A proverb a day keeps your sins away – Monday, 25th Week in ordinary time – Proverbs 3:27-34

A proverb a day keeps your sins away – Monday, 25th Week in ordinary time – Proverbs 3:27-34

For the next two weeks, starting from today, the first readings of the liturgy of the Eucharist will focus briefly on three books taken from the body of literature called wisdom literature. We will reflect on texts from the book of Proverbs(Monday and Tuesday), the book of Ecclesiastes (Thursday to Saturday) and the book of Job which will take up the whole of next week

The Hebrew division of the Bible has three parts: the Law, the Prophets, the Writings. Within the writings are seven books which are commonly called wisdom books: Proverbs, Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes (Qoholeth), Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus).

Every culture has a way of recording the practical advice of previous generations and an important part of life is becoming familiar this cultural data. Wisdom Literature contains writing designed to help people live righteously, in ways that are pleasing to God. The books consist of a series of “wise sayings” emanating from the educated and leading class of the Jewish people in the period following the return from exile in Babylon.

The book of Proverbs is a collection of moral and religious instruction given to young Jews by learned teachers. The book of Proverbs contains not only proverbial sayings; that is, short popular statements expressive of practical wisdom and experience but also parables, similitudes, comparisons, and short pithy sayings. It is not merely a compilation of unrelated sayings containing the ethical wisdom of the Orientals, but constitutes the ethical code of its authors. It’s spirit is thoroughly religious and the idea of God permeates the entire book.

The book is traditionally ascribed to Solomon, the third king of Israel but this is a mere convention. It was in Solomon’s court that ancient oriental “wisdom” was first introduced to Israel, and it later became customary to attribute all books belonging to this particular literary genre to him.

The introductory part of the book from which our text of today is taken from (chapters 1-9) is a treatise on the excellence and advantages of wisdom. It proclaims that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (1:7). It exhorts men to seek after wisdom, which is the best preservative against temptation and “more precious than all riches” (3:- 15). It urges men to practice virtue, to flee the company of the wicked and to avoid the occasions of sin.

Today’s reading touches on our relations with the neighbour. In the Old Testament, ‘neighbour’ originally referred to a person who was close to one in some way as a friend or associate. In general it included those who shared one’s culture and religion. However, in Proverbs it has the wider meaning as expressed by the term ‘fellow-man’.

The text of today begins with some practical examples on the lessons wisdom teaches us regarding neighbourly behaviour. It begins with the simple principle that we should do good when it is in our power to do so. The Bible has a great deal to say about being good and doing good. God is good and God wants us to be good. That sounds very simple, but many foundational truths in life are simple and the fact that they are ignored or not followed doesn’t make them any less true.

The good we should do should be done promptly, while opportunity still exists. If we leave it to tomorrow, it sadly may never happen. God’s wisdom also teaches us to treat others well. But not only should we treat others well, we should not plan and plot to harm a trusting neighbour. The word “do not plan” translates better as do not “plow evil” as if ready to plant seeds of hate. Sadly, we can also let jealousy take root in our heart and when that happens we find fault with a neighbour for no reason and make them the object of our hatred. This goes against the call of God to be good and do good.

The world that we live in values the strong and powerful Such envy for power should be shunned by the true man of wisdom, for the Lord abhors such perverse people; rather in all things we are called to strive to be upright. We should not envy or imitate the oppressor because God knows how and when to judge such wicked people. God blesses the home of the just, but He also scorns the scornful. The temporary prosperity of the wicked should never make us envy or imitate them.

Finally, we live in a world of information overload. We can get unbelievable amounts of information on Google. But information is not the same as wisdom. You can have knowledge but not wisdom and learning is not the same as living. So having knowledge is important but having wisdom is all important. That is what the book calls us to have.

The book of proverbs has 31 chapters. Try reading one a day, corresponding to the days of the month. A proverb a day keeps your sins away.

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