The Case for the Book of Proverbs

Updated: May 31, 2021

If you are reading this blog, I assume that wisdom and understanding are valuable to you. It might be important to you because it helps you, at the margins, live a good life. Or, it might be important to you as a gateway drug since gaining wisdom and understanding enables you to gain more wisdom and understanding. Whatever the reason may be, you would be remiss if you never studied the book of proverbs, whether you like knowledge or not, and here's why.

First of all, the lindy effect, which states that the life expectancy of an idea is proportional to its current age, compels you to do so. Meaning that because the bible is roughly 2700 years old, we can expect its life expectancy and influence to be at least 2700 more years into the future. This is especially relevant in this day and age because of the much belabored short news cycles, entertainment, and trends. The folks at Farnam street put it best:

Learning information that is going to stay relevant for one hundred years is a better time investment than trying to digest information that will expire next week.

This point applies to other books of significance but especially to the book of proverbs. There is nary a comprehensive codified collection of sayings that will inevitably make your life better in an easily accessible way than in Proverbs.

Secondly, the book of Proverbs is anthropological. Meaning Proverbs is not true just because it is proclaimed to be so by Christians or because the wisdom espoused in the book maps closely with your experience. It is true in the most profound meaning of the word largely because it describes human nature as it is and, as a bonus, offers ways to navigate its complexity. As a result, one's denial or espousal of the book is irrelevant to its level of truth. Here's an example; perhaps one of the biggest lessons I've learned is this: "The laziest way to live your life is to be hardworking." Such a claim, as paradoxical as it may seem, has been profoundly influential in my life. Whether or not I discovered or learned that lesson does not increase or diminish its truth value. It just is true. This dovetails nicely with scientific discoveries and the efforts to hone our intuitions. The book of Proverbs emphasizes the importance of experiencing reality as it is rather than as you wish it were.

The discovery of this insight also highlights another reason for everyone to study the book of Proverbs. There is an intensification of your experience as you discover novel ideas. Ideas are rich and vital (and a large part of the focus of my writings) because they run the world and dictate everything you do. If you discover ideas independently, its effect is much more profound on your way of thinking, Christian or not. This is because the way they impact you is different from everyone else. I am wont to say that the effect the book of Proverbs has on the individual is as varied as each fingerprint is varied. All for the better, though, because, in a way, the book of proverbs self selects. Meaning, if the case made in this post is convincing to you, you were already inclined in that direction to begin with. If it doesn't convince you, then I'd caution you against devaluing and dismissing the claims in this post due to associations.

Added May 31st: Here's a compelling video essay of the points made in this post (and more.)

Certainty Rating: 89%


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