Jon sent me an email about Proverbs. He asked whether I thought the preacher heading into Proverbs is bound to either preach for a five minute mini message or an exhaustingly exhaustive topical study of an entire subject? Isn’t the preacher guaranteed to impose a homiletical structure on a simple saying, or preach a plethora of cross-references in order to fill the time? And, why haven’t I written more about preaching Proverbs on this site?
First, the question about this site is easy to answer. I have neither preached from Proverbs, nor heard a sermon from Proverbs in the last few years and so my thinking hasn’t been provoked on this important issue. I was involved in a preacher’s retreat on the subject of preaching Proverbs a while back, but thanks to Jon for provoking my thoughts! (Actually, Jon’s written a lot on this specific issue, for example this post on preaching Proverbs.)
So, three thoughts on preaching Proverbs, before I explain two ways I believe a full-length sermon can be worthwhile on a single proverb!
Thought 1 – We need to be wary of preaching moralistic legalism. This is a danger everywhere in the Bible – “so the moral of the story is . . . be a good boy/girl and obey your parents!” This is too common in preaching, and massively misses the mark of preaching the extravagant relational grace that infuses the Bible with the life of God’s love. This is especially easy in Proverbs. Be good. Try hard. Be disciplined. Be like this man. Don’t be like that one. Let’s be careful to prayerfully ponder the proverb we plan to preach in light of the bigger context of Scripture and in light of what our listeners really need.
Tomorrow I’ll offer two further thoughts before getting to two full-length sermon approaches that I have seen work very effectively.