Rules for Life. Wisdom for Living Abundantly in the World
Wisdom books with how to rules for life flourish on our bookshelves. But, where does real wisdom originate?
Rules of life and Wisdom do not come from critical thinking alone. Critical thinking should set us on the right track. Here’s the question. Can we find THE rules for life by observation? Through philosophy, science, or even religion? Yes, we can find SOME wisdom, there’s no doubt about that. But human thinking, with the best brain and mind power, already profoundly at work in the above four disciplines, has NOT come up with THE solution. So, where’s THE wisdom? Where are THE rules for life?
The Explanation is addressing the question of where to locate the wisdom for abundant living in the context of Genesis 3:21, where God clothed Adam and Eve with coats of skins. Last week I showed you that figuratively, this is referring to clothing them with the necessary relational and rulership rules to thrive in Eden, and then outside of Eden (Cain). In other words, the instruction manual to LIVE in OUR WORLD. Yes, from that time down to our 21st-century society. We need UNIVERSAL RULES for LIFE.
In Japan there’s a phenomenon known as HAKIKOMORI. About 1% (some estimate up to 10%) of the population lives in reclusion because society is sooooo competitive, they simply can’t hack it. All nations have a population of human beings. Each nation has its traditions and habits, as does each human being. But, whoever we are and wherever we live, we all have thinking minds and needs that should be met. Those needs are common to all humankind! Which, should make you think, why? What are those needs and how can we meet them?
If there’s a God, if He created humankind, if all humans are equal, is there a universal set of rules for life? If so, where can they be found?
The Explanation has already answered all those questions. There is a God, He created the first man and woman. They and all their descendants are equal, no matter their race or gender. There is a universal instruction book that contains a set of rules for life.
That book is the Bible, humankind’s manual for an abundant life. Yes, it was written between about 3500 and 2000 years ago, over 1500 years in the making. That’s amazing in itself. Over that timeframe, there were many changes in society, and especially on the theological front. Please check the timeline of the history for some details. In the context of rules for life here are a few significant milestones.
Adam and Eve and consequently their descendants, all of humankind, were clothed with coats of skins, signifying their rules for life. God put them in the Garden of Eden to be with Him. They abandoned God’s rules and followed the Serpent’s rules for life and God moved them into Eden and then, through Cain, into this world. God’s plan calls for bringing humankind BACK INTO the Garden of Eden. To do so, humankind has to learn and follow God’s rules for life, not the Serpent’s.
We discussed God’s wisdom, His rules for life. Here’s a recap.
- He explained to the man how to worship and serve Him.
- They forsook His instruction.
- God clothed them, He gave them rules for life in this world.
- Later, He called Abraham who applied God’s rules and became the father of the faithful (Hebrews 11), a small group of God’s servants who follow the rules of the Garden of Eden.
- Abraham’s descendants became a large nation, the nation of Israelites, who became slaves in Egypt.
- God rescued them with the Exodus and gave them laws for life, in the DESERT (Exodus 20 etc.).
> There were STATE laws to govern the nation.
> There were INDIVIDUAL laws to govern personal life.
> There were WORSHIP laws to govern the priesthood and adoration of God.
- ALL of these laws were MODIFIABLE in function of time and place as the Israelites developed society.
- In the book of Deuteronomy (chapter 5 etc.), we find this law adapted for living in a COUNTRY. You can do a study to see the many differences between the law in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Even the wording of the Ten Commandments is slightly modified (the fourth commandment), for an interesting reason.
> We saw the modification of STATE law with the advent of a King to rule the nation,
> We saw the modification of INDIVIDUAL law with the inheritance of the daughters of Zelophehad.
> WORSHIP was settled in one location and eventually, a permanent structure was built in Jerusalem. Citizens were to come up to that worship place, etc.
- The Israelites were to be a SHOWCASE of State, Individual, and Worship law to the WORLD.
> Deuteronomy 4:5, “Behold, I (Moses) have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land where you go to possess it.
6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”
> These two verses reveal that this LAW is their WISDOM.
