One Year Wisdom Challenge

21 Ways to Improve Your Relationships from Proverbs 27-Part 2


Wisdom Challenge #18

We are being watched. The world knows that God-followers claim to have the goods on what real love is. Our lives are viewed through the eyes of those who have not yet met Love himself, personally. The knock-off version of love they know so far will always let them down at some point because it’s based in human effort.  We have what they are looking for.

The love we share in the body of Christ originates with God.  His children are given unlimited access to his ever-flowing rivers of perfect compassion. A failure to love, either in word or deed, is not because God has not supplied us with an abundance. The problem I’ve experienced is a lack of skill.

Think of God’s love like a pro-set of golf clubs in the hands of a novice. The beginner has no idea what half of those clubs are for and how to use them.  Someone needs to teach them. That’s what Solomon is doing in Proverbs 27:1-22.  He’s sharing from God’s deep well of knowledge on love and relationship so we can up our relationship IQ.

I covered verses 1-11 in part one of this series, available on my website, so let’s jump into verse 12. Please read verses 12-22 before you start, then keep them handy.

Verse 12- Prudent or Foolish

You could subtitle this “The Prepared and the Unprepared.” Prudent people plan. Foolish people don’t. Prudent people recognize danger. Foolish people wander into it. Relationships are strained when these opposites find themselves in marriages, friendships, business partnerships or boss-employee relationships. One side is frustrated with lack of organization and planning. The other side is frustrated by a lack of spontaneity and creativity. Organization and creativity are not mutually exclusive. Preparedness and spontaneity don’t have to be at odds. In fact, prepared folks are usually better situated for the unexpected. Their ducks are in a row and ready to swim. The fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants folk want to just pick up and go but they can’t even find all their ducks (or car keys, or wallet, or car insurance, or grocery money, etc. etc.).  How you handle disagreement and conflict with whomever is the opposite of you in this area is more important than what you wind up doing together. Prudent planners need to recognize that sometimes they are a stick in the mud and can come across as rigid. Spontaneous, “let’s just see what happens” folks need to recognize that sometimes they leave a wake of frustrated people behind them. Lost people are watching to see how we will meet in the middle and work these conflicts out.

If you’d like to go a little deeper on the topics of this post and the last one, I’ve written a devotional entitled, “Healthy Connections-God’s Advice for Your Relationships,” which will be available June 30 on my website under “Wisdom Challenge Resources” for the month of June

Verse 13- Caution with Finances

Solomon warns us to be careful with who we become entangled with by co-signing for someone or loaning them money. I just heard another story today of someone left on the hook for all the rent of three roommates. These fallouts can blow up friendships, families, or a business partnership. Some folks are too quick to take on someone else’s financial responsibility. For example, parents want newly married kids in a nice home, so they lend the down payment or co-sign on the loan. This is so unwise, as it lifts the young couple to a level of ownership and responsibility they haven’t earned. DO NOT step into someone else’s financial obligations without a clear word from God.

Verse 14- Early Birds and Night Owls

God designed each of us uniquely and that includes our sleep and waking cycles. I’m an early robin but some of my people are owls. They work into the wee hours of the morning. When I do that, it makes me as nauseous and tired as waking up early makes them feel. There’s not a right and wrong here, folks. Solomon mentions the early birds and tries to warn us not to be loud and obnoxious towards our owlish family, roommates, coworkers etc. The idea is to be respectful of other people’s rhythms and schedules. Night owls need to be respectful of noise they generate when others are sleeping. Respect and kindness towards other people’s needs and body rhythms goes a long way towards healthy relationships. Ignoring that or acting like your body rhythm is more spiritual or effective than another, creates strain between people.

Verse 15 and 16- The Root of Nagging

Why do we nag people? No really, why? What’s at the root of it? When I’ve nagged, it’s because someone isn’t meeting my expectations or idea of how I think they should be living.  Maybe they aren’t living up to the potential I see in them. My assessment may be 100% accurate but is nagging the way to inspire, challenge and encourage? That doesn’t sound right at all, does it? Can we find any examples of Jesus ever doing it? Nagging is relationship poison. Frankly, I’m ashamed I’ve ever done it. By God’s grace I won’t do it anymore.

