Proverbial Maturity

541px-Old_and_wise Personal maturity is something that we want to attain, but often we don’t know what it is. It’s easier to name a mature person than it is to explain what makes them mature. Part of the difficulty is that there are different aspects to maturity; social, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional maturity can be expressed in different degrees in the same person. Someone can be socially mature and spiritually immature, or intellectually mature and emotionally immature. All maturity is connected, though; true social maturity only comes as spiritual maturity increases.

Thankfully, the book of Proverbs talks a lot about what a mature person looks like, and gives us attributes of maturity so that we can grow towards it ourselves. A mature person:

– Fears the Lord (1:7; 28:14)
– Listens to parents and brings them joy (1:8; 3:1; 4:1, 20; 5:1, 23:24-25)
– Strives to learn and understand (2:1-5)
– Is not wise in his own eyes (3:5; 26:12)
– Accepts discipline and correction graciously (3:11; 9:8-9; 12:1, 15; 13:18; 17:10; 19:20)
– Does good to others (3:27; 11:17)
– Is sexually pure and faithful (5:15; 6:32; 7:24-27)
– Works hard (6:6-11; 10:4; 12:11, 24, 27; 14:23; 28:19)
– Pays for what he needs in life (9:17)
– Has wise things to say (10:11, 13)
– Stops talking when he should (10:19; 11:12-13; 13:3; 14:3; 17:27-28; 21:23; 29:20)
– Speaks wisdom at the right time (10:20-21, 31-32; 12:6, 14, 18; 15:1-2, 23, 28; 16:24; 25:11)
– Is honest (11:1, 12:17, 19; 13:5; 14:5, 25; 16:13; 27:5-6)
– Is humble (11:2; 16:5; 18:12; 25:6; 29:23)
– Is generous, especially to the poor (11:24-26; 14:31 19:17; 21:26; 22:9)
– Takes care of his animals (12:10)
– Chooses good friends (13:20; 17:17; 22:24)
– Faithfully parents his children (13:24; 17:6; 22:6)
– Is cautious (14:15, 16; 22:3; 27:12)
– Is self-controlled (14:17; 25:28; 29:11)
– Is slow to anger (14:29; 15:18; 16:32; 19:11)
– Commits his work and plans to the Lord (16:3)
– Meditates on the Word (16:20)
– Is in fellowship with others (18:1)
– Takes refuge in the Lord (18:10)
– Listens before speaking (18:13)
– Contentedly lives within his means (21:17)
– Is respected in the community (22:1; 31:23)
– Is not a glutton or drunkard (23:2, 20-21; 25:16)
– Protects the weak (24:11; 29:7; 31:8-9)
– Does not take pleasure in seeing an enemy fall (24:17; 25:21-22)
– Obeys civil authorities (24:21)
– Does not take revenge (24:29)
– Is faithful in his work (25:13; 27:18, 23)
– Minds his own business (20:16; 26:17; 27:13)
– Confesses his sin (28:13)

These attributes are many of the ones we see outlined in Proverbs (in many more verses than the ones I’ve listed here); these are aspects of maturity that are often external, and so are evident to those around us. They address every facet of life: personal habits and spirituality, family relationships, work, citizenship, community are all lived before the Lord and come under His evaluation.

It is interesting that accepting discipline and advice, being careful with our words, and generosity to the poor are have the most references of all on this list. It’s also important to note that there are more verses on speaking wisdom and truth than there are on keeping silent; perhaps it is not that we speak too often, but that we speak foolish, unkind, or unhelpful words. Much of this list can be summed up in the words, “self-denying, self-controlled, and unselfish”.

All of the attributes on this list are results of growth in grace. As we grow in keeping the greatest commandment of loving God with all our hearts, souls, strengths, and keeping the second of loving our neighbor as ourselves, we will grow in these practices. One of the great comforts in being a Christian is the promise of sanctification. Even as we see our own immaturity, God gives us a desire for maturity and the Spirit’s power to make progress in it as we live in this world, so that we can live as mature Christians in a profoundly immature age.