Seven Weeks to Wisdom – Week 4: The Proverbial Wisdom of Cause and Effect/The Act-Consequence Relationship – Part 1

Lesson 4 of the Quest for Truth "Seven Weeks to Wisdom" curriculum.

Lesson Developed by

Skip Masback

Goal

Bible study, Appreciation of Biblical Wisdom as Guidance for Life

Materials Checklist

  • Bibles: New Revised Standard or New International Versions
  • Candle
  • Copy of “Seven Weeks to Wisdom: Week IV Handout of Excerpts if you choose to prepare one
  • Writing Instruments
  • Flip Chart Pad (with Post-It strip or masking tape)
  • Three small different colored pads of post it notes
  • Enough 4×6 index cards for each student to have two cards
  • Several pieces of oaktag with the following heading on each piece: The Great Book of Our Youth Group’s Wisdom: A Collection of Proverbs
  • Printout of the collected proverbs from Week 3
  • 3 Music Playing Devices (e.g. Smart phones, Tablets, Laptops) with speakers
  • A Way of Accessing recordings and lyrics of the following songs by Pink Floyd and Phil Vassar. The following links are to ad-sponsored sites. The songs are readily available on apps like Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and Google Play without ads). The additional songs are optional – to be used instead of or in addition to the selected songs.
  • Printout of lyrics (links below)

Pink Floyd: “One Slip” Recording
Lyrics: Pink Floyd’s “One Slip”

Phil Vassar: “This is God” Recording
Lyrics: Phil Vassar’s “This is God”

Purpose

To provide the youth with: a) an understanding of Proverbial wisdom’s understanding of cause – effect: the act-consequence nature of reality; b) the value of wisdom as guidance for life.

Objectives

To engaging the proverbial understanding of cause and effect: The Act-Consequence Nature of Reality (and its limits)

Further Study

Yale Bible Study: Wisdom Literature (8 Week Course) 

Introduction for Leaders

Here are some resources the leader may choose to review while preparing the lesson. In some circumstances, you may choose to share parts of them with your youth:

A. Definitions

From The American Heritage Dictionary:
con·se·quence (kŏnsĭ-kwĕns′, -kwəns): n.
1. a. Something that logically or naturally follows from an action or condition. See Synonyms at effect. b. A punishment or negative repercussion: “Sometimes a cousin’s first child was born six months after the wedding; aside from a moment’s tsk-tsk, there were no consequences” (Donald Hall).
2. A logical conclusion or inference. . .

From Mirriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:
consequence noun
con·se·quence | \ ˈkän(t)-sə-ˌkwen(t)s , -kwən(t)s \
Definition of consequence
1: a conclusion derived through logic : INFERENCE… we can deduce … many consequences each of which can be tested by experiment.— James Bryant Conant
2: something produced by a cause or necessarily following from a set of conditions the economic consequences of the war.This refined taste is the consequence of education and habit.— Joshua Reynolds

B. Scholarly Reflections

From Gerhard von Rad, Wisdom in Israel, at 124:

In both cases we are dealing with one of the main tasks which the wise men, in their search for knowledge, took upon themselves, namely with the mastering of the ‘contingent’. By the term ‘contingent’ we mean here simply all those events
which cannot be understood by man purely on the basis of a necessity with
which he is familiar. Daily, incessantly, man encounters contingent events
(chance events) whose meaning and inner necessity are at first hidden from
him. Only occasionally does he succeed in recognizing behind the
contingent event a clear, inner necessity. Then the experience loses its
contingent character, and its place is taken by the awareness of an order
which is at work behind the experiences. To a greater extent than modern
man, ancient man was disturbed by the awareness of a superior force of
contingent events. To the extent that he regarded himself as in the power of
these contingent events, so there grew the feeling of general insecurity. To
him it was a threat to be ceaselessly determined and driven by events which
defied all interpretation. Thus it is one of man’s basic urges to limit as far as
possible, with all the powers of the keenest observation, the sphere of
contingency and, wherever possible, to wrest from the inscrutable,
contingent event some kind of meaning, albeit a deeply hidden one.
Israel, too, took the trouble to discern in events and occurrences a
recognizable set of “inherent laws”. The next most obvious thing to do was
to inquire as to what may have preceded any given event which had to be
explained. Was it perhaps possible to understand the event as something
which had been caused? It is on the basis of this question that one must
understand those sentences which determine what usually preceded an
experience.

Gather

Gather (10 minutes)

  • Invite the youth to sit in a circle. As they settle down, place a candle in the center of the circle and ask one of the young people to light it.
  • Offer the following prayer:

In everything we do, O Lord, give us a desire to seek out the truth;
give us a willingness to heed the advice of others;
give us wisdom in reaching decisions;
give us faith to believe in our conclusions;
give us courage to put our ideas to the test;
and, if we prove ourselves wrong, give us the grace to admit it. Amen.

  • Remind the youth of last week’s conversation – you had invited them to engage a member of the congregation or friend in a meaningful conversation as described in Dean Elizabeth Moore’s Curriculum Resource #1. They were to reflect on the questions at the end of the resource and draft a one or two sentence proverb or wisdom saying expressing one element of wisdom they discerned in the conversation. The proverbs were compiled.
  • Hand out the listing of the proverbs. Ask a volunteer to read the proverb or wisdom saying they had written down during the week, and then go around the circle offering each student an opportunity to read the proverb they had written.
  • Entertain a short discussion of each proverb after it has been shared with the group. Seek, particularly, to encourage the sharing of personal stories from members of the group that illustrate or enrich their understanding of the proverb.
  • At the end of the conversation, give the youth five minutes to make any changes to the proverbs they have written (or to write one if they hadn’t written one during the week). As students complete their drafting and edits, invite them to tape their proverbs on the sheets of oaktag you have taped on the walls of the room. Indicate that you’re going to compile the proverbs and send them to the group members by email during the week. Don’t forget!

