Sabbath School Lesson for February 14-20, 2015
In recent years we have seen public schools in the United States offer “say no to drugs” programs, and then “values or character education” in an effort to ensure that every child is equipped to handle the many negative pressures that they will face as they go through life.
So much in life depends on the choices we make. These choices are tightly linked to the values we hold, the values that were instilled in us from childhood.
But these values seem to become distorted by harmful practices that we pick up along the way, eliminating sound judgment which is the framework for becoming wise.
The chapters in Proverbs we study this week (chapters 20-22) will help us understand the value in having sound judgment, and the carelessness of engaging in vices that becloud our judgment. Although written in ancient times, these proverbs hold many timely messages for our pleasure-seeking generation.
Key Text: “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?” Proverbs 20:6 NKJV
Man claims goodness in terms of…
- excessive wealth,
- superior education, or
- physical prowess and/or beauty.
Seldom do we measure a man’s goodness by his faith. But this trait ONLY is what God is looking for in our lives. Having faith in God leads to sound judgment, as we’ll once again see in Proverbs this week.
Sunday: We Are All Equal
Chapter 20 of Proverbs provides two reasons that we are all equal.
- “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The Lord has made them both.” v. 12 NKJV (God made us.)
- “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin'”? v. 9 NKJV (We are all sinners.)
Satan has done what he can to obscure these two premises. Evolution especially has been responsible for turning many away from God, not just as the Creator, but as any kind of Supreme Being. And there have been countless efforts to confuse our minds about morality and the nature of sin. Relativism, humanism, communism and many other philosophical -ism’s barely recognize that sin exists.
But what does this have to do with our ability to form sound judgments? Actually, it is everything.
- Only by recognizing that God created all of us equal will we be able to make sound, moral judgments about how to treat others.
- Only by realizing that we are all sinners will we be able to humble ourselves enough to receive divine wisdom.
Discussion Questions: Does the idea that we are all created equal mean that we are all the same? Explain your answer. In what ways are we equal?
Why did God endow humans with more intelligence and spiritual capabilities than any of the other animals He created on this earth?
Read Proverbs 20:1. What does this verse have to do with sound judgment, which seems to be the theme of the chapter? What is it about wine that makes it a “strong drink”? How does it affect one’s judgment?
Without getting into the semantics of what kind of wine is mentioned in the Bible, why is it practical for a Christian not to drink something that affects our mind and has caused many to become addicted? How does drinking in any amount affect our lives and those around us?
Monday: The Test of Life
Man measures a life by:
- ability to gather wealth
- number of college degrees earned
- performance on the athletic field
- amount of fame we achieved
- or just by how beautiful we are on the outside
But we must ask ourselves what GOD values in life. How do we appear in HIS sight? The qualities God looks for are found in the following texts:
- faithfulness“–“Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, But who can find a faithful man?” Proverbs 20:6 NKJV (our key text)
- knowing God –“…Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me…” Jeremiah 9:23, 24 NKJV
- service.–“…If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35 NKJV
- perseverance–“But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13 NKJV
Therefore we pass the test of life and reveal the character of Christ by being faithful, patient, kind, and willing to help others meet their needs.
Discussion Questions: Which is more valuable? Brief, rare, and intense acts of service–for instance, saving someone from drowning–or small actions patiently and repeatedly performed over the course of time–such as cooking daily meals for the family? Which description fits what humans tends to recognize, and which is something we tend to overlook?
How does God see our service differently than we do?
Tuesday: Waiting for the Lord
- “Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.” Proverbs 20:17 NKJV
- “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty. Getting treasures by a lying tongue Is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.” Proverbs 21:5, 6 NKJV
We can probably come up with the correct idea that working diligently is preferable to working deceitfully.
Two other situations fit this category of not waiting for the Lord though.
- Receiving our inheritance too quickly, perhaps while our parents are still alive: “Whoever curses his father or his mother, His lamp will be put out in deep darkness. An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning Will not be blessed at the end.” Proverbs 20:20, 21 NKJV
- Seeking revenge for our enemies: “Do not say, “I will recompense evil”; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.” Proverbs 20:22 NKJV
So, don’t fall into the traps of:
- “get-rich-quick” schemes
- spending your inheritance too soon and too fast
- trying to “get back” at your enemies
In other words, wait for God to work out His plans for your life. Allow Him to fulfill your dreams.
Discussion Questions: Read Proverbs 25:21, 22 and Romans 12:18-21. Although it sounds rather cruel to heap coals of fire on someone’s head, how does the passage in Romans clarify the purpose of non-retaliation?
