One of the most interesting features of the book of Proverbs is that despite the fact that the Proverbs themselves try to help the individual to be oriented toward others, the book appeals primarily to self-interest. This is very important. I’ll probably write more about it later (I still need to finish my series on the common topics). But when our self-interest is appealed to, our desire to survive, thrive, and experience happiness Christians often feel embarrassed or feel the need to correct the Bible with comments like, “Jesus offers these gifts, but really we should be self-less.” Check out the Prologue to Proverbs:
Proverbs 9:10-12 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (11) For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life. (12) If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.
If you become a scoffer, ultimately that falls on you. But similarly, if you become wise, it falls on you. Therefore, become wise. Other people cannot do it for you and you cannot do it for other people. Other people and things can be motivations for gaining wisdom, of course. If you want to be wise in order to have a longer life, Proverbs offers that as well. But, again, it’s on you to become wise and there is no guarantee that it will help other people, that they will appreciate it, or that they will support you. Similarly, if you become a scoffer, there is no guarantee that anybody else will be hurt, but there is a guarantee that you’ll bear the result of scoffing because you’ve become a scoffer.
Here are some thoughts:
- Seek wisdom in order to have the good life for yourself.
- Part of wisdom is loving God and loving neighbor and wisdom will help you do these better and indeed, loving God and neighbor has a volitional (will) component and an affective (enjoyment) component.
- The motivation for loving God and neighbor is given in the Sermon on the Mount. If you participate in God’s kingdom, the benefits, if real, are staggering (Matthew 5:3-10).
- The motivation for glorifying God is obtaining glory (see Romans 3:23 and 5:1-5 and all of chapter 8). In other words, God doesn’t need us to glorify him, God calls us to glorify him because it benefits us.
- It is unwise to be selfish, but true wisdom is self-interested and still loving to others.