Tag Archives: Wisdom

“He That Winneth Souls is Wise”, An Exegetical Comment on Proverbs 11:30b

Evangelistic rallies, tent revivals, and door-knocking gospel programs appeal to Proverbs 11:30 as justification for their conversion agendas. The old King James translates it as “He that winneth souls is wise.” The great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, used this as proof-text for evangelistic endeavors. While a call to arms to invade neighborhoods with tracts and pamphlets may be a worthwhile endeavor, this passage has been poorly misused by well-intentioned Christians, and should therefore be cautiously used.

Solomon has been building a strong case ever since the beginning of verse one of chapter 11. The matter here is life versus death in the realm of wisdom. Wisdom leads to a fructiferous life whereas foolishness leads to destruction. Verse 11 in the ESV says “…and whoever captures souls is wise.” The Hebrew loqeah mepasot usually implies the “taking of lives” as in “to kill.” Yet this does not make sense out of the context, since the “wise” is the subject of the verb. A direct translational read would be unhelpful at this point, and would seem to minimize Solomon’s argument.

The better approach to this section of verse 30 is to parallel Solomon’s words to the central theme of Proverbs (1:3), which is to “receive instruction” or to “comprehend instruction.” There is then a parallel between 11:30a and 11:30b. The tree of life is a reference to the wise who “gathers/plucks/captures life from death. The wise is like a strong green leaf filled with energy and abundance. As Paul Koptak summarizes: “This is an envcouragement to become wise in order to save not only one’s own life/soul but also the lives of others.”

The wise man, the man who bears good fruit (Ps. 1:3) is a man who is deeply interested in the rescuing of those who abide in wickedness and whose choices are leading them on the crooked paths (Prov. 11:20). One must be wise, in order to provide life for the unwise.

In summary, there are evangelistic implications to this passage, but any form of evangelism needs to be grounded in wisdom, rather than a quick 4-step plan to conversion. If there is an evangelistic implication to this passage it is that placing new Christians at the forefront of these endeavors may be unwise since he lacks maturity and biblical knowledge to communicate the wisdom of Yahweh to the world. Solomonic wisdom offers unbelievers more than simply a quick way to heaven, but the very offer of heaven on earth to those who have despised kingly wisdom.

P.S. As Tim Russel observed in a conversation we had, there is a danger of interpreting this as “only the theologically astute can evangelize.” This is not what I wish to convey, so it is an important reminder. In order to best reflect this skepticism, I changed that sentence to this: “…it may be unwise since he lacks maturity and biblical knowledge to communicate the wisdom of Yahweh to the world.”

As Daniel Hoffman observed on FB, there is some type of interaction between Solomon in Proverbs 11:30 and Genesis 3. I have suggested:

One way to consider this is to assert that finding life or being joined into a wisdom/tree implies dying first. Therefore, rescuing necessitates death…abandoning foolishness and embracing wisdom is a form of death.

{Thanks for the interactions of Tim Russell and Daniel Hoffman}


Sermon: A Call to Faithful Presence, Proverbs 11:12-19, Kingly Wisdom, Part IX

People of God,  Proverbs is a book of wisdom. It is applicable to our day, it is worthy of our investment, it is healthy to be memorized, it is powerful in counseling, effective in discerning, faithful in its consistency, paradoxical in its diversity, accurate in presenting the antithesis, strong in its denunciation, and bold in its wisdom. And when you consider the nature of Proverbs, it is simply a manual for parents to train their children. In particular, Solomon is discipling his son to be a king, and by implication we know that ultimately this is Jesus training his children to be Kings and Queens in this world.

Echoing my sermon last week, the city is ours because it belongs to our King, Jesus Christ. So we can’t simply go to the Court House and tell the judge that he needs to step down because we have a Christian replacement for him. We cannot simply go on theorizing hoping that leaders of the community will come to our front door and offer us an important seat. There is work to be done. We need to have a faithful presence. Faithfulness is our daily duties. It is by example that our Lord taught us to live. In other words, we need to first change diapers before we can opine about the woes of the world. We need to first take the trash out before cleaning the world. We need to first do the hard work of establishing a good and faithful testimony before the world can look to us and desire what we have and put us in places of leadership. Continue reading Sermon: A Call to Faithful Presence, Proverbs 11:12-19, Kingly Wisdom, Part IX

The Tongue and Wisdom in Proverbs 10

6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
7 The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.
8 The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

What is so fascinating about Lady Wisdom is that she summarizes what other books of the Bible take much time to expound. In these few verses, the purpose of the tongue is summarized when James (the New Creation wisdom) takes almost an entire chapter to develop. This teaches us that wisdom is to be emphasized in many ways and through many metaphors and types. Further, there is a clear covenantal promise in these verses. The keeping of God’s commandments has a generational tone to them. What we say and what we do are carried on into the future or they decay like a corpse. If we desire our children and our children’s children to remember us and pay us tribute then what we do now must conform to the Wisdom of Proverbs.