In Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God pursued them and in love asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (3:11). Adam replied, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (3:12). You. With this simple pronoun, Adam leveled so much accusation at God and initiated a terrible cycle of blame. Eve also pointed her finger — at the serpent — and now, generations later, mankind continues to struggle to accept personal responsibility for sin and its consequences. Today’s proverb identifies this ugly reality (vs. 3) and calls us to a life of wisdom (vs. 20) and the fear of the Lord (vs. 23).
If I produced a movie about the year 2020, I think I might call it “The Year of Isolation.” In an attempt to defeat the dreaded coronavirus, we’ve hibernated in our homes. We’ve covered expression-filled faces with masks. And we’ve kept our dearest people at a 6-foot distance. Then, we added a series of devastating wildfires to the list of traumas we’re enduring and shuttered our homes and businesses in an attempt to escape hazardous air. Yes, we were forced into isolation in early 2020, but even when we were given the choice to start emerging from the safe cocoon of our homes this past summer — and even as the smoke began to lift — many of us chose to stay put. Isolation has its benefits. Life lived alone is slower and simpler. But it is lonely and sometimes extremely dangerous, for life lived alone can often bring dark thoughts and poor decisions. Today, in Proverbs 18:1, we see how one who is separated from the input of others can easily turn from wisdom to selfish and foolish pursuits.
The other day a friend made a passing comment about the state of life today that could have easily brought discouragement and a conversation descending into the depths of despair. In response, I voiced a positive that had come from the situation, to which my friend said, “Well, there you go again, finding the good.” She then thanked me for a joyful perspective. The brief exchange reminded me that I haven’t always leaned toward joyfulness.
"Gray hair is a crown of glory." I’ve heard this part of today’s key verse recited many times by graying elders in my life, often with a chuckle as they blew out their birthday candles. In my youth, I thought this verse described the beautiful, crowning achievement of living to a ripe old age, but today with a bit more maturity and emerging gray hairs, I think I’m finally starting to understand this verse isn’t about simply living another day. No, the crown of glory is “gained in a righteous life” and represents faithfully walking in line with God’s best even when it includes pain and hardship. Remaining in His ways isn’t always easy, but it is good.
Proverbs 15 is full of verses about the tongue and the impact of our words upon the people around us. We’re advised to have a soft answer when confronted with less-than-pleasant words from others, but this is easier said than done, right? While our speech is directly mentioned in eight verses (1, 2, 4, 7, 18, 23, 26, and 28) and indirectly elsewhere, the rest of the chapter gives us a clue how we can consistently give life through our words. Can you see it?