THE RULE OF FAITH IS A CRUCIAL INTERPRETIVE TOOL. Without it we will misunderstand and misapply the Bible. It is the principle that every text/subject in scripture can only be understood by looking at it through the lens of everything else the Bible says about that text or subject. Comparing Proverbs and Job is a good example. At one level they contradict each other, but that is the interpretive clue to understanding Proverbs.

One of the things we love most about Proverbs is its black and white promises—promises that the naive uncritically build their lives upon, then end up disappointed. For example,

Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good.

Proverbs 13:21

What about the promises of wealth and treasure? Lead a righteous life and you will be rich like Solomon.

“In the house of the righteous there is much treasure, but trouble befalls the income of the wicked.”

(Proverbs 15:6).

Then there is an oft relied upon word to parents. Anxious parents quote this verse repeatedly. Just give your child biblical wisdom, discipline, and love and he or she will be wealthy, happy, wise, and full of faith. Your child will surely lead a productive, believing, successful life.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

(Proverbs 22:6).

Simple isn’t it? You are probably thinking, “Not so easy pastor Bill. I know rigteous people that suffer, that live in poverty, and that have rebellious, wayward children. Does this mean we can’t trust God’s word?

The simple answer is “no!”‘ And the reason I say that is the above mentioned Rule of Faith. We only understand scripture in light of the rest of scripture. The Bible is self correcting. As we read the Bible we should always ask—where does the Bible teach this same principle? Or, where does it teach the opposite?

Job and Righteous Suffering

The counterweight to the simplicity of Proverbs is the Book of Job. Job lived a righteous life. In fact, the book opens extolling Job’s rigthteous behavior.

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters…[Job] would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

Job 1:1-5

Job is the ideal covenant keeping Israelite. He is a righteous patriarch. He fears God. He loves his children. But trouble comes. His children die, God takes all of his wealth, and then afflicts him with a terrible skin disease. The rest of the book asks this question, Why? If Job is righteous don’t the promises of Proverbs find their fulfillment in him? The answer is simple. Proverbs are not intended to be absolute promises but general principles. The book of Job makes that clear. It is the exception. In real life there are many exceptions like Job.

Fulfilled In Christ

The life of Christ is the fulfillment of Job. No one was more righteous. In fact, Jesus was sinless. Yet, he lived in poverty, never married, and was rejected by his family, by the Jewish people, and the Roman Government. His suffering terminated in the curse of crucifixion. Christ’s life is the polar opposite of everything taught in Proverbs.

Does this mean we can’t trust Proverbs? No! The Proverbs are God’s word. But the Rule of Faith teaches us that the principles laid down in Proverbs are just that, principles. They are not absolute promises. They generally come true, but not always. God is sovereign over their fulfillment and application.

Here is the bottom line. Apply the Rule of Faith to your Bible reading. In addition, if you are suffering poverty, rejection, or failure it doesn’t mean you are wicked, unrighteous, or a covenant breaker. It might mean that, but not necessarily. It doesn’t mean that you have failed and that God is disciplining you for that failure. The Bible is bigger than the simplistic statements in Proverbs.