Today’s thoughts come from Sarah Larson, my sophomore daughter:
When we read texts like these, we tend to hear these words as a guideline for our lives as if we have fallen short of them all and are in need of the schooling of the Bible. Proverbs addresses these guidelines in a familiar way, using phrases that indicate wrongdoings or dangers we may face. In light of these, I think it is safe to say that the writings of proverbs are not meant to condemn believers and set us on the right path we have strayed so far from, but they are instead warnings of the struggles we face in the world around us.
You may notice that very rarely does the word “You” show up in the Proverbs. I think this is intentional as the main “You” passages are advice on how to listen and serve well. Outside of these passages, the rest use general terms like “a person” or “him who” or the like. I think Paul places this type of connotation in his second letter to the Corinthians. He reminds them that he meant no distress and is quite pleased with them. He details how their reputation has grown and how his words may have hurt and may have caused doubt, but were neither regretted nor taken back. I think in this we see the way the Bible seems to be written. I, personally, often find myself reading the Proverbs like a Corinthian and worrying over every line that it may be meant for me. The Bible is not a personal letter, nor is it a rule book. It is the story of Christianity and the good news for us to share with those around us from God Himself. Sometimes, that requires us to do some self-reflection, but the Bible never uses accusatory language towards the reader with the intent to cause distress or worry.
With that being said, the message I find in the Proverbs is one of phrases and reminders to us that help us to be better disciples. Sometimes, that means we find ourselves guilty of wrongdoings or misconceptions, but the word “guilty” has an almost solely worldy meaning because guilt in front of God is always reconcilable. Remember as you read to not read like a Corinthian, searching for personal shortcomings, but to read like a disciple, striving to learn better how to live like God in every aspect.