- Israel was an UNconverted BEACON nation to all other nations worldwide, which were also UNconverted. In this mission, Israel failed. But that does NOT take away from the NATIONAL LAW God gave them which is called glorious and righteous. That WISDOM is still valid today and if a nation followed it, it would receive the blessings God promised.
- The WORSHP LAW was totally modified with the advent of Christ. At His death, the curtain that hid the Holy of Holies in the Temple was rent (Matthew 27:51), signifying the RE-entry of the converted INTO the Garden of Eden. This is a vast subject you can study. The Temple is replaced with the Church of which Christ is the Foundation.
- I cannot get into the details here, but Christ said, one tittle of the law shall not pass (Matthew 5:18). At the same time, He talked about the TWO great laws (Matthew 22:37–39, not the TEN) and gave the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3–12.) You need to understand the corroboration of these various references. There is no contradiction but a progression in spirituality.
- The converted Christians, God’s servants, are saved by grace, but they also adhere to a spiritual law. The Apostles, the leaders of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, can make judgments regarding that law. (see Further Study below)
> Acts 15:28, “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us (the Apostles), to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
29 That you abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if you keep yourselves, you shall do well. Fare you well.”
- Converted individuals also have liberty within the law to apply it according to their conscience.
> I Corinthians 10:23 It was up to each individual to decide whether they could eat meat that had been offered to idols (see Further Study below)
> This is not “carte balance” to decide what they can and cannot do. See Further Study, below.
Individual Wisdom Rules
But, what interests us here is the INDIVIDUAL LAW for those billions who are IN the world, no matter what the nation, creed, and I will add, religion. What is their wisdom? What are their rules for life? An abundant life?
Remember, the Old Testament rules for life were GLORIOUS. And the principles of that law still are glorious. It is something many, even religious people have a hard time accepting. However, we are not living 1500 or 1000 BC, we are in the 21st-century.
Here’s a video by A.J. Jacobs who tried to live according to the letter of those Old Testament rules of life for one year. It’s a realistic review of all the troubles he faced.
It is clear that understanding the principles behind the Old Testament judgments is a necessity for their transposition into the 21st century. God’s way is not simply a repetition of physical do’s and don’ts. A basketful of rituals. These state, individual, and worship laws were given to maintain law and order AND allow citizens and foreigners an abundant, harmonious life.
Once again, realize that although Israel of the Bible was God’s nation, it was NOT a converted, or even an obedient nation. These laws are for helping just such a nation. Just as the clothing of Adam and Eve represents the rules of life for disobedient people who didn’t want to follow God’s spiritual way. The judgments and statutes are for living in THIS world.
Here is a lengthy excerpt that gives insight into WHY there is so little understanding in leaders and people today! They are dressed in blindness. It’s unfortunate because the rules for life exist, and we should be able to apply them.
The Art of Mental Trickery and Manipulation
Truth and Deception in the Human Mind
The human mind is a marvelous set of structures and systems. It is a center of consciousness and action. it forms a unique identity. It creates a view of the world…
Not only are humans instinctively self-deceptive, they are naturally sociocentric as well. Every culture and society sees itself as special and as justified in all of its basic beliefs and practices, in all its values and taboos. The arbitrary nature of its folkways is known to its anthropologists (if it has any), but not to its overwhelming majority.
Uncritical Persons (intellectually unskilled thinkers)
The over-whelming preponderance of people have not freely decided what to believe, but, rather, have been socially conditioned (indoctrinated) into their beliefs. They are unreflective thinkers. Their minds are prodcuts of social and personal forces they neither understand, control, nor concern themselves with.
Skilled Manipulators (weak-sense critical thinkers)
There is a much smaller group of people who are skilled in the art of manipulation and control. These people are shrewdly focused on pursuing their own interest without respect to how that pursuit affects others.
Fairminded Critical Persons (strong-sense critical thinkers)
Finally, there is an even smaller group of people who, though intellectually skilled, do not want to manipulate and control others. These are the people who combine critical thought, fairmindedness, self-insight, and a genuine desire to serve the public good. They are sophisticated enough to recognize how self-serving people use their knowledge of human nature and command of rhetoric to pursue selfish ends.
