-inspired scriptures.
Do YOU know how to act in every circumstance? The book of Proverbs offers you that important knowledge. Proverbs begins, "These are the proverbs of King Solomon of Israel, David's son: he wrote them to teach his people how to live — how to act in every circumstance" (Prov. 1:1-2, The Living Bible). Proverbs can teach you, for example, how to get ahead in your job — to earn more money, obtain a better position, etc. — and to do it all God's way. Proverbs can show you how to be respected in a right way, how to have peace of mind, how to cultivate friends and avoid arguments; to avoid accidents, rear successful children, be able to say the right thing at the right time to avoid "putting your foot in your mouth." Here is a formula for making Proverbs a living part of your life so you can not only handle difficult or awkward situations, but also use Proverbs as a spiritual tool to overcome specific personal problems and build distinctive spiritual strengths into your character and personality. Whatever your lack may be, you can put Proverbs to work on your problem.
What do you need to work on? What area of your life has been a chronic disappointment, embarrassment, or thorn in your side? The first thing to do is define your problem and your goal. Pinpoint a character weakness, or a situation in your life which you know needs improvement. Don't hesitate to seek counsel about this when you feel it is needed. Of course you should ask God for guidance. You might also ask your husband or wife or a friend when or if you feel it is necessary or expedient. Feel free to ask your local minister. It is best to choose only one goal to work on at a time. An army can rarely wage war successfully against three or four nations simultaneously. Neither can we overcome all of our problems at once. Let's take a hypothetical example to demonstrate exactly how to use Proverbs in daily life. Let's assume you have had problems at work. You just haven't received the promotions you feel you deserve. Other men with less seniority have seemingly passed you up and are now supervisors or foremen. You naturally feel you have let your family and yourself down by missing the promotions and accompanying salary increases. We have defined the problem — now let's define your overall goal. In this case, your solution to the problem — your goal — is to become a successful employee.
Now is the time to do "homework" on the subject. Since Proverbs gives us guidelines about "how to act in every circumstance," let's find which specific Proverbs tell us how to act in circumstances on our job in order to be successful. There are two ways to accomplish this. You can comb the Proverbs for scriptures relating to employment situations by quickly reading through Proverbs and jotting down applicable scriptures as you come to them, or by using various topical Bibles and concordances. Then it is helpful to take each scripture individually and think of the various ways it applies to your job situation — how you may be breaking the particular principle, and how you can rectify the situation. Write the scripture down. It is helpful to write its meaning in your own words as it applies to you, and at the same time you might want to list various facets that apply to your situation. Let's take a few scriptures to demonstrate.
A Practical Example
Proverbs 24:27 — "Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house." Applied in modern terms, this proverb stresses becoming established and as secure and successful as possible in our employment as a very high priority regarding this physical life. Obviously, an individual should establish and secure his source or means of income before he starts spending it! The Bible specifically mentions doing this even before buying or building a home. Of course, spending money on luxuries and pleasures when our job is insecure is very unwise. So we see the thrust of this verse is very important: it puts things in perspective for us, placing a man's job at the top of the list of, daily physical priorities. Here is another good one we can apply to employment — Proverbs 13:18. "Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honored." Again, applying this to our hypothetical example, let's ask ourselves if we have followed this proverb on the job. Do we take correction? Do we follow the boss' orders? Do we carry out his wishes? Have we shown a willingness and eagerness to eliminate bad work habits and cultivate good ones? Further, we are open to new ideas for improving the quality and quantity of our work? Do we spend time, on our own, thinking of how to accomplish tasks more efficiently? Have we even taken the initiative to learn additional job-related skills — if need be on our own time? Do we take advantage of training meetings and handbooks, even though it means studying after work hours? How about night classes? We must be willing to learn more than is required of us in order to be successful employees. This is how to get ahead God's way — by going above and beyond what is expected of us. This scripture states a very practical and reliable law of success. Do you see how you can apply it and all of its applications to your job each and every day? You can actually measure yourself by this scripture. And by meditating on the many ways to apply it in your work, you can literally change your employment future and over a period of time your family's standard of living! Remember to find proverbs which specifically deal with your problem and the many-faceted aspects of it. Avoid generalizations such as, "Be industrious." Break it down much finer than that by asking, "How can I be more industrious?" Then find various proverbs to answer that question.
