• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for May 19 focuses on Proverbs 6:6-11, 16-19, 23-27.
The book of Proverbs is full of personal traits God desires to develop and grow in our lives. These traits help us have an authentic, growing relationship with Christ, and they also help us relate to others well.
In The NIV Application Commentary, Paul Koptak points to three significant character traits God desires for you and for me mentioned in Proverbs 6. First, we must practice self-discipline with diligence and wisdom like hard-working ants. Second, we must replace covetousness with contentment. And finally, we must begin to hate what God hates so we can love what he loves.
Be like ants
First, we must strive to be like ants. Ants know what it means to be disciplined. They have a job to do, and they put their head to the ground and do the work. The ant works with consistent energy toward the right goal.
In our society, most people qualify as being very busy. We constantly work and are left with little free time at the end of the day. However, we must be careful not to confuse busyness with discipline. Often our busyness is characterized by doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. Perhaps what we are doing is not sinful, but it is the wrong work for us to be doing. In Making Life Work: Putting God’s Wisdom Into Action, Bill Hybels refers to this busyness as “selective sluggardliness.”
Many of our chosen commitments cause us to neglect things that are most important in life. These commitments are not worthy or pleasing to God. We must take inventory of our work and determine which priorities lead us to the virtues and values God has deemed worthy.
Some of the most disciplined and diligent lives are marked by hours of taking care of others, spending time listening and deepening relationships, and getting rest to prepare for the tasks to which God has called them. The discipline Proverbs points to is not discipline in and of itself, but it is discipline toward the right goal.
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Second, we must replace our covetousness with contentment. It is difficult to be content. We live in a world where products constantly are being reinvented, improved and reproduced. We buy a new phone only to find it became the “old” phone when the newer version emerged weeks later. We have immediate access to snapshots of other peoples’ lives, vacations and homes through social media outlets, and it often leads to discontentment.
Koptak says contentment is the virtue that knows what it means to be satisfied, while covetousness begins with a sense of lack. One or the other will take up home in our hearts and minds. If we confess our covetousness and ask God to help make us content, bit-by-bit the covetous attitudes will be squeezed out and eventually removed.
We must continue to practice contentment so our old ways do not find a doorway back into our lives. Benjamin Franklin said it well: “Contentment makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.” Proverbs challenges us to be grateful for what we have, thus satisfied.
Finally, we must hate what God hates so we can truly love. Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us God hates several things in our world. In the list we find haughty eyes, lying tongues, hands that shed innocent blood, hearts that devise wicked schemes, feet that rush to evil, false witnesses who pour out lies and people who stir up conflict.
God loves the opposite—humble eyes, truthful tongues, hands that help the innocent, pure hearts, feet that walk in the light, people who speak the truth even when it is difficult and people who seek reconciliation within their community.
Love not the world
We cannot love things of the world and still be in step with God’s purpose in our lives. James 4:4 says any who choose to be friends of the world, make themselves enemies of God. Psalm 97:10 also states this command clearly: “Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” It is impossible truly to love unless we hate that which is harmful to the object of your love.
God desires to do a work in us that will revolutionize our relationship with him as well as with those around us. He came to bring us life, and life to the fullest (John 10:10). The book of Proverbs is full of pictures of his power and ability to work in you and in me.