Sunday, February 01, 2015

This week's lesson (January 31-February 6): what you get is not what you see


Where there is no oxen, the manger is empty,
but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.
-- Proverbs 14:4 (NIV)

"The first thing to do when you're in a hole," or so I've been told, "is to stop digging."
And if you've read the Book of Proverbs, then you've learned a lot of ways to stop digging -- ways to keep bad situations from getting worse, such as:
  • "Don't try to get even."
  • "Don't do nothing because you can't do everything."
  • "And don't rely on the people who got you in trouble to get you out of trouble."
So far, so good -- and if Proverbs does nothing but help us avoid mistakes, then it's worth reading.
But negative virtues are not enough.
Avoiding mistakes is not enough.
And if our only goal in life is to stay out of trouble, then we won't end up with much of a life (cf. Matthew 25:14-30).
That's why Proverbs doesn't just talk about the sins we should shun; no, it talks about the positive virtues we should embrace -- virtues such as generosity, cheerfulness, and hard work. 
To be sure, these things don't come easy; like the ox of Proverbs 14:4, they need to be fed and cared for . . . but even if life is easier without them, it's still better with them.
So take a look at the positive commands of Proverbs (and not just its prohibitions).
Take a look at the rewards it promises (and not just the pitfalls we can avoid).
When you're down in a hole, after all, then your first move should be to stop digging.
But your next move?

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