They have a vision of a better, more ethical world, which includes a realistic knowledge of how far we are from that world. They are practical in their effort to encourage movement from “what is” to “what might be.” they gain this insight by struggling with their own egocentric nature and coming to see (in deeper and deeper ways) their own involvement in irrational processes.
No one becomes a fairminded thinker first and a selfish person later. Selfish thinking is instinctive. It is an in-born state. We are all initially focused on ourselves: our own pain, desires, concerns. In the first instance, we pay attention to the needs of others only to the extent that we are forced to do so.
Only those capable of self-critique and self-insight can accurately assess the extent to which manipulators are involved in the social, psychological, and intellectual manipulation of others.
The above is a sad evaluation of the state of humanity. No wonder we’re in agony. Very few have made an effort to think about why the world is in such a state. There are, however, a few thinkers who have written about this subject.
Some of the Western world’s key psychologists and thinkers have put great effort into what they consider a way of life that would bring peace and prosperity. Among them, we have Jordan Peterson with his best-seller 12 Rules for Life. There’s Yuval Harari with 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. And an older work, Working with the Law. 11 powerful principles for an abundant life, by Raymond Holliwell. The link is to a pdf file with the entire short book which I encourage you to read. His preface deals with critical thinking, something we’re short of these days, and then goes on to talk about Bible Laws that are valuable guides for today.
As you can see, much effort has been made by a few to create a manual with rules for life. This brings us to answer the tagline question, where can we find them. Since you’ve followed The Explanation for a certain time, it will come as no surprise that they are in the Bible.
The book of Proverbs
The rules for life are concentrated in one book. Proverbs. Therein we find ALL the basics covering mainly INDIVIDUAL laws but also broaching NATIONAL and WORSHIP laws. The study of Proverbs should be a daily exercise. It should certainly be practiced at home, and why not in school. We desperately need a basic Code of Ethics in a secular society. Proverbs puts God first, where He should be. But, even if you take God out of the picture (which we shouldn’t do), the Proverbs contain sufficient advice to establish balanced individual citizens in a peaceful nation.
Proverbs is the antidote to the Agony of Humankind.
Proverbs chapter 1 sets the stage, with the preface including the most vital points to keep in mind. Please see The Explanation’s comments in brackets.
Instruction: 1:2 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; 2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; (This is exactly what the world needs now.)
Fear of the Lord: 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (this is where it all starts. It has nothing to do with The Explanation or Sam Kneller. These are not my belly-achings. Right at the outset, the first five minutes of the play, as I’ve said, the book of Proverbs makes it clear. The respect and reverence of God is where wisdom and the rules of life begin. Unfortunately, this is where our nation’s problems begin. There is much talk about God, but little fear of God.)
Listen: 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of your father, and forsake not the law of your mother: (on a family, national and international level we are not doing this)
Wisdom: 1:20 Wisdom cries without; she utters her voice in the streets: (The book of Proverbs has been around and available for thousands of years. As part of the Bible, and even published separately, It is possibly the most prolific book in the world.)
How Humans Function
Anger 14:17 He that is soon angry deals foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.
Integrity 11:3 The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them. (We need more honesty today)
Thoughts 12:5 The thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit. (We need more upright thinking. We’re not teaching people How To Think)
How Humans Socialize (Relationships)
Parents 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: (Family, father, mother and children with proper parental guidance)
Children 17:25 A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him. (Often the result of poor parenting. Not always, for sure. But parents must invest in the correct raising of their children)
Husband 31:23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
Wife 14:1 Every wise woman builds her house: but the foolish plucks it down with her hands.
Friendship 18:24 A man that has friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. (true friendship is a necessary part of life)
How Humans Rule (Rulership)
Stability 12:11 He that tills his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that follows vain persons is void of understanding.
Counsel 11:14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. (This can refer to competent leadership and government)
Righteous-wicked 10:16 The labour of the righteous tends to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.
Lies 19:5 A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaks lies shall not escape.
