The following message was delivered during a chapel service at The Master's Seminary in Sun Valley, California, by Dr. Richard L. Mayhue, Dean of The Master's Seminary. It was transcribed from the tape titled "The Better Way--Studies in Proverbs." A copy of the tape can be obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412 or by dialing toll free 1-800-55-GRACE.
The Better Way
Studies in Proverbs
Dr. Richard L. Mayhue
All rights reserved.
This morning I want to draw our attention to the book of Proverbs. And if you turn there with me, let me just introduce the book by reading Verses 1 to 6 which, in fact, does introduce the book of Proverbs to us.
"The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, King of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteous, justice and equity; to give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, to understand a proverb and to figure the words of the wise and their riddles."
Let's take a moment and pray together before we open God's word to our understanding.
Father, I pray that You might open our eyes; that we might see wonderful things from Your word. May we all consider ourselves foolish, apart from the wisdom of Jesus Christ and the wisdom of your word. And Lord, this morning, may some of us acquire knowledge; may more of us acquire understanding, and may all of us acquire wisdom to live a life that would be righteous and pleasing for Your great glory. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
You should have gotten a little sheet when you came in. There will be no quiz at the end of chapel, but there was more material [than] I thought that I had time to cover, and wanted to make sure that you had the basis of what we look at.
As you look around our world, as you read theological literature, as you read philosophical literature, as you read the historical literature of the day, you understand that those who occupy the highest seats of scholasticism are telling us that we've already abandoned the modern era, and are rapidly engaging ourselves in a post-modern era. "Deconstructionism" is what the philosophers would call it. "Revisionism" is what the historians would call it. And it is basically setting aside the reality of life and embracing whatever we, I or you, think ought to be the reality of life; whether it squares with the facts of life or not. Our world is absolutely surrounded by that. And we would understand it when sin is paraded around as nothing more than "sickness"; when drug consumption is spoken of as "recreation"; when the family's being is considered as outdated and an endangered species.
Evil is labeled as good. Immorality is heralded as "sexual freedom." Pornography is "freedom of speech." Unbalanced budgets are the rule, not the exception. Homosexuality is being defined as an "alternative lifestyle." Abortion is sugar-coated by calling it "post-conception birth control"; and lawlessness is condoned as liberation. When white is called black; when green is called yellow, when orange is called brown, and that defies centuries and millennia of truth that's been embraced by society; all in the name of intellectualism.
We know we live in a world that's gone badly awry, and desperately in need of wisdom and insight into life. And it raises the question: What are the absolutes? Which values and morals and ethics and mores should we embrace to give us the most fruitful life that we can know of? Morally speaking, we might ask what ranks with the law of gravity, or what ranks with the laws of thermodynamics. And I can tell you no matter how deeply you are into "Deconstructionism", no matter how far you are into "Revisionism" -- from the top floor of the Empire State Building, the law of gravity is always the same, regardless of what you say it is. And that is: You'll die when you jump.
Who should we listen to? Would it be Plato or Aristotle, the ancient philosophers? Cicero or Confucius? In more moderate history in America, Will Rogers or Mark Twain? And in more recent date, Bill Bennett's book, the Book of Virtues? What book or what philosopher, what moral -- top moralist should we look to to tell us how to live our life? Well, you know my answer to that. We look to nobody who's current. We look to no one who hasn't embraced the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. We look to no book that's errant. And so we turn to the scriptures, which are inerrant, which proclaim the voice and the mind of God, to find the kind of wisdom that's desperately needed, in a world that's blind to the truth, but believes it has embraced the truth, and would lead you and me away from it. And so I've turned this morning to the Book of Proverbs, and what I hope will be preeminently a practical message on a theme that I have not found often developed. So I hope it will be a new line of thought with old theology undergirding all of it.