Check Bible Helps and Translations
As we all know, precise meanings of scriptures are hidden at times by King James language. Therefore, it is very helpful to check reliable references and translations to dig the meaning out of scriptures we might not otherwise understand clearly. The Living Bible is helpful in some instances by rendering the Proverbs, into modern English. Of course, we must realize it is a paraphrased rendition of the Scriptures, not a translation. Therefore, it is always wise to check individual passages with the King James Version. Proverbs 10:4-5 is a simple example of The Living Bible's modern-English approach. The King James reads, "He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame." The Living Bible reads, "Lazy men are soon poor; hard workers get rich. A wise youth makes hay while the sun shines, but what a shame to see a lad who sleeps away his hour of opportunity." Here is another interesting one to apply to our hypothetical job problem as well as other areas of life. Proverbs 10:19 reads, "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise." The Living Bible reads, "Don't talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow!" It is helpful to write down, in your own words, how each proverb specifically applies to your individual problem — in this case, your job. You might ask yourself these questions. "Do I talk when I should be working — am I too gabby or windy? Do I try to tell others how to perform their jobs when I should be concentrating on my own? Are my coffee breaks too long because I'm 'shooting the bull' with the fellows or because I'm too involved in those ten o'clock 'hen parties' with the girls? Do I get right to work when I arrive each morning, or do I waste ten or fifteen minutes discussing politics, my new car, etc.?" Answer questions such as these honestly. With this particular example, you would be wise to write out exactly what you intend to do tomorrow to control that tongue and be a more profitable employee. Do you see how prayerful study and specific application of just one proverb can change your entire approach to your job? Continuing with our "example study," let's take one more scripture from The Living Bible to see how clearly it can drive a lesson home. Do you admit mistakes when your supervisor points them out? Many men do not grow in their jobs because they justify their mistakes, try to cover them up, or they refuse to take advice and learn to accomplish responsibilities by means of new, more effective approaches. They simply want to do things "their way." "If you profit from constructive criticism you will be elected to the wise men's hall of fame. But to reject criticism is to harm yourself and your own best interests" (Prov. 15:31-32, The Living Bible). The man who not only readily accepts and acts on constructive criticism and advice, but actually seeks it will be successful — God's way! Although the King James Version is usually clear, The Living Bible often adds a little more emphasis, clarity, color, interest, and even humor at times! The Moffatt translation and The Amplified Bible are also useful. However, remember to check their meanings with the King James Version to verify their accuracy.
Proverbs by Soncino
The Soncino Press publishes a very good non-technical reference work on Proverbs — perhaps the most helpful for the most of us who are uneducated linguistically and can't tell Hebrew from Swahili. Here is an example of how the Soncino Proverbs can clarify and bring out the depth of meaning of the Scriptures. Proverbs 29:11 in the King James translation states: "A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterward." Soncino mentions that the word "spirit" (King James, "mind") is a synonym for "anger" as also in Proverbs 16:32 and Proverbs 25:28. Soncino mentions that "A fool, when roused, gives full vent to his temper and fails to exercise restraint." How about this principle in relation to your conduct on the job? Failure to get along with others, cooperate with supervisors and keep a cool head under pressure are all problems which rob many men of success, as well as often actually costing them their jobs. Soncino goes on to mention that a wise man holds his anger back, keeps his mouth shut, and doesn't "fly off the handle" because he realizes the consequences such behavior bequeaths to him. Apply this in your job situation. Are you generally well-liked by other employees? Or do they think of you as a loner, someone always wanting your way? Are you willing to listen and, at times, accept constructive suggestions about improving your work which might be contrary to your personal approach? Just how easy are you to get along with? Are you a "hot head" and a little proud of it because it is a family trait? Do you pride yourself in always getting the best of anyone in an argument? Remember, Jesus had favor with both God and men (Luke 2:52). From this example, do you see how helpful the Proverbs really are when we examine them individually and apply them in detail to particular problems? Now we are making Proverbs "work for us." We are allowing them to point us in the right direction and give us positive, concrete, specific, workable action to take to attain our goal. Do you see how we can use this same approach to deal with literally any problem area of our lives? Are you regularly late for work? Proverbs 6:9-11 reveals a basic cause for tardiness. "But you — all you do is sleep. When will you wake up? Let me sleep a little longer! Sure, just a little more! And as you sleep, poverty creeps upon you like a robber and destroys you; want attacks you in full armor" (The Living Bible). The message is, get out of the sack earlier in the morning and you can get to work on time! Soncino opens the meaning to these verses. It mentions that they refer to "... the waking hours of the day. A rabbi included 'morning sleep' among the faults which 'put a man out of the world.' On waking or being aroused, he does not get up to work but pleads for a longer stay in bed." Pretty specific instruction, isn't it? Here's another interesting proverb for our sample study showing the value of Soncino. Proverbs 14:23 states, "In all labor there is profit." Soncino mentions that "labor" should be more accurately translated "toil" since the Hebrew word includes the idea of what is painful. It also states, "However laborious the work and small the wage, some advantage is derived." Put this verse together with Proverbs 20:4 ("The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold...") and we see a very emphatic point made — that work is not all pleasure. It is painful, taxing and uncomfortable at times. An unsuccessful employee will procrastinate, quit or make excuses when confronted with a difficult, dirty or trying task, while the "go-getter" grits his teeth and gets it done. As Proverbs 14:23 states, he will profit from his efforts in the end — that salary raise will come through, the promotion will be rewarded. How do you stack up?
Put Proverbs to Work
This sample study should be useful to you in itself, but don't let it end here. Understand the approach and apply it for yourself as you "zero in" on other aspects of your life you want to improve. You can make Proverbs work for you in any aspect of your life and any facet of daily living and character. Do you want to be respected by others in the right way? Want peace of mind? Want to know how to cultivate friends? Avoid arguments? Avoid accidents? Rear successful children? Be able to say the right thing at the right time and avoid "putting your foot in your mouth"? Have foresight instead of hindsight? All of these and innumerable other aspects of living are revealed in the Proverbs — but you must dig them out, with God's help extract their meaning, apply them to your personal life and act on them! Then continue studying Proverbs to continue making progress toward your goals. Keep searching for scriptures you have overlooked, or for new applications of Bible principles in your specific situations. You will then be armed with the same wisdom Solomon had — the very wisdom of God!