Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Don’t Count Your Chickens (Proverbs 27:1)

Complete this Proverb: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for ____________________________________________.” You do not know what a day may bring forth (Proverbs 27:1)

Proverbs 27:1-22 constitutes a unit of sayings (Proverbs 27:1-22). Bruce K. Waltke (b. 1930) explains that this section of Proverbs “is a relecture of once isolated proverbs. As such, its proverbs can be interpreted both individually and as part of a whole. For example, its frame in light of the whole composition features the necessity of friends praising each another (Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 (NICOT), 372).” The unit begins by admonishing against self praise, namely future successes. It echoes the modern saying “don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.”

Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth. (Proverbs 27:1 NASB)
Humans cannot boast of tomorrow because it overshoots their capacity. One of the limitations of the human condition is an inadequate knowledge of the future. No triumph is assured. There is a famous Yiddish saying that captures the tone of this proverb - Man tracht und Gott lacht - humans plan and God laughs.

How would you rewrite this proverb in your own words? When you think of the future, does it excite or scare you? Or both?

While boasting of the future is discouraged, the inverse is also true. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:30 NASB)
Our limited knowledge of the future also means that hopelessness is as foolish as bravado. John Claypool (1930-2005) consistently reminded his congregation that “despair is presumptuous”.
As an old rabbi once said to me, “Despair is presumptuous. It is saying something about the future that we have no right to say. If God can make the things that are out of the things that are not, and can make dead things come to life again, who are we to set limits on what that kind of potency might yet do with what we have done?” (Claypool, God The Ingenious Alchemist: Transforming Tragedy Into Blessing, 21)
What can we say for certain about tomorrow? What is the proper attitude towards tomorrow?
“Today was good. Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.”
- Dr. Seuss (1904-1991), One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

1 comment:

  1. “Despair is presumptuous” was one of Dr. Claypool’s catchphrases. It appears in four of his books.: First to Follow: The Apostles of Jesus (p. 45), God: The Ingenious Alchemist (p. 21), The Hopeful Heart (p. 19), and Tracks of a Fellow Struggler (p. 15, 16).