Proverbs 2

Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
The Greek philosopher Plato identified four virtues, later called the cardinal virtues, which he theorized were present to some degree in every person. Those virtues, as defined in Plato's terminology, are courage, integrity, wisdom, and justice. Here, within the second chapter of the Book of Proverbs, we see a very similar pattern lain out by Solomon, hundreds of years before Plato, as well as his encouragement to live a virtuous life. This sentiment for virtuous living is echoed throughout Scripture. The book of Leviticus repeats God's statement to His people to "be holy for I am holy" five times (Leviticus 11:44; 11:45; 20:26; 21:8). The book of Deuteronomy teaches the people to be holy before the Lord (Deuteronomy 23:14). And, in the New Testament, Peter reiterates the idea of holy living in 1 Peter 1:15–16.

The second chapter of Proverbs can be split into four basic divisions. Those segments are verses 1–5, which imply wisdom; verses 6–8, which imply courage; verses 9–15, which imply justice; and verses 16–22, which imply integrity. Peter would later expound further on the idea of living and growing in holiness, or virtue. The Greek word used in 2 Peter 1:5 is aretē, sometimes translated as moral excellence or "virtue." This word means "the excellence of a thing." Excellence causes that thing both to be itself in good condition and to perform its function well. Adding virtue to our faith then, is meant to bring our faith into excellence so that it performs its function well.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle is credited with saying: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." Aristotle was a disciple of Plato and he expressed the notion that virtue must also be understood as a kind of moderation. It aims at the mean or moderate amount of anything, so that too much or too little of it would be considered a vice. The easiest example of this is with the virtue of courage, something frequently discussed in Greek philosophy but only alluded to in this portion of Proverbs. Someone who is not courageous is easily recognized as a coward. However, someone who is "too courageous" we would think of as reckless. This version of courage therefore, is the exact point at which we exhibit appropriate care not to be reckless, as well as appropriate fortitude not to be timid.

Adding virtue to our faith is meant to bring our faith to that point of moderation. This is the place where we are completely secure in Christ but not reckless. This place, the median of confidence and caution, is the kind of faith Solomon is trying to teach us in Proverbs chapter 2. It is a place where we live out a holy life for the Lord, not a life of excess and sinful liberty, but not a life marked by legalism. Our lives are meant to be marked by a true faith based relationship with God. This holy lifestyle leads us to be discerning followers of the Lord, not mindless robots nor hypocritical sinners. A people marked by steady faith in God are those who "do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:19–22).
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