Thursday, July 13, 2006

Proverbs and Social Justice?!

You know, as I finished reading through the rest of Proverbs, I decided I had been a little unfair in my reception of that book over the years. Some time ago I read Jacques Ellul's book on Ecclesiastes in which he talks about the Wisdom Literature being in dialogue with itself--so no one book, whether Proverbs or Ecclesiastes or whatever, holds the whole picture. They engage each other, critique each other, play off each other.

But in the vein of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, I had pigeon-holed Proverbs as being the Book of Wisdom of the Status Quo. Which, in my defense is at least partially true. There are a ton of proverbs which seem to be about keeping things the way they are, swimming with the current, not against it. Don't upset the balance, they seem to say. Rather, learn the balance and live it.

But this is not an accurate description of all the Proverbs. There are some--more than I thought--which upset the apple cart, so to speak, by calling for justice for the poor, for just rulers, for the end of oppression. While there are the verses that say that laziness will lead one into poverty, there are a lot of other verses which do not contend the poor are lazy. This is a subtle distinction I'd never noticed before. There are poor people, according to the Book of Proverbs, because there are oppressive systems, indulgent and dishonest leaders.

So in that vein, here are the proverbs that stood out for me in my reading yesterday:

"When a land rebels it has many rulers;
but with an intelligent ruler there is lasting order.

A ruler who oppresses the poor
is a beating rain that leaves no food.

The evil do not understand justice,
but those who seek the Lord
understand it completely.

Better to be poor and walk in integrity
than to be crooked in one's ways even though rich.

(All from ch 28, verses 2, 3, 5, 6)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

That's Just the Way it Is; Some Things will Never Change

Reading Proverbs leaves me gasping for Ecclesiastes! Really, I find the book of Proverbs to be airtight. All those couplets come together to form an impossible reality--a world where common sense reigns, where the unpredictableness of the Sacred is given no space.

It's not even that I don't agree with much of it. Maybe it's to the extent that I find it so easy to agree with Proverbs that the vacuum becomes complete. It's the cumulative effect of the book that exhausts me.

That said, here are the Proverbs that stood out for me in today's reading:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life

Each heart knows its own bitterness
and no one else can share its joy

A gentle answer turns away wrath
but a harsh word stirs up anger

Better a patient man than a warrior
a man who controls his temper
than one who takes a city.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The End is Near (or not)


My brother (Cyen) sent me an email this morning, asking if I was aware that we're scheduled to finish up our Reading the Bible in 90 Days on July 12. (gulp)

I am far, far, far from that goal. I lost my traction during our move and haven't been able to find my rhythm since then.

Tonight, though, I went back to the Zondervan website and re-set my start date to reflect where I am in my reading. (In Proverbs, if you must know!) And I hope to re-commit myself to the process. Ever hopeful.

So if all goes as planned, my new finish date is August 22.