Should gambling, lottery tickets, poker, and other games of chance be considered deceitful forms of getting rich quick, without working diligently and earning it? In what ways do these activities deceive people? And how might they be harmful?
Wednesday: Compassion for the Poor
How does our amount of compassion relate to our judgment and wisdom? In what ways do compassion develop wisdom? How can it draw us closer to God?
The story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:26-37) illustrates how high on God’s agenda this attribute falls. He seems to be telling us that its importance even surpasses other forms of religious zeal. The priest and the Pharisee, for all their religiosity, did not stop and help the injured man.
Evidently, God is very close to the poor…and more. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) include the poor in spirit, those who mourn, and those who are persecuted. So our compassion should be for anyone needing God’s attention or blessing, both physically and emotionally.
As a matter of fact, God is so close to the poor that He includes Himself in their numbers. Matthew 25:40 says “…inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” NKJV
Perhaps this explains how doing compassionate deeds for those less fortunate makes us feel closer to God. And of course, the closer we are to God, the more we partake of His divine nature, including His wisdom and sound judgment. It can’t help but make us more like Him.
Discussion Questions: Read Proverbs 19:17 and 21:13. Discuss the difference in results that come from being compassionate and not even hearing the cries of the poor. Who benefits and who does not? And how?
Is it enough to hear the poor and have pity on them? Remember the story of the good Samaritan. Do you think either of the first passersby had pity, but just didn’t act on it?
Can acts of mercy be done without the feelings of true compassion behind them? Explain why we need both the deeds and the feelings to match, in order to gain the blessing of wisdom.
We find in Proverbs 22 some references to education, as was mentioned in the beginning of this article. What we learn in childhood stays with us for a lifetime. Let’s take a look at these texts and find out what Solomon’s trying to convey to us about the education of our children.
- “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 NKJV
- “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15 NKJV
Many have focused on the words “train up” and “rod” and determined that Solomon was advocating strong punishment as a way to teach children.
In the English language the word “train” is often spoken with reference to animals. And this is why some Bible versions use the term “teach”. We might also think of training for a job though. Certainly, in either case, loving correction and kindly-delivered instruction are more effective with pets AND employees.
In the original language, the word “dedicate” is synonymous with “train up”. “Dedicating” a child in the way he should go is certainly the first step in any discipline program.
But what about the word “rod”? Doesn’t this refer to the old-fashioned spanking paddle? The original Hebrew once again directs our minds to the true meaning of the “rod”. Synonyms for it are “sceptre” and “staff”. Both are an instrument of a king and a shepherd, and both evoke images of Jesus, Our King of kings and Good Shepherd.
So we can feel free to use the rod of Jesus in training our children. Not as a force to manipulate them into good behavior, but as a force that leads them to wisdom. Verse 15 indicates the need for this; because children start out foolish and will only acquire wisdom through our example and instruction. We must be dedicated to this purpose.
Discussion Questions: Read Proverbs 22:6. Many parents have claimed this promise only to find their adult children departing from the way they were taught. How would you account for this and how are parents to hold on to their faith in these despairing situations?
Read Proverbs 22:1. How does this verse relate to training our children by our example? When does this example end? When our children are grown and independent? How can our legacy after we’re gone still be an example for our family?
Proverbs 20, 21, and 22 look at value of wisdom or sound judgment and practical ways to achieve it. The practical advice centered on these concepts:
- We should treat each other as equals. (We are all created by God and have fallen into sin.)
- God values our faithfulness, perseverance, and service. (Different in how humans measure goodness or success.)
- We should wait for the Lord to work out His will. (Avoiding “get-rich-quick” schemes, carelessly spending an inheritance, or having revenge on our enemies.)
- Having compassion and performing good deeds benefit God, others, and ourselves.
- Teaching children about God involves lifelong commitment and dedication.
As you contemplate the list in the summary of this week’s lesson, determine which of these areas you might want to improve. Think of some concrete ways you can accomplish this.
Recognizing that metonyms are words or phrases that are substituted for another word or phrase will help us understand Proverbs. Examples in chapters 20-22:
- “name” is a metonym for “reputation”
- “silver and gold” = “earthly riches”
What do these metanyms stand for?
“bread” (ch. 20:17) = ?
“a lying tongue” (ch. 21:6) = ?
“rod” (ch. 22:15) = ?
See how many more you can discover and share with your class.