Verse 17- Sharp Or Dull

Have you ever prepped a meal, like stew, with dull knives? Sawing your way through potatoes, carrots and beef is tiresome when knives are not properly sharpened. I confess that there are times I am as dull and tiresome as my knives. My passion for my belief systems and paradigms can cross into an intolerance for other viewpoints. I don’t like admitting I’m wrong. I don’t like to learn that something or someone I believed in was false, but I’m much better than I used to be. For the past fifteen years or so, I’ve been allowing the Lord to sharpen me more frequently. It’s humbling and worthwhile to allow a fellow believer to challenge our paradigms without us becoming defensive. That’s supposed to be one of the perks of being in the kingdom, being able to disagree without being divisive. What if your knives had the choice to avoid the unpleasant process of sharpening? How long would it be before they were useless? I fear too many God-followers are falling to the back of God’s knife drawer.

Verse 18- Loyal Employees

We spend a lot of time with our work families. Keeping these relationships healthy is critical because this is a part of our Jerusalem that Jesus commanded us to reach with the gospel. One way to do this is to be respectful and loyal towards those above you in your company’s food chain. I’ve worked under lost, sinful bosses myself and I understand the challenges that creates. One boss tried to get me to lie to customers daily and sadly, she claimed to be a God-follower! Nevertheless, I believe Solomon’s advice here is truth. God will give wisdom and discernment to navigate tricky boss waters.  Pray faithfully one who is trapped in sin. Don’t fall into the trap of gossip, backstabbing, or rejoicing when they get into trouble with their superiors. Don’t listen to that stuff. Your silence will be interpreted as agreement. What you sow into your work environment is what you will reap. I’ve been in situations where the same unsaved boss who treated my co-workers badly, treated me well. Sowing and reaping, folks. Sowing and reaping.

Verse 19- Hearts Revealed

Do you ever feel like what you see in a photo is different than what you see with your naked eye? It’s the difference between the objectivity of a camera and the subjective view from our naked eyes. In the same way that a camera doesn’t lie about an object’s reality, neither does our heart lie about who we really are.  All that we hide from everyone else is stored in our hearts. Strong relationships are built on letting people know who we truly are, not the person we wish we were. If you build a friendship or marriage on the sandy ground of your pretend personality, at some point, the floods of life will reveal that. The relationship might not survive. Let people know the real you, warts and all, and choose for themselves whether they want to be part of your world. You may have less people in your life. Think quality, not quantity.

Verse 20- The Restless Human Spirit

Human desire is not the same thing as spiritual hunger, which wants more of God and his kingdom. Human desire wants more of the temporal things of life and tries to find soul satisfaction in those things. We can never be too hungry to know God more because he is God, limitless and vast. We can, however, be too hungry for the world’s prizes and treasures. More recognition. More stuff or better stuff. So, what are we craving the most today? The revelation and knowledge of God that fills us up or the stuff of the world that always leaves us empty and wanting more? People who are hungry for God are a delight to be around. They draw people in.  Those who are on a quest for status and stuff wear people out, strain relationships and drive people away.

Verse 21- How Do You Handle Praise?

What goes through your head when someone compliments or praises you? Truthfully, I used to think stuff like, “Well, finally someone noticed,” or “Yeah, I did do a pretty awesome thing there” while trying to look and sound humble on the outside.  I hope my honesty provokes you to be honest. It took years for God to train my mind to recognize in my moments of receiving praise, that any success I had was but a reflection of him and what he had done in my life. It’s a whole different orientation of the mind.  Getting lots of praise at one time will tell the truth about your pride level. Once you start thinking you’re a bit more special than others, you’ve got a problem. Praise should cause us to marvel at what God has done in us and through us. Then, both our thoughts and speech will reflect that.  People who get this are also delightful to be around. Divas attract unhealthy folks, not healthy ones.

Verse 22- Quit Grinding People

Never in my life have I seen so many people trying to convince each other towards opposite points of view. Divisive, hateful, contentious spirits have been released in our land and instead of all God-followers refusing to participate in this crazy behavior, many are being sucked in. Here’s the thing. You may be completely, 100% right about a particular matter where I am being a fool, clinging to a lie and structuring my life around it. If you keep hammering me, like the mortar and pestle image Solomon uses, you will most likely not change my mind, but you will destroy our relationship. The very nature of a fool resists wisdom and turns from it. Every single one of us plays the fool at some point. At various times we hold onto ideas we believe to be true that aren’t. In that area, we have not yet discerned God’s wisdom and knowledge. Share your beliefs when people open a door for you to do that. Share them graciously, humbly. Allow people to be in process. Value relationships and be good to people. When my false paradigms crash, and they will crash, I will need you.

Solomon packed a lot about people and relationships into 22 verses.  We are running out of time to share the gospel. We need to get this kingdom relationship thing better you guys, so that we draw people in, not repel them.

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