My thoughts (John Seksay):
Have you ever seen one of those pictures that are visually confusing? The type where it can be a vase or two profiles, depending on the emphasis your brain puts on interpreting the image. Is it a face, a profile, or a word? Yes, it is. It’s all in how you look at it.
Do you see a woman, or a musician? A face, or the word “Liar”?
That’s how my mind behaves in Proverbs; what I read five minutes ago is what I’m re-reading now, but my mind isn’t seeing the same thing at all. Like several of the verses in today’s reading:
Verse 1: A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
Verse 4: The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.
Verse 7: The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
Riches. So, we’re talking money, right? If I am humble and obedient, God will bless me financially and I will live comfortably as a respected member of my community. I will have to be careful to not let my comfortable circumstances go to my head and affect my reputation. I will be “free” because I will not be a borrower in debt to another. This seems quite clear: I see these attitudes expressed by people I meet as part of the American dream.
But wait a minute. Maybe we’re actually talking reputation, a wealth of social status. Maybe it’s about having a good name and favorable status that lead to wealth and honor and a crowd of subordinates who toil on your behalf. I will be “free” because I live above the restraints of the less fortunate. Could it mean being a powerful politician, corporate magnate, or a movie star? I have met those who strive for this kind of wealth.
But isn’t the Bible about spirituality? So could riches be spiritual growth? I could become a spiritual leader, striving to lead others out of spiritual poverty and have inner wealth beyond measure! I would be “free” of the entanglements of this material world. Surely that’s more important than a better pay check or a social status promotion!
Am I focused on the right meaning of riches? What is the coin of the realm for the kingdom I’m seeking? Is it tangible or intangible? Is it financial peace, social acceptance, spiritual growth, something I haven’t seen yet?
Yes, it is. How often do I hear the phrase “With God, all things are possible”? We may experience any or all of the riches mentioned above, or any form of value you can mention. We can hit all the highs and lows possible in the pursuit of our personal goals. All of these concerns coexist within us and strive to be the focus of our attention. God knows this well.
God is concerned about where we are, and is even more deeply concerned about where we are going with what we have to offer today. What we are given in Proverbs is a compass that always points us back toward God regardless of our focus at the moment. Are we concerned about money? Career? Relationship? Self-worth? Our best bet is to seek God’s purpose for us in that situation. That helps us figure out what to do with our lives today to show our gratitude, under all circumstances.
Thought for the day: How does my perspective on today tie into God’s? Regardless of what I’m focusing on, do I first seek God’s purpose for me?
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.