These are the wise sayings of Solomon,
David’s son, Israel’s king—
Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right,
to understand what life means and where it’s going;
A manual for living,
for learning what’s right and just and fair;
To teach the inexperienced the ropes
and give our young people a grasp on reality.
There’s something here also for seasoned men and women,
still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—
Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate,
the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.
Proverbs 1:1-6 The Message
Having lived through 2020, it is understandable that many of you might look at a devotion entitled “Simply 2021…” with more than a little skepticism. Among the many things we have learned in 2020 is that life is not as simple as we would like it to be, if it ever was.
Yet here we are on the second day of the new year and one of the texts in the daily lectionary (for those of you who have Evangelical Lutheran Worship at hand, see pp. 1133ff) is Proverbs 1:1-7. In its totality Proverbs probably presents a way of living that doesn’t quite fit into the present day lives we are living. It has a definite masculine orientation; it divides people simply into two groups: the wise and the foolish; and, and it assumes that people will automatically get what they deserve: the wise will prosper and the foolish will suffer and fall. We recognize that life is more complex and uncertain than this.
Still I suspect that there is an ample reason for us to hear and ponder these words as we begin the new year with fresh sails of hope for a better 2021. As the writer of the introduction to Proverbs in the Lutheran Study Bible observes, “The wisdom sayings in Proverbs present knowledge gained through life experience in a rather uncomplicated way. Those who are wise understand that meaningful life includes treating others with fairness and justice, working hard, being loyal and humble, controlling one’s emotions, respecting parents and others in authority, and helping the poor and needy.”
That this text appears here today may be another way of saying that however you set out to live and explore life in 2021, keep in touch with the simple things that define you at your core. For us as Christians, that begins with our trust in God and faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. So comes Proverbs 1:7, “The fear (awe, respect) of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (wisdom).” It’s a New Year’s reminder to return daily to the deepest values and ways of living that flow from our trust in God (like those listed above). This way of living will serve us well as we fulfill our highest dreams or traverse the deepest agonies of daily life.
So Happy New Year 2021! May God bless and keep you and your loved ones and all of us in the days and months that stretch before us!
O God our helper in past years and the one who leads us with hope into the year to come, hold us close to you and show us your goodness in the year ahead. Help us to treat each other with fairness and justice, living faithful to you with humility, and always finding ways to help the poor and the needy. Amen.