The Great Inversion – Bible Journey Day 17
Text for today: Proverbs 26:17 – 28:14
Better to be poor and walk in integrity
than to be crooked in one’s ways even though rich. Pro 28:6
Human society has been around a long time; several millennia at least. In all that time, we see very little growth in human wisdom. Sure, technology has exploded and knowledge has grown by leaps and bounds, but the practical ability to do what’s best at the toughest moments? No, we’re not much better at that in 2009 than we were when the author penned and gathered this collection of sayings we call the book of Proverbs. Why is that? “We see the world not as it is, but as we are,” Anais Nin says. We want the world to be simple, and we want to be able to see exactly where everyone stands — and we want to be able to see ourselves as better than somebody!
Philosophers and historians call it “retributive justice.” In the trenches, though, we say, “What goes around, comes around.” Good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people, and therefore you can look at a person and tell (especially from their level of wealth) how good they are or how much God loves them. And often, people use proof-texts on prosperity from Proverbs to “prove” their point.
Read this passage, though, and try to look at life from the author’s perspective. According to the author, neither power nor wealth, neither poverty nor popularity, not public piety, and certainly not self-justification; none of these are trustworthy signs of God’s favor. But from that day to this, you can read the “words of the prophets written on the subway walls” and find someone using precisely those markers as signs of someone’s worth or prestige or favor with God. How, then, can one know there they stand? Read through the passage again, and I think you will find at least three things that matter: Self-control (v.7), integrity (v.6), and compassion (vv.3, 8, also cf. James 1:26-27) The author believes these three attributes are essential to a life that both pleases God and shapes a healthy society. In short, a well-lived life of wisdom.