Introduction to Today’s Session (5 minutes)

  • Ask the youth to imagine being locked in a room with 21 circles, each painted a different color on the floor. Sometimes, as they pace the floor, stepping on different circles, something in the floor sends a shock through their body. Sometimes, as they pace in a different pattern stepping on different circles, a small door would open in the wall with delicious foods and drinks. Of course, the experience would throw them into an urgent effort to determine just what pattern of steps led to each outcome. Their every brain cell would be focused on learning to avoid the pattern of steps that led to the pain and to memorize the pattern that led to the reward.
  • There has always been an element of this dilemma in human life. Anybody who has kept their eyes open across the sweep of their life has learned that wonderful and beautiful things sometime happen in life just as terrible and ugly things sometime happen in life. Thus, humans have always tried to determine whether there are patterns of behavior that lead to or cause the sources of pain so they can be avoided and whether there are patterns of behavior that lead to or cause the rewards so they can be embraced and replicated. Ancient man was at least as concerned about these patterns as are moderns. Indeed, acutely conscious that their fortunes in life seemed in the grip of overwhelming and mysterious forces of time, circumstance and nature, ancient man was urgently concerned to discern patterns and inherent laws that governed their existence and to then memorialize these patterns of act and consequence in proverbial wisdom.

 

Engage

Engage (25 minutes)

Activity I: Acts and Consequences in Music (10 minutes)

The notion that we live in an act-consequence universe is often reflected in music and the arts. Pass out the lyrics to the following two songs and let the youth read the lyrics as the artists perform their songs in these videos. After each song, ask the youth to reflect on what the artist understands to be the act and what the artist understands to be the consequence.

Pink Floyd: “One Slip” Recording 

Lyrics: Pink Floyd’s “One Slip”

Phil Vassar: “This is God” Recording

Lyrics: Phil Vassar’s “This is God”

  • Lead a short discussion reflecting on what the cause-effect/act-consequence dynamic is in each song.

Activity II: Acts and Consequences in Proverbial Wisdom (15 minutes)

  • Divide the group into three subgroups. Give each subgroup three examples of proverbs below setting forth an act-consequence pattern to reality. Ask each group to reflect on their three examples and discuss: 1) what is the act described by the proverb? 2) What is the consequence the proverb says follows from the act? 3) Do they think the Proverb’s prescription is true to their life experience? 4) Can the students think of an example of this dynamic in their own lives or in history or media?

Group 1

Proverbs 16:18

“Before destruction, pride; and before a fall, a haughty spirit.”

Proverbs 6:6-11

Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief or officer or ruler, it prepares its food in summer,
How long will you lie there, O lazybones? When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want, like an armed warrior.

Proverbs 13:20

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 15:1
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Group 2

Proverbs 10:4

A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

Proverbs 20:21

An estate quickly acquired in the beginning will not be blessed in the end.

Proverbs 21:5-7

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to want. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death. The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
because they refuse to do what is just.

Proverbs 17:9

One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend.

Proverbs 26:27

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on the one who starts it rolling.

Group 3

Proverbs 13:11-13

Wealth hastily gotten will dwindle, but those who gather little by little will increase it. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Those who despise the word bring destruction on themselves, but those who respect the commandment will be rewarded.

Proverbs 20:17

Bread gained by deceit is sweet, but afterward the mouth will be full of gravel.

Proverbs 13:4

The appetite of the lazy craves, and gets nothing, while the appetite of the diligent is richly supplied.

Proverbs 12:18

Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Reflect

Reflect (15 minutes)

  • Gather the youth back in the circle around the candle. Ask them to reflect on the examples of proverbial wisdom they have just examined and discussed. Invite volunteers to share their views on two questions at the center of their discussions: 1) Do they think the Proverb’s prescriptions are true to their life experience? 2) Can they think of an example of this dynamic in their own lives or in history or media?
  • Pass out the index cards and writing implements. Ask them to imagine that they were sages, wisdom writers trying to examine their experience as adolescents in their time, town, families, schools and social settings. What elements of cause and effect/act-consequence wisdom in their weekly lives would they consider recording and passing down to their younger siblings or friends that would help them navigate the pains and rewards of adolescent life in your community? As the conversation progresses, ask them to write down (on their index cards) any fragments or idea starters about relevant proverbial wisdom they want to think about during the week
  • Ask the youth to reflect on the idea generator they’ve jotted down and to try their hand at writing a one or two sentence proverb about it to share with the group next week.

Send Forth

Send Forth (5 minutes)

Invite the youth to join you in prayer. Let them know before you begin that there will be an opportunity for those who wish to lift up requests for God’s help with specific elements of wisdom during the prayer. Give a few possible examples. Note that every time a “petition” is lifted up, the group will respond with, “Lord, hear our prayer.”

Begin the prayer by thanking God for the blessings of creation, the God-given capacities we have to learn from experience, and the lessons learned by those who have gone before that they have passed along to us as “mother wit.” Invite the students to voice petitions asking God to help us embrace particular pieces of wisdom in our lives, communities, and our world. After any student offers a petition (e.g., “Lord, help us to be mindful of the need to think through the consequences of what we say before we speak”) lead the group in responding “Lord, hear our prayer.”