I’m beginning a series of posts on the book of Proverbs, with the goal of exploring how ordinary people can grow in wisdom. By “ordinary people” I mean people who like to hang out with friends, people who have families, people who work jobs and have things to take care of, people who enjoy hobbies and travel and music and sports and tasty food. By “wisdom” I’m referring to the extraordinary things that happen when a person loves Jesus a lot and wants to be like him.
Why am I writing these posts? Because I, like you, think of myself as being one of the most ordinary people on the planet. Although I am a full-time missionary with a campus ministry called DiscipleMakers, and that might make some people think of me as being somewhat abnormal, I still feel like I’m someone who is as close to ordinary as you can get. I’m not very tall. I have a mortgage payment. I can’t afford to hire someone to mow my lawn for me, even though I totally wish I could. My children squabble over whose turn it is to press the button on the elevator. I like double cheeseburgers. If you want to hear about someone who is not ordinary, someone who is truly superior and extraordinary in many ways, then I’ll tell you about my wife. But I won’t do that now, because I’ll have plenty of opportunity to brag about her in future posts.
Many wise people have written excellent works about Proverbs. I haven’t read them all, but most of the ones I’ve read examine Proverbs with a topical approach. They discuss things like how we should handle our money, or what sort of friend we should be to others, or how to speak words that build up and don’t tear down. These books, when done well, are simply terrific, and I highly recommend them to you. Other books that take more of an expositional (or verse-by-verse) approach tend to be pretty technical commentaries and are thus somewhat inaccessible to ordinary people.
My intention in this series of posts is to lay a foundation for a life of wisdom by examining Proverbs chapters 1 through 9 section-by-section. Proverbs is one part of the Word of God, and thus is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Proverbs 1-9 is one long introduction to the book of Proverbs, and it intentionally explains how wisdom works. What is wisdom? Why should I care about it? How do I get it? What will keep me from being wise? Overall, how do I make sense of the details about topics like money, friends, and speech in later chapters? And while a topical approach makes sense with the seemingly scattered details in chapters 10 through 31, a section-by-section approach to chapters 1 through 9 is warranted by the organized presentation of the material; therefore, in each section, I will seek to capture the main point, trace out the author’s flow of thought, and draw concrete applications to our day.
Above all, the entire Bible, including Proverbs, is about Jesus: his death for sinners, his resurrection to glory, his offer of forgiveness to all who repent, and his mission to proclaim this great message to every nation (Luke 24:46-47). So, as we study Proverbs, we’ll do our best to focus on Jesus.
 One example is Anthony Selvaggio, A Proverbs Driven Life (Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press, 2008). Another is Dan Phillips’s excellent work, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs (The Woodlands, TX: Kress Biblical Resources, 2011).