All 31 chapters and all 915 verses in the book of Proverbs, as we read in the introduction, are devoted to providing for you and me "Wisdom" to those that are less than fully wise, "understanding" to those who haven't a grasp and understanding of everything in life. To those who are the best trained in scholastics, it has something to offer. And to the smallest child, it has something to offer.
Its basic theme, if we were to just sum it up in one sentence, would be: The fear of the Lord leads to divine wisdom for righteous living.
The fear of the Lord leads to divine wisdom for righteous living. And you can find that in Chapter 1 and Verse 7, Chapter 3 and Verse 5, 9, 10 and 22:4. They all basically say what 1:7 says, and that is: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; and fools despise wisdom and instruction." In one sense the book of Proverbs is the "Dear Abby" of the Old Testament.
All of the questions and dilemmas we have in life -- whether it be in the marketplace, whether it be socially with other people, whether it be in our family, whether it be with ourself or in our relationship with God -- we can pose those to the book of Proverbs and find some very real, down-to-earth, tangible, righteous answers which, if we follow, will bring great pleasure to God and will bring great glory to Him.
Of all of the commentaries written on the book of Proverbs, the one that I prefer is not a new one. It's one that was written in the 19th century by Charles Bridges; 1846, to be exact. Let me just give you a little quote from him. And it'll be the last thing I'll quote besides the book of Proverbs. But he said it so well. Talking of the book of Proverbs, he says:
"It is a mirror to show our defects. It is a guidebook and a directory for godly conduct. Beside a code of laws directly religious, a variety of admirable rules spring forth from the deep recesses of wisdom and spread over the whole field. All ranks and classes have their word in season. The Sovereign on the throne is instructed as from God. The principles of national prosperity or decay are laid open. The rich are warned of their besetting temptations. The poor are cheered in their worldly humiliation. Wise rules are given for self-government. It bridles the injurious tongue, corrects the wanton eye, and ties the unjust hand in chains. It prevents sloth; chastises all absurd desires; teaches prudence; raises man's courage and represents temperance and chastity after such a fashion that we cannot but have them in veneration. To come to important matters so often mismanaged, the blessing or curse of the marriage ordinance is vividly portrayed. Sound principles of family order and discipline are inculcated. Domestic economy is displayed in its adorning consistency. Nay, even the minute courtesies of daily life are regulated; self-denying consideration of others, and liberal distribution are enforced. Thus, if the Psalms bring the glow upon the heart, the Proverbs make the face to shine."
I think Charles Bridges got that as succinctly as anyone that I've ever read. It is a magnificent book. It is a one-of-a-kind book. It undoubtedly, pound for pound and page for page, is the most practical, down-to-earth, immediately usable book I believe in all of the scriptures, for one who's already redeemed. It is without a question the family manual by which you, as fathers, are to raise up your sons and your daughters. They are decidedly the kind of book that you would disciple a brand new believer in. And, of late for me, it's been the book that a grandfather would disciple his grandson in. These are the truths that we would have them embrace and know, affirm and live out in their life. It covers all aspects of life, as I mentioned; whether it's your personal life, whether it's your spiritual life, your relationship with God; your family life, your relationship with your wife and your children; your community life, just interacting with other human beings on the planet; and certainly would regulate your work life. And that is what you're doing at the place that you earn bread to put upon the table.
I have over the years always enjoyed in the month of July reading through the book of Proverbs and taking a chapter a day. And I don't know about you, but my mind thinks systematically, and it thinks categorically. And while I wouldn't criticize God for putting Proverbs in the form that He did, because He felt like it was the best form, and I know why he did that. And that was to keep us coming back and keep us reading and keeping feeding on it.
I've always wanted to systematize the book of Proverbs. And over the years, I have worked on it in airports and when I had spare time, and think I finally have systematized it all under five broad categories, and about 55 smaller topics. And it is amazing what it addresses.
