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Lesson 12: The Humility of the Wise *

Introduction: The Proverbs repeatedly tell us that wisdom brings wealth and happiness, while being a fool or lazy brings poverty and grief. When people are doing very well in life, are they generally humble? My observation is that they are not humble, and for a very simple reason. Since what they have been doing in life has turned out well, they think their opinions are superior to those whose lives have not turned out as well. Perhaps they are right. The problem is that the Bible cites humility as a virtue, and proud people are not being wise. Let's dig into our study of Proverbs to better understand the virtue of humility!

  1. Ignorant and Wrong

    1. Read Proverbs 30:1-2. Some commentaries say these names are symbolic of other Bible characters, others say that it is the meaning of the names that is important. Who is the speaker? (Agur. We will keep things simple and treat this as only the speaker's name.)

      1. What kind of opinion does the speaker have of his knowledge and education? (He says he is the most ignorant person. That is humility!)

    2. Read Proverbs 30:3. What special ignorance does Agur confess? (He does not know about God. He has not learned wisdom.)

    3. Read Proverbs 30:4. Let's restate these questions in the language of today. How about this:

      1. Who is God?

      2. Where is heaven?

      3. Who controls the weather?

      4. Who sets the boundaries of the oceans?

      5. Who decided where the land ends?

      6. What is the name of God and the name of His Son?

        1. What do you think is unique about these questions? (They are some of the great questions of life.)

        2. What do these questions assume that modern humans might not? (They assume a thinking entity governs the universe.)

    4. Read Proverbs 30:5. Wait a minute! Is another person writing here? Did Agur just have a bolt of wisdom strike him? What has happened to cause Agur to point to the "flawless" words of God? (For this to make sense, Agur must be a believer in God. His message is that the answers to all of these fundamental questions in life come from God. We might not realize it, but when it comes to answering these fundamental questions of life, like Agur, we are pretty uniformed.)

      1. How is God a shield when it comes to the most fundamental questions of life? (God gives us inside knowledge. We might not know a lot, but what we know is important.)

    5. Read Proverbs 30:6 and Deuteronomy 4:2. Deuteronomy 4:2 is one of my favorite passages because it reminds us that making up new rules is just as wrong as saying it is okay to ignore God's existing rules. I think this text should be posted in every Christian school! Is Proverbs 30:6 just repeating this same truth? (I think we have something different in Proverbs. The topic is some of the ultimate questions in life. God says don't add to that which has been revealed.)

      1. Does this mean we should ignore science? (Psalms 19:1-3 reveals that nature teaches us about God. I don't think this text is telling us to ignore nature and what it reveals through science.)

      2. Let's apply Proverbs 30:6 to the age of the earth. Does the Bible clearly reveal the age of the earth? (I don't think so. Genesis 1:2 tells us that something existed prior to God's creation week. Genesis 1:12 tells us that God created mature plants and trees - meaning that they were created with an age. I don't think, although I'm not sure, that serious Bible students believe the Bible genealogies are complete and intended to be a way of dating the earth. This may be an area where if we "add to God's words" we will prove to be liars.)

      3. What is Agur's practical message here? (There are many things God has not revealed to us. Don't start asserting things that God has not clearly revealed - and then get embarrassed when you are proven wrong.)

      4. What has this to do with humility? (Pay attention to what you don't know, and confess when you don't know, instead of making stuff up.)

      5. When you think of Agur's words, what does this teach us about our relationship to God? (God is our point of reference. We should be humble when compared to God.)

        1. When we start making up stuff, and claim it is right because we are Christians, whose reputation suffers? (We claim to speak on behalf of God! God says, "Whoa, there, don't make stuff up in My Name!")

  2. The Advantage of Humility

    1. Read Proverbs 30:7-8. A common term in the United States is "bucket list." It means the list of things you want to do before you die. For example, it might be "see the Grand Canyon," or "go sky-diving." I'm not sure I have anything in my "bucket," but Agur has two thing in his bucket. What are they? (Be true and honest. Be "middle of the road" when it comes to money.)

      1. I understand the goal of honesty, buy why look for average when it comes to wealth?

    2. Read Proverbs 30:9. Here is the answer about making average the goal. What are the problems with wealth and poverty? (The problem with wealth is that you depend on it instead of God. You "disown" God. The problem with poverty is that you are tempted to steal - and God does not condone stealing even when you are poor.)

    3. Read Proverbs 30:10. What does this have to do with humility? (Why would you criticize another employee? Might it be to make you look better to the boss? If so, that is a humility problem.)

      1. Who is cursing you here? (The other employee!)

    4. Read Proverbs 30:11-12. How many people blame their parents for the problems in their lives?

      1. Who should bear the blame in these verses? (The child has "filth," but thinks that he is "pure." This suggests the child is not thinking realistically about his parents or himself.)

    5. Read Proverbs 30:13-14. What are the real problems in this child's life? (Pride and cutting words. This is not a nice person.)

      1. Who is victimized by this wicked person? (The poor and needy.)

      2. Why pick on the poor and needy? (They seem defenseless.)

    6. Read Proverbs 30:15-16. Have we reversed course? Is Agur now talking about the failure of the poor? If not, who is the "leech" and her daughters? (They are people who want you to give to them.)

      1. Why does Agur go next to the list of things "that are never satisfied?" (It suggests a class of people who are leeches - they want you to give to them and they are never satisfied.)

      2. If Agur intended to make a point about some people, why did he refer to inanimate things like fire, water and the grave? (Perhaps he is saying that is the nature of some people. Perhaps he is saying that is the nature of some problems - they are never solved here.)

        1. Has this "never satisfied" group something to do with humility? (A sense of entitlement is a humility problem.)

    7. Read Proverbs 30:20. Why throw in the part about eating? (It shows that this lady is very casual about what she has done.)

      1. How would you apply the lessons on humility here? (Just like the wicked child who blamed his parents, yet was "pure" in his own eyes, the adulteress has a false pride that she has done nothing wrong.)

    8. Read Proverbs 30:32-33. At what point should we address pride? (The battle is in the mind. We need to stop our pride there (clap your hand over your mouth) and not let it escape our lips and produce strife.)

    9. Friend, how much of an issue is pride in your life? Why not ask the Holy Spirit right now to help you "clap your hand over your mouth?"

  3. Next week: Women and Wine.
* Copr. 2015, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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