People like Proverbs. When I ask my high school students what they’d like to study, Proverbs always appears toward the top of the list (right behind Genesis and Revelation). And, when pastors preach through Proverbs, they often get more comments from people expressing how much they appreciated the sermon.
And I’m sure it’s because Proverbs has so much practical advice for daily living: disciplining unruly children (13:24), controlling your temper (14:17), managing your money (21:5), finding the perfect wife (31:10-31), just being wise (6:20-23), and much more. This is good stuff! Unlike those boring laws in Leviticus, these are things you can apply every day. (Before you start defending Leviticus, I don’t really think this. But admit it, most people think that Leviticus is boring and irrelevant while Proverbs is fascinating and practical.)
I recently sat through a sermon series on Proverbs that was just like this: every sermon packed with wise tidbits. I felt like I was hearing Benjamin Franklin reincarnated: be more disciplined, wake up earlier, control your temper, choose your friends carefully, spend wisely, and so on. This is good advice that everyone should follow: the Bible’s own self-help aisle.
But is this really what Proverbs is about? Should we read Proverbs as a book of wise advice that anyone can and should follow?