Ruler 29:4 The king by judgment establishes the land: but he that receives gifts overthrows it. (Bribes and wrong influence. Read chapter 29, all about national leadership for ALL countries)
How Humans Reason
Arrogance 16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Contempt 15:32, 18:3 He that refuses instruction despises his own soul: but he that hears reproof gets understanding.
Reflection 2:11 Discretion (or thought) shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: (Proper reflection of a subject. how about critical thinking to reason correctly)
the book of Proverbs covers all the bases for a balanced and sane life. We could modernize the language and transform it into a How To Live book. If anyone is interested in such a project, I’d be glad to hear from you.
You’ll notice that there’s not much about worship. Not because we shouldn’t worship God. The book is clear that all starts with God but this book is designed for all UNconverted people. It lays bare the fundamentals for ALL people everywhere down through ALL of history, as to how to live a decent life. That said, there is enough about God to know His plan is being accomplished and the wise person is aware of the existence of God.
Presence 17:3 The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD tries the hearts. (The discerning student of Proverbs knows that God oversees the world, even if the Serpent is the god of this world)
God’s plans 19:21 There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.
God’s knowledge 22:12 The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, and he overthrows the words of the transgressor. (God will have the upper hand. It’s worth your while to take a closer look at His ways)
God clothed Adam and Eve with these rules for life. He clothed humankind down through the centuries, including you and me today, with these rules. This is the basis for society whether they believe in God or not. Jordan, Harari and others do include some of the secular principles elaborated in Proverbs. But they are short on the Godly oriented preface. It’s only when nations and their people, collectively and individually, apply this, to the best of their human mental capacity, that we’ll harvest the blessings God promised to pour out on those that look to Him and lead a decent way of life.
At the beginning of Deuteronomy. That Old Testament law for Israel and all nations God inspired this passage about passing the information on, down through the generations.
5 And you shall love the LORD thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
6 And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart:
7 And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when thou sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Isn’t that clear enough?
The New Testament corroborates this impregnation of God’s rules for life, “Be mindFUL of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, Apostles… (2 Peter 3:2). This is true mindfulness that we hear so much about. We are to FILL our MINDS, not EMPTY them, brimFUL of Proverbs rules for life. God’s ways, as elaborated in His manual for ALL humankind represent the antidote for the agony of humankind.
This article is an excerpt from chapter 5.3 of the book Agony of Humankind.
According to One’s Conscience
Warning: This principle needs spiritual maturity to be understood. This does not mean we can take any of God’s Laws and “decide according to our conscience” whether we’re going to apply it or not. The two primary commands, love God and love neighbor are irrefutable. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40), said Christ.
In the Old Testament, there are statutes about not mixing linens, posting the law on doorposts, digging a hole for number 2. Not sitting on a chair used by a menstruating woman, How would you even know?! There is nothing wrong with these laws, to the contrary. But, today, each person can evaluate SUCH statutes and apply them as they see fit. If you were out camping in a secluded place, you might want to dig a hole, but you probably wouldn’t do that at home would you? Critical thinking and wisdom.
With regard to the application of a spiritual way of life, there’s an injunction. We are not to offend a brother. As Paul said, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend (1 Corinthians 8:13).” Certain practices in the Old Testament are between you and God. I hear the question, what practices? Well, when you become mature in understanding the two primary commandments, you’ll be able to discern the statutes of the Old Testament. It is not the role of The Explanation to detail do’s and don’ts.
A wise man once said, Teach you me, what I do not know.
Let’s get started with The Explanation.
- Inventory of the Universe
- Audit of the Universe
- Audit of Humankind
- Origin of the Universe (Commentary on Genesis 1)
- Origin of Humankind (Commentary on Genesis 1:26–2:7)
- Origin of Woman (Commentary on Genesis 2:8–25)
- Agony of Humankind (Commentary on Genesis 3)
You can read all the books of The Explanation series online. Buy the books at your favorite store. Sam blogs weekly at TheExplanation.com The Explanation masters Biblical Hebrew to help you unlock more in-depth Bible meaning. Free tools to read and study the Bible online.