English proverbs are short, concise sayings that express traditional truths. Many of them, religious and metaphorical in nature, offer sound, uplifting advice and consist of repetitive consonant sounds that make remembering them effortless. This week, we’ll focus on five traditional armchair convictions that connect with scriptural truths and encourage virtuous living.
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:24–25, NLT
“Birds of a feather flock together.”
My parents imparted this time-honored proverb on more than one occasion as they encouraged me to choose my friends wisely. First surfacing in the middle of the sixteenth century, the proverb highlights the fact that birds of the same species congregate in flocks. Ornithologists (bird experts) attribute this behavior to a “safety in numbers” tactic that protects birds from their predators.
Though many of us would classify ourselves as introverts, God created all of us with an innate desire for acceptance and significance. Nevertheless, we sometimes forget that acceptance doesn’t always indicate significance, nor does significance necessitate acceptance. As we observe the lives of philanthropists and celebrities who have made a profound impact upon society, we too yearn to make our mark on the world. Our intentions may be noble, but our pursuit for personal significance can morph into a place of selfish ambition, misplaced energy, and unrealized dreams. Not only do our efforts fail to produce the desired result but we are left with feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness.
Paul’s teaching in today’s text characterizes a significant life as a life connected to others. He encourages us to live in community:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”
Bottom line: we are not autonomous creatures but are created to live life in fellowship with one another and to be unified in thoughts and deeds.
Neighbors once lived in tight-knit communities where everybody knew everyone else. It wasn’t unusual to share the latest gossip over the backyard fence, enjoy an impromptu Sunday afternoon visit in a front-porch rocker with a glass of sweet tea, or simply borrow the proverbial cup of sugar. Today we’ve exchanged our face-to-face encounters with those a few yards away for Facetime video chats, and hundreds of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter followers around the world. Even our evening strolls have become opportunities to engage in cell phone conversations with others continents away while we give our next-door neighbor a quick nod and a halfhearted glance in passing.
There is danger here. To isolate ourselves from society and those within the body of Christ not only hinders our spiritual growth but denies others the uniqueness that we can bring to our world.
What obstacles hinder you from living in community? Let’s push past our exclusive existence, stay connected, and experience the joy and security that true fellowship brings.