It'll tell you how to be blessed by God; it'll tell you what the fear of the Lord looks like and how to do it. It'll talk about life and death, and prayer and sacrifice. It'll talk about reward and righteousness; sin, anger, humility, love, hate, lying, morality, what you're going to do, what you shouldn't do with your tongue. It'll talk about authority, accountability, correction, marriage, parenting; anything you would want to know in life in terms of how should I live in a way that would be pleasing to God; integrity, loyalty, truth, wealth, benevolence, friendship, your reputation and others -- we could go on and on and on -- are all found in this marvelous book.
Well, this morning, as you can see from the notes that you should have gotten on the way in -- if for some reason you missed them, I think they'll be there for you on the way out. I've, over the years, been tremendously intrigued with one theme in the book of Proverbs, and it's the theme of "the better way". And that's the theme that I want to unfold for us this morning; the theme of the better way in the book of Proverbs.
The theme comes out of the Hebrew adjective "tov." Tov is used in a comparative sense -- this way is better than that way -- which you'll discover in the context of which it's given, the comparative actually becomes a superlative. And it says that this way is the very best way. And I don't know about you, but if I've got options, I want to live, I want to invest, I want to be in the very best position and do the best things that I can to achieve the greatest glory for God. How about you? Well, what is that? And what does that involve?
And I've always been intrigued by it, and have tried to document it, and I think I finally have put all of my arms around the 21 better sayings in the book of Proverbs, and have listed them for you in the little handout. Dr. Thomas will be glad to know that the New American Standard Bible [NASB] was most consistent in translating the better ways; the New King James and the NIV missed it by one. They were close, but they didn't make it all the way. So the NASB is the better way to study the book of Proverbs. There are really ten statements out of those 21 texts about the better way, and I really this morning just want to walk us through them. There is an expansion individually for each one of you by way of application that will allow the Spirit of God to do, and He'll do a far better job than I ever would do.
So in some senses, it's a walk through the park, and I just want to point out the interesting scenery, and have you take that with you, and then allow you on your own time to expand on it and, maybe knowing some things you didn't know before, or understanding some things that were fuzzy before, or even editing your life to live a life that was different than before because you see the ultimate, superlative impact that it'll have on both heaven and earth.
1. Wealth versus wisdom.
Number one is the over-arching theme of all of the better sayings of the book of Proverbs, and we'll begin in Chapter 3 Verses 13 and 14. As you see in your handout, I've tried to categorize all of the statements that related to one particular theme, and I've listed them in the order in which they come. Chapter 3 Verses 13 and 14. "How pleased is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For its profit is better than the profit of silver and its gain than fine gold." And it is contrasting wealth with wisdom.
If you could have anything you wanted in life, and it was reduced to, wealth that would lead to wisdom, or wisdom that may or may not lead to wealth, which would you choose? The book of Proverbs says a hundred times out of 100 times: Always choose wisdom. That's what it says in 8:11: "For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things..." Whatever your heart and imagination could want, wisdom is better than, and they "cannot compare with her." Read 19. "My fruit" -- and this is wisdom speaking, "...My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield than choicest silver." Or 16:16: "How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver." Point being: There is no contest between wealth and wisdom. They are not even close in the desirability category. Wisdom would always be the number one choice of anyone making intelligent, godly, righteous decisions. The logic behind all of that is wealth usually won't lead to wisdom.
If you watch across the world, wealth will almost always lead to foolish behavior. Illustration: Read the history of those who win the lotteries. They win 10 million, 20 million, 30 million. And I know you wished you could do the lottery and won't for righteousness' sake. But read the history of those who win the lotteries. You would think it would solve all of their problems in life; buy them all that they needed, and allow this large overflow in a benevolent sense that they might help society. Nine times out of ten, those that win the lottery have their lives utterly ruined. And within years, it's devastated by the sudden inheritance of wealth for which they didn't work and which they weren't prepared to handle, because they did not have the wisdom of God.
