Lesson 3: Overview of Proverbs
Lesson Workbook (PDF) Click here
1. To provide students with a basic understanding of the structure and themes of Proverbs
2. To inspire a desire for wisdom
3. To equip them with the tools necessary to obtain it
Character, Discernment, Fearing God, Foolishness, Humility, Knowledge, Wisdom
OPENING PRAYER (5 to 10 minutes)
GROUP BUILDING (5 minutes)
Play “Are You Smarter than Your Youth Leader,” a blatant knock-off of the semi-successful trivia show, “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader.” In your version, challenge students to ask you questions in certain categories: sports, geography, science, pop culture, etc. Each student gets to ask one question. The only rule is that they have to pick questions that are knowable (they can’t ask “What is my fourth hour class?” They have to ask legitimate trivia.
There are tons of resources for good trivia questions online or in board games you might already have lying around. Have some fun with it and get students thinking about being smart. Move onto “Getting Started.”
GETTING STARTED (10 minutes)
1. What do you think it means to be smart?
2. Is there a difference between being smart and being wise? What is it?
3. Who is the smartest person you know? Who is the wisest person you know? What makes him or her smart or wise?
4. How wise do you think you are? What are you wise about?
We’re going to explore the idea of wisdom today as we dive into the book of Proverbs. But before we go to Proverbs, let’s take a quick look at wisdom in the rest of the Bible.
DIGGING IN (30 minutes)
Wisdom in the Bible
"Wisdom" is mentioned over 200 times in the Scripture. That’s more than "money," "hell," "grace," "perseverance," and many other important topics.
A great deal of the talk about wisdom occurs in the Old Testament. A vast majority of those occurrences are in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. In Proverbs, the book we’ll study today, the word is present in 23 of the 31 chapters, revealing that it is a main theme, as we’ll see.
But the rest of the Bible talks of wisdom, too. From Exodus to Revelation, wisdom is constantly referred to as a treasure (Col. 2:3, something that should be obtained (James 1:5), and something that comes from God (James 3:15). It is often attached with righteousness (Psalm 37:30).
Our discussion of wisdom today is centered on the wisest man ever to live, Solomon, the author or Proverbs. He obtained this wisdom from God. The story is in 2 Chronicles 1. God tells Solomon to ask for anything and it will be given to him. Solomon asks for wisdom above all else and God grants it to him. Additionally, he gives Solomon great riches and power.
Wisdom in the Proverbs
That brings us to Proverbs. Turn to Proverbs 1. Again, the author of these words is Solomon, the King of Israel, the son of David. There are additional authors toward the end of the book (Agur, Lemuel, etc.), but the vast majority of the book is penned by Solomon.
He was a prolific author, composing over 3,000 proverbs (see 1 Kings 4:32). 1 Kings 4:32 tells us that he also wrote over 1,000 songs (1,005), was proficient in explaining science and agriculture (1 Kings 4:33), and was a popular host to people from all over the world who sought wisdom from him (1 Kings 4:34).
The purpose of the book of Proverbs is spelled out for us in Proverbs 1:1-7. Let’s read that now.
Read Proverbs 1:1-7
1. According to these verses, what is the purpose of these writings? (There are several answers. Each verse mentions a couple. Encourage students to list as many as they can.)
2. According to verse 7, where does gaining wisdom begin? (Fearing the Lord.)
3. How does a fool treat wisdom? (They despise it.)
4. How do you think fearing God leads to wisdom? (Allow for discussion.)
Verse 7 makes a tremendous memory verse. As we continue our study of the Proverbs, remember that it all starts with a respect for God. If you do not respect the Lord, you cannot be truly wise.
Let’s take some time to look at a few Proverbs. There are so many, and we can’t possibly cover them all. But let’s take a quick survey and gain some insight as to the author’s intention.
Read Proverbs 2:1-11
1. What are some of the benefits of wisdom in these verses? (Understanding what is right, fair, and just; protection; gaining an understanding, etc.)
2. How might wisdom help you in every day life? (Allow for discussion.)
Read Proverbs 6:16-19
Wisdom speaks out against sin. This passage is the source for the popular “Seven Deadly Sins.”
1. What are the seven things listed that God despises? (Haughty eyes, lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush to evil, false witness who pours out lies, a man who stirs up dissension.)
2. How can having wisdom discourage sinful behavior? (This is a tough one; let them struggle and think it through. Encourage critical thinking.)
Let’s read some more Proverbs before we move on. Starting in Proverbs 10, Solomon begins to dispatch some short, not-necessarily-connected words of wisdom. I’m going to break you up and you are each going to read 2-3 proverbs. I’ll give you some time to read your set, and then we’ll come back together and tell each other what we learned.
(Have someone read 2-3 proverbs each. Start in Proverbs 10:1 and assign as many verses as you have people. Give them a few minutes, encouraging them to read their proverbs a few times and try to grasp their meaning. It’s okay if they don’t get it…encourage them to ask questions if something is confusing. After you bring them back together, have each student share what they knew, ask questions about what they couldn’t figure out, etc. This is designed just to be a time of sharing a more wide range of proverbs. Spend special time considering “what does that mean.” This exercise will take several minutes, but that’s okay! It should be good stuff.)
With all these things in mind, I’d like to transition to considering how all this really translates into our lives.
MAKING IT REAL (10 minutes)
As we said in the beginning parts of this lesson, Proverbs isn’t the only source of wisdom talk in the Scripture. Turn to the New Testament book of James.
James is sometimes called “The Proverbs of the New Testament.” Several times he promotes wisdom. And for our purposes, James says some things that should be considered before we end this lesson.
Read James 1:5-6
1. How wise do you think you are? Why?
2. What does this passage say we should do if we feel we lack wisdom? (Ask for it.)
3. What promise is issued if we ask? (We will be given wisdom by God.)
4. How must we ask if we expect to receive wisdom? (In belief.)
5. Can you think of any other place in Scripture where we are promised to receive something if we ask and believe that
we’ll receive it? (No, I can't.)
This is an extraordinary promise. Realize this: God wants you to be wise. James says ask for wisdom and you’ll get it. That was certainly true of Solomon, wasn’t it?
But sometimes we get confused about what wisdom is. James further defines what it is we should be asking for in James 3.
Read James 3:13-18
1. How is wisdom demonstrated, according to this text? (By a life well-lived.)
2. What walks hand in hand with wisdom, according to 13? (Humility.)
3. What is “earthly wisdom?” (Envy, selfishness)
4. What does “heavenly wisdom” look like? (Pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.)
5. Of the people we talked about before, that you think are wise, did they possess these qualities.
Do you? (List each quality, one by one. Ask, “Are you pure…” etc. This will help students gauge their lives according to Scripture more precisely.)
6. How do you think you can become more wise?
I would like to challenge you all. Here it is: Everyday for one month, read a different proverbs. Just try it. It won’t take long, and you’ll find it an easy way to either begin a daily reading schedule or supplement what you already do. Each day, before and after you read, pray for wisdom. Pray for a life that obeys God’s commandments. Remember, the beginning of wisdom is fearing the Lord. If you want to be wise, you have to align yourself with God and live in a way that pleases Him.
Will you accept my challenge? I’ll do it with you. Let’s start our challenge by praying together for wisdom, and for humility as we pursue it.
CLOSING PRAYER (2 minutes)
Pray for your students