Lesson Developed by
Bible Study, Appreciation of Biblical Wisdom as Guidance for Life
- Bibles: New Revised Standard or New International Versions
- Copy of “Seven Weeks to Wisdom: Week V Handout of Excerpts if you prepare one
- Writing Instruments
- Flip Chart Pad (with Post-It strip or masking tape)
- Three small different colored pads of post it notes
- Several pieces of oaktag with the following heading on each piece: The Great Book of Our Youth Group’s Wisdom: A Collection of Proverbs
- Enough 4×6 index cards for each student to have two cards
To provide the youth with: a) an understanding of Proverbial wisdom’s understanding of cause and effect: the act-consequence nature of reality; b) the value of wisdom as guidance for life.
To engage the proverbial understanding of cause and effect: The Act-Consequence Nature of Reality (and its limits).
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:
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 (5 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 adapted from a Native American prayer for wisdom ( Translated by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark in 1887):
Oh, Great Spirit,
Whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life to all the world.
Hear me! I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes
ever hold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden
in every leaf and rock. Amen
Engage (35 minutes)
Activity 1: We Continue Compiling the Great Book of Our Youth Group’s Wisdom (20 Minutes)
- Remind the youth of last week’s conversation, and how you had reflected together on what we had learned about the nature of proverbial wisdom’s understanding of life lived out in a cause and effect/act consequence universe. The group had discussed possible examples of “cause and effect” or “act – consequence” wisdom in their weekly lives that they would 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. At the close of the meeting, you asked them to take home their notes and take a swing at writing a one or two sentence proverb during the course of the week.
- 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 youth complete their drafting and edits, invite them to tape their proverbs on the sheets of oak tag 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!
Activity 2: The Proverbs Writing Olympics (15 minutes)
- Divide the group into three subgroups. Each group will be a nation in these “Olympics.” (Each group picks the name of their” nation”)
- Give each subgroup one of the following three sets of proverbs setting forth an act-consequence pattern to reality.
- First, ask each group to reflect on their three examples and discuss as to each example: 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?
- Next, after they have engaged the proverbs, invite the youth to discuss together whether any of these proverbs as written or as edited deserve to be in the group’s “Great Book of Wisdom”? If so, identify (and edit if appropriate) the proverb for addition to the book
- Finally, each group writes three new proverbs based on the personal, collective wisdom of the group based on their daily lives at home, school, etc. Explore together stories drawn from their lives that illustrate the truth of each proverb. Finally, invite the group to nominate their proverbs as contenders in the following three categories: 1) Wisest Proverb; 2) Funniest Proverb; 3) Proverb supported by the best personal story.
- Gather the whole group, each team sitting together as a “nation.”
- Let each team present their contenders in each of the three Olympic sports: 1) Writing the Wisest Proverb; 2) Writing the Funniest Proverb; 3) Writing the Proverb Supported by the Best Personal Story. A panel of judges (perhaps, but not necessarily, the youth group’s advisors) awards gold, silver, and bronze medals in each category.
- Collect and add all of the proverbs that have been identified as worthy of being in the group’s Great Book of Wisdom (remember to send out the collated collection of proverbs during the week!)
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but those who hate to be rebuked are stupid.
Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice.
The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.
Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, “Who is the LORD?” or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up.
Just as water reflects the face, so one human heart reflects another.
If one gives answer before hearing, it is folly and shame.
The human spirit will endure sickness; but a broken spirit — who can bear?
Do not desire the ruler’s delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist.
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Reflect (15 minutes)
- Gather the youth back in the circle around the candle. Explain that we’re going to continue our group’s project of writing our own collection of proverbs.
- Again pass out the index cards and writing implements. Ask them again to reflect on all of the proverbs that have so far been added to The Great Book of Our Youth Group’s Wisdom.
- As the conversation progresses, ask them again 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 during the week and to try their hand at writing a one or two sentence proverb about it to share with the group next week.
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.”