Why is it that proverbs last so long? One I like from Mark Twain is, “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.” or “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” or “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” and lastly, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Now Mark Twain lived not that long ago so it is not suprising that his quotes make sense to us. Let’s go back a ways to read an Egyptian proverb quoted in a speech by the sage Neferti in the court of King Snefru who was the first king of the Fourth Egyptian Dynasty. (He lived c. 2575 c. 2465 BC). (“Snefru”) “When sight and hearing fail the mute leads.” It is “a proverb similar to our ‘among the blind the one-eyed is king.’” (( Lichtheim, Miriam. Ancient Egyptian literature : volume I: the old and middle kingdoms. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. p. 142 ))
Here are a few others from ancient Egypt:
“God prefers him who honors the poor
To him who worships the wealthy.”
“The pilot who sees from afar,
He will not wreck his boat.”
“Better is bread with a happy heart
Than wealth with vexation.”
It seems to me that all of these, though thousands of years old, still make sense. The Bible has a whole book of proverbs called “Proverbs.” They also make a lot of sense to me. So why is that? All of these come from a different culture, different religion, and different time. Why should they be relevant to me?
I have my guess. I think that humanity has a basic makeup. We may be from different races and the proverbs from different times but we all have the same basic need for ethics, growth, behavior change, relationship issues and the like. I believe that we all, through all of time past and time to come will have the same core issues. It seems to me that this comes from being made in God’s image and all sharing in falling out of relationship with God. Our core issues revolve around relationships because God is relational. We grow and mature because we are human and not God, we have to choose between good and evil every day all the time. That comes from the fall. Since those things don’t change proverbs that touch on those things will always be relevant. And our need to be back in relationship with God will always be our need..