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March 19th, 2014

“Whatever is Wise: Proverbs for Young Adults”

I wrote the book from a heart for seeing young people discipled in the things of God. Having led a number of young adults through a study in the book of Proverbs and having even preached a series through this collection from the wisdom literature in the English-speaking ministry services of a Korean Presbyterian church, various individuals encouraged me to transfer my thoughts into a publishable document. With less and less material coming out that treats the adolescent audience as capable of wrestling with scriptural texts in a serious-minded manner, I chose to begin the process of Whatever Is Wise: Proverbs for Young Adults. Essentially, my aim was to point young people to the truth that in order to live in wisdom one must personally know Wisdom (Jesus Christ). But, I also press the issue further in the sense that the patterns young adults develop and the choices that they make during the pivotal time of adolescence will impact them into adulthood.


Solomon introduces the book of Proverbs as a text to guide you in wisdom. Specifically, in Proverbs 1:4, he indicates part of the book’s intent is “to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion” (italics mine). As young adults, you should carefully consider the meaning of wisdom. It calls out to you, saying, “Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength” (Proverbs 8:14). Understanding and strength for what – to live in accordance with whatever is wise. “Listen,” wisdom says, “for I will speak of excellent things, and from the opening of my lips will come right things” (Proverbs 8:6).

To start, wisdom requires gaining knowledge. As a result, you are wise to pay attention to teachings about truth and to observe the realities of things happening in the world around you. It is good to be attentive and perceptive because you cannot act wisely apart from knowledge. You should therefore strive after a life of learning. But acquiring information is only part of the equation; wisdom means that you apply knowledge rightly.

My son Whitman enjoys watching old episodes of Road Runner on my laptop. In one clip from the cartoon, Wile E. Coyote has a plan to crush the Road Runner under a barrage of boulders. When the quick bird “bee-beeps” and runs under the coyote’s contraption, Wile E. intends to pull a cord that will cause the big rocks to fall upon his prey. However, when the coyote yanks the cord, the rocks stay lodged between the sides of two canyons. Wile E. then walks under the boulders and begins to hit them with a long pole or stick. Even as he is knocking the large rocks loose overhead, Wile E. holds up a sign that reads, “In Heaven’s name, what am I doing?”[i] He knows what will happen by hitting the boulders above him, but he does not live in accordance with what he knows. He holds up the sign because he recognizes he has acted unwisely.

The Skillful Life—Proverbs 1:3, 5

If you think about it, you often live unwisely. You know you should clean your room and keep it organized, but you don’t. (That is unwise.) You know you should begin working on a paper for English class when it is assigned, but you wait until the night before to start on it. (That is unwise.) You know you should eat your fruits and vegetables, but you grab a burger and fries instead. (That is unwise.) You know you should floss, but you reason skipping it one more time won’t hurt. (That is unwise.)

You know you shouldn’t go out partying with certain students, but sometimes you still do. (That is unwise.) You know you shouldn’t talk back to your parents, but sometimes you still do. (That is unwise.) You know you shouldn’t allow friends to copy your work, but sometimes you still do. (That is unwise.) You know you shouldn’t text while driving, but sometimes you still do. (That is unwise.)

Wisdom involves gaining a greater understanding of truth and applying your knowledge to situations that you face every day. Proverbs 1:3 indicates that the application of truth involves actively promoting justice and equity in your sphere of influence. You advance justice and equity by caring for others even when they cannot offer you anything in return (sitting with the unpopular kid in the cafeteria at school). You advance justice and equity by treating others with kindness even when they have offended or wronged you (not retaliating with harsh words about a girl who has besmirched your character with innuendo). You advance justice and equity by uplifting or supporting those who cannot stand for themselves (reaching out to the sad, downtrodden individual faced with some tremendous adversity).

[i] Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Phil Monroe, and Robert McKimson, Looney Tunes Movie Collection: Disc 1 (The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie), Warner Brothers, 2006.


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