There is always so much packed into Solomon’s pithy wisdom that it’s difficult to know where to start sometimes. There is, however, something of a theme running through this chapter and it’s centred around relationships and being wise in the way we live and work with each other. These verses also speak of the value of community and there is some good advice about the significance of belonging too.
Some of his wisdom is simple; “Don’t boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” In English we have something similar proverb that says “Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched”. It makes the simple point that we never know what’s around the corner and if you apply it to the relationships you’re in bragging about things in general rarely does anyone any good. Jesus preached more about humility than boasting.
v.10 reminds us that community is powerful when it’s united, v.12 tells us to keep away from danger and v.17 speaks of the power of mutual encouragement. v.19 succinctly speaks of the effect that the heart has on our appearance to others and v.21 teaches us of the way that praise lifts us up or puts us down.
It’s well worth reading some alternative translations. For example, v.14 in the Passion version makes a little easier reading and much more sense than the NIV. “Do you think you’re blessing your neighbours when you sing at the top of your lungs early in the morning? Don’t be fooled—they’ll curse you for doing it!” Overflowing with joy isn’t always appreciated.
In all of this we’re reminded that relationships need work. They don’t just happen, they need time, investment and careful thought. Very often these are qualities or skills that we exercise far too infrequently but they promote love and build community when we get them right. We ignore them at our peril and heed them to our gain.
Heavenly father, thank you that your word is filled with heaven’s wisdom. Help us all to take these words to heart. To live in them, work in them and sleep in them. Help us to be a blessing to our families, our friends, neighbours, colleagues and our communities. We pray today Lord that you would do a work of transformation in each of us, that you would make us more into a likeness of Christ that we might glorify Him in all we do. Amen.