“Happy Is the Man That Findeth Wisdom”
Lesson 31 – Proverbs and Ecclesiastes
If you can complete the following phrases, you are already familiar with some of the wisdom of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes: ______ goeth before destruction (16:18); Train up a ______ in the way he should go (22:6); To every thing there is a ______, and a ______ to every purpose under the heaven (E 3:1); ______ in the Lord with all thine heart (3:5); A ______ ______ turneth away wrath (15:1); for as he ______ in his heart, so is he (23:7).
Proverbs are short sayings that generally give counsel about living righteously. The Old Testament records that Solomon “spake three thousand proverbs” (1 Kings 4:32). Some of these wise sayings are included in the book of Proverbs. Although Solomon and the other authors of this book were not prophets, the Lord inspired much of what they wrote. Their writings generally reflect a belief that true wisdom comes from God.
The book of Ecclesiastes also contains wise sayings, and some people believe Solomon to be its author. The message of Ecclesiastes is that life is meaningful only through God.
The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes emphasize the importance of wisdom.
Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:9-10 – There is a difference between being learned and being wise. In biblical language, to “fear the Lord” means to reverence and obey him. Wisdom is more than knowledge; it is the proper application of knowledge. To the Israelites, wisdom meant obedience to God’s laws.
Proverbs 2:2-6 teaches the need for diligence in obtaining the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 3:13-18; Ecclesiastes 7:12 - The value of wisdom surrpasses the value of earthly treasures. Wisdom brings happiness and peace.
Proverbs 3:18 - wisdom “is a tree of life” to those who possess it. It leads to righteousness.
Proverbs 9:9-10 and Proverbs 15:31-33 - Qualities of wise people include reveerence for that which is holy and the ability to accept instruction and apply it for their benefit.
Proverbs 3:5-7 - Counsel is given to trust in the Lord and follow his direction.
Proverbs 3:6 - To acknowledge God means to worship Him and seek His counsel and guidance. Then, when guidance or inspiration is received, the wise follow it.
Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven things the Lord hates. Three of these things—lying, bearing false witness, and sowing discord—apply to the words we speak.
Proverbs 16:27-28; Proverbs 18:8; Proverbs 25:18 - The Lord is so concerned with the words we speak because they reflect our thoughts…and our thoughts become actions which, when continued, become habits. The problems of lying, gossiping, or speaking negatively about others are to be avoided.
Proverbs 16:24; Proverbs 12:25 – 16:24 says “pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul.” Pleasant words make us happy—both the speaker and the listener.
Proverbs 15:1 - Benefits come from speaking softly when a disagreement arises, as Elder Gordon B. Hinckley explained: “We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention” (Ensign, June 1971, 72).
Proverbs 8:13 states that the Lord hates pride. He considers it a serious sin.
President Ezra Taft Benson said: “The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’ As Paul said, they ‘seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s’ (Philippians 2:21). …Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled (see Alma 38:12; 3 Nephi 12:30). The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives (see Helaman 12:6). They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works. Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s. … Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression (see Alma 12:10-11). The proud are not easily taught (see 1 Nephi 15:3, 1 Nephi 15:7-11). They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong” (Ensign, May 1989, 4, 6).
Proverbs 13:10 and 16:18 teach that pride leads to contention and destruction. As President Ezra Taft Benson said: “Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride. Contention in our families drives the Spirit of the Lord away. It also drives many of our family members away. … Pride adversely affects all our relationships—our relationship with God and His servants, between husband and wife, parent and child” (Ensign, May 1989, 6).
Proverbs 16:19 – Counsels us to overcome pride.
Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 22:24-25 – Here we are warned about unrighteous friends. Their companionship can lead to destruction. They can teach us their habits and ensnare us in sin.
Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 27:9 - Characteristics of good friends incluude loyalty, love, and devotion.
Proverbs 18:24 - To have good friends we need to be goood friends. Uplift others and they will be there for you when you need them.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 - True friends react when we make unwisse choices…they help us recover.
Elder Marvin J. Ashton said: “Someone has said, ‘A friend is a person who is willing to take me the way I am.’ Accepting this as one definition of the word, may I quickly suggest that we are something less than a real friend if we leave a person the same way we find him. … No greater reward can come to any of us as we serve than a sincere ‘Thank you for being my friend.’ When those who need assistance find their way back through and with us, it is friendship in action. When the weak are made strong and the strong stronger through our lives, friendship is real. If a man can be judged by his friends, he can also be measured by their heights. … Yes, a friend is a person who is willing to take me the way I am but who is willing and able to leave me better than he found me” (Ensign, Jan. 1973, 41, 43).
We are expected to strengthen friendships among family members as well as acquaintances.
Jesus Christ has often called his followers his friends (D&C 88:62; D&C 93:45). He has shown that he is our friend as referenced in John 15:13. We show that we are his friends by following his teachings—as taught in John 15:14.
Proverbs 22:6 says to “train up a child in the way he should go.”
D&C 68:25-28 - Parents need to follow this counsel. When we effectively teach children the principles of the gospel and nurture their testimonies, we are following divine guidance. Elder Richard G. Scott said: “You must be willing to forgo personal pleasure and self-interest for family-centered activity, and not turn over to church, school, or society the principal role of fostering a child’s well-rounded development. It takes time, great effort, and significant personal sacrifice to ‘train up a child in the way he should go.’ But where can you find greater rewards for a job well done?” (Ensign, May 1993, 34).
Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 29:17 - Children need rules, boundaries, and loving correction. Properly disciplined and corrected, a child will later appreciate your loving actions.
Proverbs 6:20-23 - Children should respond to the righteeous counsel of their parents with enthusiasm and diligence. Parents should give correction as directed in D&C 121:41-44.
Proverbs 15:13; Proverbs 17:22 - It is very important to develop a happy attitude (“a merry heart”) and a good sense of humor, as President Hugh B. Brown said: “I would like to have you smile because after all we must keep a sense of humor whatever comes. I think of all the people in the world we should be the happiest. We have the greatest and most joyous message in the world. I think when we get on the other side; someone will meet us with a smile (unless we go to the wrong place and then someone will grin), so let us be happy. But let our happiness be genuine—let it come from within” (The Abundant Life , 83).
Remember and follow the wise counsel in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. You may also want to memorize a favorite passage from one of those books. Post some Proverbs on your refrigerator door.
These lessons are posted on the Internet at http://www.geocities.com/jeninstitute/