Our western culture portrays this rather mysterious birds as wise; the owl is known for its stealth like ability to hunt its prey at night. It has been said that Athena, who was the Greek goddess of wisdom is often represented by the image of an owl. The famous character Owl from the classic story of Winnie the Pooh is characterized as a know-it-all. What about this perspective; The owl is considered dumb and empty-headed in India because it has the tendency to sit and stare blankly into space. So, is the owl really all that wise? I will leave that up to you to decide.
The book of Proverbs is filled with wisdom, instruction and divine truths. This is how the author opens this book, “Purpose and Theme: The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple.” This short introduction gives us a pretty clear scope of what God has provided through His word for direction in our lives. Verse seven of chapter one is the key to everything we find written in this book of wisdom, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” What is this fear? Well, it is an attitude of the heart and mind, an attitude of reverence, respect, awe, loyalty and obedience to live according to the words of the Lord.
The Bible is the inspired word of God given to man. The wisdom imparted through the Book of proverbs came from the Lord in a time much like we are living in today. The world that surrounds us has been plagued with foolishness (the antithesis of wisdom), dare I say it as the Indian culture describes, “empty-headed”. Reading through proverbs I found it noteworthy that the author was often addressing his son; the message was directed to those who were young and receptive to the teachings of the word. Solomon records these words in Proverbs 10:17, “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” As Christian leaders, we are called to be an example of one who heeds discipline, to increase in our knowledge and understanding of who God is and how we should live. We are called to teach this wisdom, knowledge and experience to the next generation of believers, giving them the proper foundation to grow on.
“Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.” Proverbs 22:4
What do humility and fear have in common in this passage? In order to understand that we need to know how the word fear is defined in respect to the text. Fear is often experienced as an emotional response to something or someone that is dangerous, or something that is likely to cause pain or is threating our life. In context of this verse in Proverbs and many other verses in the bible fear is defined as awesomeness, respect, reverence or true faithfulness. The fear of God is the action (on our part) of living in respect, awe and submission to our loving God.
In an earlier blog entry I mentioned that humility is an attitude of the mind, and the action of a servant heart. Out of this fear or reverence our heart attitude and our mind attitude should lead us to obedience in living a life that is honoring to God. God’s love (heart) and actions (mind) is the best example of humility in which we must live by. When we live in the fear of the Lord He will strengthen us, protect us, He will never forget us as we strive to live a life of humility in a world that pushes so hard against that kind of life. Living for a big God, an all knowing, always present God requires us to be humble, He is above us in every way but not out of reach with His grace and mercy and love when we call on Him.
The fear of the Lord is many things, “the beginning of knowledge” Proverbs 1:7; the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 9:10; “a fountain of life” Proverbs 14:27. Living a life of humility comes with its rewards: riches, honor and life. Riches of knowledge and understanding as we live in Him, honor as we put others before ourselves, and life – an everlasting life with Him. God loves a humble servant.
What does Proverbs 25:6-7 have in common with Luke 14:7-11 other than the obvious fact they are both in the bible? In the context from which I am writing they both teach us about humility, and it is all about how we should go about choosing a spot to sit. Although this may sound like a simple matter of choice there are some lessons here that demonstrate how as humble servants of the Lord we need to act.
The thought or message in these two passages is this; if you don’t want to be humbled or humiliated by someone else, you must first humble yourself. As I have said before, it is an attitude of the mind that drives how we choose to live our lives as followers of Christ. I do believe our motives need to be pure as we interpret Proverbs 25:6-7, true humility would have us take our seat in a “lesser” place than the “great men”, our motive should not be to take the lesser place with expectancy around being promoted. I believe that these words carry meaning beyond that of a one-time occurrence of being in the presence of the king. The instruction “do not claim a place among his great men” extends to our life as a whole, our pursuit of wealth and material things just to be like others or even just ahead of others is not the goal. Our goal is to be more like Christ, not our neighbor.
Luke 14:7-11 paints a picture much like that of Proverbs, Jesus’ words in verse 11 sum up both of these passages well; “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted”. Here again we can look back at Christ’s example of humility through His death on the cross; He never exalted himself above others. Always putting others first and his willingness to die on the cross in the truest act of humility brought glory, honor, praise to His name. We have been commanded through the Word to follow Christ’s living example of humility; it is my continued prayer that God helps me choose the “right spot to sit”.
Moving from the book of Philippians to Proverbs in context to humility was an interesting transition. The passages in Philippians helped to ground us in the perfect example of humility through the life of Jesus Christ; we now have a model or standard set for us as we move through the teachings found in Proverbs.
Proverbs was written to help us as believers gain a better understanding of who God is, detailing His plan for our lives through examples and teachings of wise and foolish decisions. Although Proverbs highlights many principles and values that point to all areas of daily life the concept of Humility will be my focus. The word humility is recorded twelve times in the book of proverbs (NIV); three of those entries reference the importance of humility coming before honor. Part of our mission in life as Christians is to give honor and glory in all that we do to our Heavenly Father. When we seek honor for ourselves, when we take pride in all that we do our mission begins to fade. We are called to fear the Lord over and over in Proverbs, to fear the Lord we must give Him honor not seeking it for ourselves. Putting God first, humbling ourselves before Him and living that out in our lives brings honor to our lives as a reward from Him.
Humility gives us strength, when our hearts are right with God He provides good things in our lives. Proverbs 15:13, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit”. That cheerful face connects with the heart and comes from a life lived in humility, when our lives are focused on ourselves or we have walls of pride built up around us we will experience a downfall (18:12). Understanding and living out a life of humility cannot be done in our own strength; we have to put aside the temptation of doing things on our own. It is through the power of prayer that we can overcome the experience of downfall and destruction and live a life with a happy heart and a cheerful face.