Sunday, June 22, 2014

Contrasting couplets


Are you familiar with the book of Proverbs? It consists primarily of contrasts between right and wrong.

"The merciful man does himself good,
But the cruel man does himself harm." (Prov 11:17) 
"The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands." (Prov 14:1)

I have found it helpful to study Proverbs from two perspectives:
  1. As written
  2. Grouping positives and negatives
The middle chapters of Proverbs (10-30) consist of these contrasting couplets. While a strong point is made in the closeness of the contrasting thoughts, I also like to group all the positives and negatives separately. These lists then identify godly traits we should strive to exhibit and traits we should strive to avoid.

Take chapter 12 for example:

  • Original
    "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    But he who hates reproof is stupid...
    The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    But a wise man is he who listens to counsel...
    He who speaks truth tells what is right,
    But a false witness, deceit...
    The righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
    But the way of the wicked leads them astray...
    A lazy man does not roast his prey,
    But the precious possession of a man is diligence...

  • Positives
    "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge...
    But a wise man is he who listens to counsel...
    He who speaks truth tells what is right...
    The righteous is a guide to his neighbor...
    But the precious possession of a man is diligence...

  • Negatives
    "But he who hates reproof is stupid...
    The way of a fool is right in his own eyes...
    But a false witness, deceit...
    But the way of the wicked leads them astray...
    A lazy man does not roast his prey...

Sometimes, I need to focus on the good things I can do to honor God and love my neighbor. I need reminders - a tangible list of actions to take and traits to cultivate. Other times, it is more convicting and helpful to be reminded of actions to avoid.

I have found this approach to studying Proverbs refreshing, and I hope it opens your heart and challenges you to read the Word with fresh eyes.