Then the opposite is not always true; wisdom doesn't always lead to wealth. But any kind of wealth that's given by God, and any kind of wealth that you'll be able to use in a righteous way, will be preceded by the wisdom of God. And it's going to talk a little bit more about that, and we're going to discover that we might be better off to live in poverty than it is in well being. You're beginning to see what the proverbist has to say about that.
The point I think he wants to make is that wisdom's value never declines. It's not like the Dow Jones. It's not like gold and silver, and any of the other metal markets that we look at today. The interest is always high. It's never variable. And the reward for wisdom absolutely never fails. There is no stock market crash in the realm of wisdom.
Solomon wrote most of the book of Proverbs, either wrote or collected the majority of them. And you'll remember in 1st Kings Chapter 3 -- we won't turn there this morning -- but he was given the choice of anything he wanted in life. And it wasn't a multiple guess. It was fill-in-the-blank. And you remember what he chose, and that was the wisdom of God to righteously rule his nation. And it was that God provided that to him. We also know how he perverted it, as we read the book of Ecclesiastes. But because he chose the better thing first, what was it that God then tacked on as an addition to it? He not only became the wisest man in the world, but he became what? The wealthiest man in the world. And it would be my understanding of the entire book of Proverbs, if you and I are ever to be entrusted with any kind of earthly wealth with which we could bring glory to God, it would be always preceded by the wisdom of God; understanding that the wisdom of God doesn't always lead to wealth. Some of the most spiritual and godly people that have ever lived in life have not only been people of poverty, but they've been people whose lives have normally been cut short because of their claims and testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Wisdom is always to be preferred over wealth, without even a second thought. The embodiment of all that is simply this. 1st Corinthians 1:24 says that: "Christ is the ... wisdom of God." Colossians Chapter 2 Verse 3 says that hidden in Christ are "all the treasures of wisdom." And it would point us to Christ. It would point us to embrace Christ and all that's His, and then allow God to figure out at what level or what style of life we're going to lead. That's important for you that are in seminary. Some of you, a few of you, have come, and on a relative scale you're independently wealthy, compared to the rest of the students. I identify with the latter, not the former.
I went to seminary, and the only money I had was in the bank to pay my tuition that I had left over from my career as a Naval officer. And we lived hand to mouth, week after week, month after month, on about $400 a month. And we never had too much, and we never had too little. It just was kind of like the widow's mite on a daily basis. And I can remember sitting there and watching some of my classmates whose clothes were far better than my clothes, and who owned libraries that were far bigger than my library, and who had cars that didn't have leprosy. You don't know what leprosy is. But back -- look at Michael Brizzani's van. He's got a bad case of leprosy. And it is the salt on the road in the Midwest in the winter that eats it from the inside out, and mine was really being eaten out badly.
And I had to come to grips with all of that as a seminary student, and this is what I finally concluded: I need to thank God for the way He's blessed those other men. I need to thank God that they've got a better car, they've got a bigger life or they dress with nicer clothes, and then thank God for what He gave me. Because the truth was I had more than some of my other seminary classmates. That is a wise approach. That is putting your arms around Jesus Christ and letting Him figure out the course of your life with regard to money. It makes number one, number one; wisdom, always preferred above wealth.
2. Pride versus humility.
Secondly -- and the rest of them will go a lot quicker. That, in some senses, is an over-arching principle. The second one is found in Chapter 12 and Verse 9, and it says: "Better is he who is lightly esteemed but has a servant than he who honors himself and lacks bread." It's dealing with pride versus humility; with visible poverty versus invisible prosperity. It talks about the vanity of appearance: Someone who wants to look like a big shot, even though it's a facade; it's a fake; there's nothing real there. We see it in our society continually. It's what drives up the credit card debt that is astronomical in America. It is people who want to be seen with the right car; their house is fully decorated; they're always dressed for every occasion; they have everything that money could buy. And you think, my, aren't they a marvelously wealthy, prosperous people; only to discover they either are in bankruptcy or they're on the verge of bankruptcy, because they did what they did only for the sense of appearance. And that is what you would think of them on an outward basis.
