Monday, March 30, 2009

Proverbs (5) the good path

I love to think of the Christian life as a path. I don't mean a vague "spiritual journey" -"You have your journey, I have mine" - but God's straight and narrow way (Matt 7:13-14), like the path of Christian in Pilgrim's Progress.

It's a path with steep hills to climb and deep valleys to traverse and lovely, still places beside quiet waters. It's a path with wrong turns into easier ways on either side. It's a path which leads to a golden city, our true home.

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day. (Prov 4:18)
How wonderful if life could be like that: an ever-brightening path to glory!

In Proverbs 2 & 4, we get to eavesdrop as a wise father tells his son how to live a life like that. He tells his son to keep to the good path, the "way of wisdom". Like a well-maintained highway, the good path is straight, level, firm and bright. If you walk here, you won't stumble, and you'll be protected and guarded from harm (2:9-11, 4:11-12, 18, 26).

Branching off to either side are two crooked paths (2:12-19). One is the the way of evil companions (2:12-15, 4:12-19), and the other the way of the adulterous or promiscuous woman (2:16-19). These paths look attractive, but the father's warning is clear: they end in disaster and death!

Why, out of all the possible crooked paths, does the father go on and on about these two? Nearly a third of Proverbs 1-9 is about the adulterous or promiscuous woman (2:16-19, 5, 6:20-7:27)! And evil companions aren't far behind (2:16-19, 5, 6:20-7:27). There's also a section on sluggards and assorted fools (6:1-19).

I guess it's because Proverbs was originally written for young men. The most dangerous decisions a young man can make are to join the wrong crowd (drugs, drunkeness, violence) and to engage in loose sexual relationships. Some young men become sluggards, lying around all day, sponging off their parents. We all know young men on these crooked paths.

What are the crooked paths for young women? A longing for romantic love lures many into a relationship with a non-Christian boyfriend. Others put their hope in the security of a nice house in a nice suburb with nice clothes and nice possessions. These are the ones our Bible study came up with - can you think of others?

So how do we stay on the "good path"? Thankfully, we're given very specific advice (4:23-27):

  • above all else, guard your hearts - turn from the lies of the world to God's truth, and from sinful desires to valuing him as our highest treasure (1 Chron 29:18, Prov 4:20-21, Ps 119:11, Matt 6:21, 15:16-19)
  • banish corrupt talk from your lips - keep a close watch on this most perilous of all body parts (Jam 3:1-12)
  • fix your eyes straight ahead - fill your thoughts and affections with Jesus and heaven, rather than the pleasures of this world (Col 3:1-4, Heb 12:1-3)
  • keep your feet on the straight path - refuse to stray to right or left, even for a moment, however great the temptation (Heb 12:7-13)
May we be those who keep to the good path!

images are from stock.xchng


mattnbec said...

"What are the crooked paths for young women? A longing for romantic love ... security of a nice house in a nice suburb with nice clothes and nice possessions ... can you think of others?"

These ones are pretty good and the two biggies, I think. It struck me though that our children, their achievements and wellbeing can also become crooked paths for us. These are, of course, not bad in themselves (much as a husband, nice house etc are not bad in themselves). However, I think we can idolise our children and put our security in our parenting, our children's achievements, education, good-behaviour etc. I suspect the fact that some children do ballet, piano lessons, tennis lessons and more every week shows this. I also suspect the fact that we are desperate for a fail-safe parenting techniques does too in that it shows we're not willing to trust God enough. Of course, these things also show good desires to have our children grow to be healthy, well-adjusted people who love Jesus, but I think sometimes there's more to it than that as well. For example, I'm sure we've all had a little brag about how well our child is doing in something. Hence, I think we face the temptation to put our security in our children too.


Jean said...

Very true, Bec! More for older women than younger ones, especially these days, with people having kids later! It's a biggie for us mums, though.