Proverbs (1). Character

How do we form character? Parents, educationalists, government and business spend a great deal of time and money trying to encourage people to form clear values and resilience. The ancient school of wisdom has a great deal to teach us. [Audio | Notes]

Michael Flynn


Proverbs 1:1-7, 2:1-10, 8:12-36

For further thought

Wisdom and character Readings: 1:1-7 (fear not just a desire for success – God is everyday life) | 2:1-10 (character not rules) | 8:12-36 (creation and success)

The development of character is a priority in our culture. We want our culture to produce resilient people of strong convictions who are able to chart their way through the uncertainties of life by good principles. At the same time, we undermine the development of character by teaching that there are no fixed truths beyond our preferences, that moral truth is highly relative, that ethical decision making is fraught and compromised. We don’t admire people of strong conviction but call them narrow or bigoted. We are taught to promote tolerance.

This contradiction also appears in Proverbs which was written to teach both the inexperienced and experienced (Proverbs 1:4, 6) how to grow as people of conviction and character in a beautiful but uncertain world.

Chapters 1 to 9 of Proverbs lay the foundations for building wise character. Here is my summary.

  • Chapter 1 – the wisdom of character. Knowledge and skill is based on fearing the Lord. Literally, giving to him what is due to him, things like honour and obedience.
  • Chapter 2 – the disciplines of character. The interesting thing is that the virtues we need to live by are gifts that God nurtures as we long to pursue wisdom.
  • Chapter 8 – the desires of character. Wisdom is portrayed as a strong, wise, gifted and beautiful woman who asks us to fall in love with her. There is beauty, pleasure and satisfaction in learning how to live well in a world made by a wise God.

Q: What does it mean to base our knowledge of the world on our reverence for the Lord?

Q: Re-read the verses from chapter 2. How are the virtues and disciplines required for character formed?

Q: Re-read the verses from chapter 8. Why is there sensuality and attractiveness in wisdom? What kind of sensuality is this the antidote for?