It's "better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly," says Proverbs 16:19, "...than to divide the spoil with the proud." And in 25:7 it says that: "It's better that it be said to you, 'Come up here,' than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen." The NIV puts that last little phrase with Verse 8, but I think it's far better where it's found in Verse 7. The point is the road to take is always the road of humility. It's the road of the back seat. It's the road of the servant. When your brother wanted to know if he could sit on the front seat in the chapel this morning, and my answer was: When the seats are free on the 50-yard line, that's where to sit all of the time. And the seats in this chapel are for free. They indicate utterly nothing except a place where you can park your body and enjoy yourself for all of chapel. But there are places where there's a delineation of rank and what have you. And the book of Proverbs would say: Take a back seat. Better to sit in the back row and have the guy that's leading the meeting call you to the front, than to sit on the front row and have him not only be embarrassed, but embarrass you in front of all those people to say brother, it just would be good for the moment if you could live someplace else. Read Luke 14:7 to 11 and you'll discover that principle as told by the Lord Jesus. The way of wisdom is the way of humility, not the way of pride.
3. Prosperity versus poverty.
And then thirdly, and there's a whole string of these that contrast prosperity and poverty and what comes with it. Proverbs 15:16: "Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it." And I could testify to that, and so could each of you, when you were saved. Before I was saved, I had a great deal. I had a promising career. People said I would be a tremendous success. And yet, I was on my way to hell and didn't know it. And in fact, my life veritably was crumbling and on the verge of a divorce. I had prosperity, but it was without the fear of the Lord. And I want to tell you this morning: I wouldn't in any way, shape or form want to regain that prosperity today, and lose what it is that I have in Jesus Christ.
Poverty with the fear of the Lord is the way to go. It's the better way. It's absolutely the best way. "Better is" just "...a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it." And I think the sense in that particular proverb is the ill-gotten gain that's talked about in Chapter 10 and Verse 2. Look at number four. It's one verse later in Verse 17, and the same chapter of the book of Proverbs. "Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it." Point being that prosperity with hate is compared to poverty with love.
It was far better always to live in an environment of love, even if you have nothing else, than it is to live in a big mansion, have lots of cars and a lot of prestige, and all of the rest that goes with that. And as you go out in ministry, you're going to engage continually people who have far more than you have, and far more than probably most of the people in your church have, and they have one desperate need, and it is to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. And when their eyes are opened to their sin, and they know the pain of their sin, they would gladly trade their prosperity and the hate with it, to live a humble life but to know something of the love of God in their life, and the ability to love others like they've been loved with God.
4. Righteousness versus injustice.
And then number four is found in the next chapter in Verse 8 -- 16 and Verse 8. "Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice." And again, the idea is ill-gotten gain. Prosperity and poverty are contrasted in these particular three: Prosperity without the fear of the Lord, prosperity with hate, prosperity with injustice; or, poverty with the fear of the Lord, poverty with love, and poverty with righteousness. And the proverbist points us every time: Take poverty, take humility, take wisdom. Don't worry about wealth. Don't worry about pride, and don't worry about prosperity. What does our flesh want to worry about? Wants to worry about wealth, wants to worry about pride, and wants to worry about prosperity. And please know that when you were redeemed, your flesh was not totally eradicated from your being. You and I and everyone in the room still has the capacity to sin. We have a capacity to be drawn away from what's right to what's wrong, drawn to old appetites that maybe have been suppressed for a while. And it's really on a daily basis that I recommit myself to the better way. And I recommit myself to wisdom rather than wealth, to humility rather than pride, to poverty rather than prosperity if love is at stake, and to poverty rather than prosperity if righteousness is at stake.
