Series: Wisdom That Works
Message: Responsibility, Opportunity, and Unity
Preacher: Dena King
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Beyond: J. Murdock
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Proverbs 6:1-19 in the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: ”How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:9-11).
The Wisdom Writer knows what we all know: poverty sucks. And while poverty is thrust upon much of the world’s population because of an accident of birth, there is also a lot of poverty earned by people who don’t have to endure it.
Portland, Oregon, is filled with homeless people. It seems like any flat space along the interstate or by a busy street is a campsite for folks who, for whatever reason, can’t afford to live in a home. Each day I drive by these encampments and wonder who these people are and why they are living in a tent in rainy Portland.
One day, I decided to stop at a convenience store for some gum. As I left the store after making my purchase, I noticed a tent around the side of the parking lot with someone standing in front of it. It was a young man who looked to be in his twenties. My curiosity got the best of me, so I approached him and asked if he’d be willing to sit and talk for a minute. He looked a little reluctant, but invited me to sit on a five-gallon bucket and share a conversation.
I introduced myself and said that I had some curiosity about all the people living in tents in the area and wondered if he wouldn’t mind me asking about his particular situation. In a nutshell, my friend, Jeff, told me that when he got out of high school he didn’t like living with his parents because they kept demanding that he get a job. So he moved out with some of his backpack gear and pitched a tent anywhere he could find a place. During the day he’d stand on the corners and ask for money at stoplights. And at night he’d get together with friends and “party.”
I asked him why he didn’t want to get a job and earn a living. He seemed quite lucid and capable of such a thing. His answer shocked me. He said, “I don’t want to. I like my life. I don’t want to be a part of the machine.” (Whatever that is.)
But then he complained, “I don’t know why I have to do all that work to get all the things that everyone has but me. I don’t like to work. I’d rather just live my life, man.”
I was astounded. I offered to buy him some food from the store, which he accepted, and drove home thanking God my son has a job and is trying to get his degree in school.
Recalibrate: Have you ever had a time in your life in which you were completely drained of motivation? How did you correct your life course?
Respond: Pray these words: “Jesus, keep me motivated to share your good character with the world.”
Research: I have found this video about homelessness to be quite insightful.
Remember: “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light and the corrections of disciplines are the way to life” (Proverbs 6:23, NIV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Sunnyside Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon.
Using a large piece of paper and a crayon, draw a map of your day with your child. Start by drawing where they sleep. Find out what they do throughout the rest of the day and help them draw that on the map too. They may draw their bed and the kitchen table and the fridge and the door leading outside. They may draw the playground and pathway to the playground. They may draw the car you use to get to the playground. Whatever is on the map is what is your responsibility to care for, to leave better than you found it. This is what our purpose is. Our God-given purpose is to leave people and places blessed and better off for us having been there. Get busy like the ant from yesterday, blessing people wherever you are today.
Getting enough rest is super important. Count up how many hours of sleep you usually get in a night. How many hours do you get every week? Did you know that when you are growing, your body needs even more sleep? Makes sense, right? Your body is working so hard to get taller, to build stronger bones, and to keep you healthy! When you get to be an adult, you don’t need quite as much sleep because your body isn’t growing as much as you are (that’s why adults are allowed to stay up a bit later). It’s important to get enough rest for your body to be healthy, but Proverbs warns us to rest when we need to rest and use the energy we have during the day to be helpful. What would happen if you only spent time resting all day? What would you miss out on?
You may be too young to remember the rise of MySpace as the king of social media platforms, but back when I was in high school, MySpace was the only way to connect online. Along with all of its awesome options for your MySpace page, it also had the most stressful feature which was the “Top 8 Friends” that appeared at the top of your homepage. Here you ranked your friends in order from one to eight for everyone to see. It became such a prominent conversation in our school, that any little fight or insulting comment could result in a name moving from someone’s number 2 to their number 8 in a single afternoon. Your name could even disappear from the friend list entirely! Knowing that you were on someone’s Top 8 was a high honor. Also, anyone looking at your page could easily see whom you most valued in your social circle.
In Proverbs 6, Solomon makes a radical statement that begins with the name of the Lord and ends with the word “hates.” Somehow, Solomon has boiled down God’s dislikes to seven things and goes into detail talking about each of them in a list that follows starting in Verse 17.
In an almost a complete reversal of lists, Solomon tells us God’s Bottom 7 as he instructs his kid on how to live well and wise in the world. Somehow knowing who your best friends are along with what you are unwilling to tolerate leaves you with these boundaries of highs and lows that you live between. There’s wisdom in that—as long as you know never to break your own rules and not mismanage those close to you.
If you were to make a top eight friends list , who would be on it and why? If you were to list the seven things you hate, what would those things be and why?
This chapter of Proverbs can get old. “Why does the author keep beating me and saying I need to work harder?” you might wonder Don’t harden your heart. There is a reason for these rebukes.
The human heart longs for comfort. For many, the best part of the day is when they get home and flip on Netflix. We can’t wait for the weekend, for vacation, or for time off work. I’m not saying these desires are bad, and I don’t think the writer of Proverbs thinks they are bad either. I love a Sunday afternoon lounging around the house!
Yet, don’t let this desire for comfort rule your life. Find pleasure in your work. You were designed to create and develop and rule the earth! Too many people are living for the weekend. God has not called you to live in a comatose state for five days and then truly live for just two days. Give each day your all. Even if you don’t like your work, don’t give up! We can’t always change our circumstances, but we can change our attitude.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jessyka Dooley is assistant youth director for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Denver, Colorado.
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Kyle Smith is the associate pastor of youth and family ministries at New Haven Adventist Church in Overland Park, Kansas.