Proverbs: Contrast and Comparison


Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs


Topics: Contrast and Comparison & Wisdom, Will and Courage

Contrast and Comparison

Hebrews 5:14 ESV
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Contrast is at the root of all perception.
Touch requires being able to distinguish textures and pressures. Taste requires the ability to distinguish between sweet and sour. The nose must be able to tell what is fragrant, and what is acrid. The ear between loud and soft, on pitch, below it or above it, and between different pitches. Sight requires singling out light and dark, colors and shades. The keener the senses the greater the ability to make distinctions. Hence Proverbs is shot thru with contrasts and comparisons.
As mentioned before, the word “proverb” in our Bibles comes from the Hebrew word Proverbs – “mashal” which means: COMPARISON. Throughout the book are a series of repeated contrasts and comparisons, designed to inform and train our soul’s senses in perceiving truth accurately:

The Fool vs. The Wise

The Naïve vs. The Prudent

The Simple vs. The Discerning

The Sluggard vs. The Diligent

The Sinner vs. The Saint

The Sensual vs. The Spiritual

The Ungodly vs. The Godly

The Proud vs. The Humble

The Immature vs. The Mature

As Hebrews 5:14 notes, these perceptive abilities can be trained and enable the mature person to better distinguish good and evil. Proverbs presents and repeats this base material in a variety of ways to help us get sharper and sharper over time.
We must note this one last thing about growing in this holy skill of discernment through contrast and comparison. While this skill set must be employed to help sort out truth from error in the World’s communication to us – we are to develop it most keenly in respect to discerning the sinful motions of our OWN hearts, and not those of others. The main purpose of the exercise is to see where I am the fool, and not acting wisely. Where I am simple and not discerning. When I am giving in to sensuality above spirituality, etc. This is primarily for internal use, not external. So that I might grow in Christ’s likeness, not so I can see if others are or are not growing.
When I was a youngster, in the back of many of the comic books in my collection, were advertisements for X-Ray specs. Knowing their audience well (boys) they often even hinted that if you had these magical wonders, you could see through women’s clothes. This was the 50’s mind you.
Some will no doubt look at the Proverbs just as licentiously – in order to better see other’s “nakedness”. But that is not their purpose. Proverbs is a self-diagnostic to combat my own indwelling sin, and so perceive it in all of its subtleties. Nothing will help you see just how devious your own heart is, than constant exposure to the piercing vision of Proverbs. Use it well.

Wisdom, Will and Courage

1 Corinthians 1:30
“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption”

Where is Christ Jesus in Proverbs? Everywhere!
Just as our text above says, He “has become to us wisdom from God. ” We cannot understand how the universe functions, its plan and purpose, without understanding the role of Jesus Christ at the center of it all. Everything depends upon this. Without Jesus in the central place, we may gather an infinite number of facts about life and the world and even God, etc. But we cannot know “the Truth”. That, is wrapped up in Him.
But just knowing truth isn’t sufficient either.
One must act upon it. The epistle of James remind us that the devils know the orthodox truth of the Trinity is true, but they reject God nonetheless. Wisdom from God reveals our condition. Wisdom from God reveals the Savior – He who IS God’s wisdom – the sum of reality according to God – Christ. But wisdom also moves us to action – or it does us no good. The Book of Ecclesiastes bears unsparing record to Solomon’s own failure in this regard. The wisest man who ever lived, not acting upon that wisdom, brought him to ruin.
In the entire book of Proverbs, bear this in mind – all service to God requires these 3 things:

a. The WISDOM to KNOW what’s right.

b. The WILL to WANT what’s right.

c. The COURAGE to DO what’s right.

These are the product of the Word, and the Spirit together. Proverbs will reiterate these truths in a multitude of ways, showing us over and over how they must fit and work together if we would have the results of wisdom in our lives.
~ Reid
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Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.