5. Peace versus Anger.
Look at number five. It's found twice, 16:32 and 17:1; back to back, as it were. "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who captures a city." 17:1 says that: "Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife." Slowness to anger is better than the angriest man on the planet who can conquer nations. Better to have just a dry piece of bread and tranquility with it, than to own a grocery store at your house, and feast with strife and anger and turmoil. Point being: Peace with a simple life is always preferred over anger with power and prestige. And point being: If you're driven by the wrong things in points one to four, the power and the prestige that you want will almost always be accomplished by anger, and illicitly and illegally doing people out of what's rightfully theirs, but which you desperately want so you can pompously parade yourself as someone who is wealthy and someone who is prosperous in society. That's the way the unregenerate world thinks. That's the way the unregenerate world lives. Just the opposite way ought to be the life of the pastor; just the opposite way ought to be the life of the pastor. Just the opposite ought to be the way of the life of a seminary professor. And for most of you, whether you like it or not, some of this will be your way whether you want poverty or not, just because of where you are in life and all of the demands on your pocketbook.
6. Truth versus dishonesty.
Look at number six, and we continue with the prosperity-poverty contrast. 19:1 says this: "Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and who is a fool." 19:22. It's better to be: "A poor man than a liar." 22:1: "A good name" or your reputation, "...is to be more desired than great riches, favor is better than silver and gold." 28:6: "Better is the poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich." The point being: Poverty with truth and integrity is that that's noble and that that's dignified, as compared to the unthinkable prosperity with deceitfulness and dishonesty.
There's a lot of applications. It's everything to -- from the way you report the reading that you do in seminary, to the way that you take exams, to the way that you write papers, and every other aspect of your life; the way you pay your bills, the way you treat people. Poverty with truth and integrity is a dignified, noble way to live, for which no one ought to make excuses or feel like they need to make an apology to anybody. It's the inward dress; it's the inward character that God values, and not necessarily that which is on the outside.
7. Happy and humble home versus a contentious and prosperous one.
Number seven, and this is somewhat self-evident. But, guys, this is really, really important. Make sure you talk to your wife about this when you get home in a positive way; not a negative way, please. There are three proverbs and they all basically say the same thing and use the same kind of language. 21:9 says: "It's better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman." 21:19: "It's better to live in a desert land than with a contentious, vexing woman." And 25:24: "It's better to live in the corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman." Point being: A humble but happy home is a wise way to go, as opposed to a prosperous home with a contentious woman. I doubt if any of you got married because the one who was the object of your affections wanted to argue all the time and was contentious. Rarely does that happen. I can't imagine that whatsoever. And it would be my contention that most contentious women, for the most part, are made that way by the neglect of their husbands. Most are made that way or bring the worst out of them by the neglect of their husbands.
Now, you guys that are single, you have a choice. You can avoid the problem altogether by being celibate and single for the rest of your life. That's one way to go. And quite frankly, Paul in 1st Corinthians 7, says you'll be able to serve the Lord better than anybody else if that's the way you go. I personally believe you need to be gifted by God to go that way, so you probably don't want -- too many of you get in that particular line. But you do have a choice. And it would be important to know what that woman whom you would marry is like when the pressure's on, and when she doesn't get her way all of the time. Those of us that are married are stuck. We're in this relationship. It's for better or for worse, right? And whose responsibility is it, humanly speaking, to begin to bring the best out of our wives? It's mine and it's yours as the husband of that particular woman. Our godly behavior, example, our godly responses to our wife, will bring the best out of her, not the worst.
And most contentious Christian women that I've seen are women who have been ill-treated -- not abused physically, but just ill-treated by neglect, and frustrated by husbands who don't assume the right role and the right responsibilities that are laid down just as clearly as can be laid down in the word of God. They are women who have not been loved as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. In other words, husbands are not giving themselves for the sake of their wife. Take note of number seven very, very carefully while you're here in seminary.
