Proverbs 19:8: ‘He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul.’

September 18, 2016 by David Farmer 0 comments

‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.’ This was the answer returned to Christ by a certain lawyer as recorded by Luke in 10:25ff. Our Savior responded by telling this lawyer that he had answered aright: ‘this do and thou shalt live.’ Yet this man was not content to leave the matter as it stood, but ‘desiring to justify himself, said unto Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ This question was followed by the illustration that we know so familiarly, and which is commonly referred to as the parable of the Good Samaritan. We are conspicuously taught by our Lord Jesus Christ from this parable that our neighbor is ‘everyman,’ including even our enemies. The passage in Luke’s gospel then plainly demonstrates our duty to love God, love our neighbor, and love our enemy. Elsewhere, we are directed to love our brethren in the Lord, to love our spouses, etc. The ‘wise man’ here in our focus passage this week apparently brings before us yet another responsibility of love; we are also to love our own soul.
Even the very thought of such love seems to be, on the surface, an allowance of some sort of selfishness, and selfishness seems to be, by every standard that we know contrary, does it not, to everything that we find in the Word with respect to our walk before God and man? Are these things not, indeed, mutually exclusive? Is it possible to love our own souls without conflicting with our love for God and our fellow man? Just how may this apparent contradiction be reconciled?
When Christ taught us that we are to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves,’ did He not implicitly indicate the warrant of self-love in some shape or form? We are so inept at maintaining balance in everything that we must deal with; here is simply another case which points to our native imbalance. While it must be admitted, in all honesty, that none of us love our neighbor as we ought, is it possible that we fail also to love ourselves, or own souls, as we ought? Close to thirty times our Savior and His apostles remonstrate with us, in the Word, to ‘take heed,’ and on many of those occasions, it is, ‘take heed to yourselves.’ ‘Take heed to what you hear,’ ‘take heed that ye be not deceived,’ ‘take heed to what thou doest,’ and, ‘take heed, watch and pray.’ The Lord Jesus left to go and prepare a place for us that where He is there we may be also, but He has not left us alone. He has prayed the Father that He would give unto us the promise of the Holy Spirit to ‘work out our salvation,’ albeit, ‘with fear and trembling.’ It is inherent in this that we are not expected to sit idly by, to ‘Let go, and let God’ do for us what He would have us to do for ourselves in the strength of Jesus Christ for, indeed, we can do nothing in ourselves.
Do not the aforementioned ‘take heed’ exhortations indicate to our hearts and minds that God makes use of a certain love of self as an incentive for our actions and behavior? Even as the ‘Wise man’ speaks to us here in Proverbs 19:8, when he says, ‘He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul,’ we are taught to get wisdom, and the argument given to that is love for our own soul. The fact that the motive given us is love for one’s own soul adequately defines the nature of the wisdom for which we are to seek, or get. It is necessarily the wisdom of God that is being spoken of, and not the wisdom of the world. The wisdom of the world may be a means to provide for our bodies, but only the wisdom of God can and will provide for our own souls. Paul has been led by God to teach us that He Himself has ‘made foolish the wisdom of the world,’ 1 Corinthians 1:20. Furthermore, he states the uselessness of the world’s wisdom when he reminds us that ‘the world through its wisdom knew not God,’ vs. 21. Indeed, he continues to say that it is Christ Himself that has been ‘made unto us (we who believe) wisdom from God.’ Yea, He Himself is that wisdom for the soul. The one who loves his own soul will surely seek that wisdom that is from above. Those who have been brought to so love their own souls find the One of whom Charles Wesley has written in one of his most precious, and perhaps one of his best-known, hymns, ‘Jesus, Lover of my Soul.’ They, in fact, discover that it is because Jesus loves their souls that they have come to love their own souls themselves. Can it be wrong to love that which Jesus Himself loves, He whom we love because He first loved us? Surely, it cannot ever be wrong. Our text powerfully suggests that it is even because Wisdom (capital W, that is, Christ as Wisdom) loves us so that when we receive that Wisdom that has come from above, we shall indeed love our own souls. Paul has gone on to say elsewhere that, ‘no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth it and cherisheth it.’ If men naturally care for their flesh to that great extent, how much more should they nourish and cherish their own souls?
How does one nourish and cherish his body; his flesh? Is it not by feeding it and caring for its health needs through every means available? How then shall we nourish and cherish our souls? Shall we not strive to feed them and care for them through every means available to us? Even as means have been provided for the body, so God has provided His people with ‘means of grace’ for their souls. Prayer is a primary, and most essential means as we are reminded by James, ‘If any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’ The reading and hearing of the Word of God is also a principal means of grace if our souls are to be cared for and fed; it is the ‘manna from heaven,’ the Bread we require, even as Jesus Himself is the Bread of Life, the incarnate Word. The Lord’s Table is a particular means whereby we remember the Bread of Life as our souls feed upon Him through faith. He has said to us, ‘For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me, and I in him.’ John 6:55, 56. He that feeds on this Wisdom loves his own soul, and shall never hunger or thirst again. One who loves his own soul because Christ has loved it, also loves the souls of all others whom Christ has loved. John reminds us in his first epistle, ‘Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

David Farmer, elder,
Fellowship Bible Church

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