Plot no evil against your neighbor,
against one who lives at peace with you.
Quarrel not with a man without cause,
with one who has done you no harm.
Jerusalem was never a major world capital but it had political, economic and military connections and the world’s literature flowed through its schools. Scholars could sort through it all and choose the best. The divine authors of The Book of Proverbs gathered sayings from Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia, selected those that fit Jewish beliefs and used them to teach their students the traditions and wisdom of our faith.
Many passages in the Book of Proverbs address children:
- Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and reject not your mother’s teaching…
- My son, should sinners entice you, do not go if they say, “Come along with us…
- Listen, children, to a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight…
- My children, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth.
In many ways the biblical proverbs seem obvious, especially to those born, raised and educated in our faith. Do good. Avoid evil. Plot no evil against your neighbor. Quarrel not with a man without cause: what could be more obvious?
And yet the world teems with other sayings that find no place in Proverbs. I think of sayings like, “Revenge is a dish best served cold;” “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven;” and ”"An armed society is a polite society.” Some children are taught those attitudes and beliefs. As adults they know no other way of thinking.
Like everything else in the Bible, Proverbs is written amid controversy and the struggle is for the future; that is, for the minds and hearts of children. It's less concerned about national debt, foreign wars or infrastructure than about the quality of people who live in that future age.
The prophetic religion takes its stand in a firestorm of differing opinions about the good life. Is it prosperity, security, popularity, good health, or large family? Wisdom promises all these blessings but the wise know they don’t add up to the good life.
Without the fear of the Lord there is no good life. “Come children, hear me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord." Those who fear the Lord are truly free because they fear no one else.
Those who belong to the Holy Spirit ponder our Proverbs; they choose their attitudes and make their decisions under God’s guidance.