8. Love expressed versus love suppressed.
Number eight and number nine kind of go together as they talk about relationships, and as we draw it all to a conclusion. 27:5 says: "Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed." The point being: Express love, even though it be by way of wisely-offered criticism, is far better than suppressed love that is absolutely never said. Proverbs 13:24 puts it this way with regard to your children. "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently." Now, what does the proverbist mean by that?
Simply put in today's society, if you're to think secularly for a moment, why is it that corporeal punishment is on the verge of being outlawed in many parts of our country? Because society has decided that corporeal punishment properly applied is an act of what? Hate and abuse, not an act of love. Now, the Bible says it's an act of love. And hate is in fact when you withhold the kind of discipline that will bring godliness and reward to that particular child. That's what Proverbs 13:24 is basically saying in very, very abrupt language. The same kind of thing is said in 28:23. Sorry to add a few verses that aren't in your notes, but at least it'll keep you writing. "He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue." The point being: If you deal with someone in a reputable, honest way, although it might be in a negative context at the moment, it's far better than dealing with someone who's schmoozing you, but they're schmoozing you for what they can get out of it, not what you can gain out of it. Expressed love, even in rebuke, is always far better than suppressed love that never, ever is expressed.
9. Faithfulness versus undependability.
And then the last one: "Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother far away." Point being: Faithfulness in relationships is far better than undependability. And I think in two ways is it referring. One is a geographical way. Point being: If folks in your family who could help you live on the east coast, you're probably far better off to depend on some dear brother who lives in the same apartment building. But I think it goes way beyond that. And I think really its ultimate intent is relationally, and that is: Better is a neighbor who relationally is committed to you, than a family member who's not committed to you. And we understand that in a Christian context.
Some of you have come and you've basically been abandoned by your family, because you refuse to abandon Jesus Christ. And they in fact have perhaps disinherited you, or put you at arms' length, or will do utterly nothing on your behalf to help you in your seminary education and pursuing the ministry. But there are a lot of friends here. There are a lot of brothers and sisters in Christ who share no blood with you, other than that of Adam and our sinfulness, but who share the blood of Christ and understand that we share the same Savior; who are willing to reach out and sacrifice, and do anything that they can on your behalf. That's the sense of that particular proverb.
I get very excited as I started to read these, as I started to discover them, for only the simple reason. And that is in my short life and your short life, if there's anything we can do that is best, and it's within the framework of embracing that, there's everything in me that wants that. Most of that in life eludes me. I'm never going to be the best singer, no matter how hard I try, or who I take voice lessons from, until I get to heaven and God changes all of that. I'm not going to be the best racquetball player or athlete that ever came down the pike. Even in my best days, I was mediocre. As a matter of fact, I've never really been best at anything in my life. I've always been sort of second place and third place. So I always got real excited when I saw this. Individually, I can live the very best life possible, and so can you. And we can live to the greatest glory of the Lord on earth, empowered by the Spirit as a result of our redemption in Jesus Christ, by shaping and framing our life by the better way for the book of Proverbs. I don't know about you, but that's the way I want to live. And I commend that to you, not only for this school year of 1999 and 2000, but for the remainder of your years, both in seminary and out of seminary.
Father, thank you for telling us what we otherwise wouldn't know. Thank you for opening our eyes to understand what otherwise would always be muddled. And Lord, most of all, we thank you for the power of your word and the power of your Spirit, who would allow us to incorporate on a day-by-day basis, even the things we know and understand, and find so elusive in the pattern of our living.
Father, may we as the Master Seminary family, faculty, staff, student body, the like, take seriously the better way, which is the best way, and in total dependence upon You this day commit ourself to it, and ask where radical change needs to take place, that it would be wrought by Your divine hand, and that it would always be for Your glory, because we pray it in Jesus' name. Amen.
Copyright Dr. Richard L. Mayhue 1999, Master's Seminary, All Rights Reserved.
Transcribed by Bonnie Frankfurt of Grace Community Church and added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Sermons and Articles" by:
Bible Bulletin Board
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Our websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Online since 1986