The Benefits of Wisdom: Proverbs 3:1-18 (Thomas Schreiner)


One of my favorite novels is David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Is there anyone better than Dickens at filling a novel with fascinating and unforgettable characters: from the hypocritical Uriah Heep to the incompetent but likable Mr. Micawber? When my son, Daniel, had a literature class at Western Kentucky University, the professor said that no one has ever captured better what it is like to grow up young and abused than Dickens in David Copperfield.

When David is young, he is savagely mistreated by his step-father, Mr. Murdstone. The abuse Mr. and Mrs. Murdstone pour out on David makes them some of the most hateful people in literature. Dickens captures well the torment children feel when they are raised by adults that are vicious, selfish, and heartless. You feel David’s pain as he endures devilish cruelty from Mr. and Mrs. Murdstone. And yet David ends up being a person of virtue and wisdom. All the abuse he endures doesn’t scar him. He remains a person who is loving and caring, and so he ends up having a blessed life.

I am not arguing that David Copperfield is a Christian novel, for David never recognizes and repents of his own sin. In fact, this is a problem in almost all of Dickens’s novels. Those who are good in his novels are innocent and virtually without sin. His novels at one level have an astonishingly low view of sin. On the other hand, Dickens recognizes that those who are wise are virtuous and that virtue brings happiness. Yes, he leaves the biggest piece of the puzzle out, but he sees part of the picture. He sees that righteousness leads to a blessing. And that is one of the main truths in the book of Proverbs.

The wise enjoy life, here and hereafter

I see four truths about those who are wise in Proverbs 3:1-18. First, those who are wise enjoy both this life and the next (vv 1-4, 13-18). I see this in both vv 1-4 and vv 13-18. Let’s look at vv 1-4. The father urges his son in v. 1: “don’t forget my teaching.” He says, “let your heart keep my commands.” He isn’t calling for outward obedience. He is looking for obedience of the heart.

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