We should love our souls.

We should keep our souls.

 

[Proverbs 19: 8, 16]

 

Do you love yourself?  The title of the column written by Pastor Byeong-gyu Kim, who serves the Glory Church in Seattle, was interesting, so I read it.  The title was ‘Self-love is the foundation of love’ (Internet).  In that column, Pastor Kim says there are two ways to be healthy self-love: (1) It is a passive level of self-love.  It is knowing how to forgive and cover over one's own sins and transgressions.  We must have a lot of experience in ourselves being forgiven and tolerated so that we can cover over a lot of others.  So we have to feel the grace of forgiveness and the love of the gospel.  (2) It is a active level of self-love.  It means that a person who rejoices in his strength praises and encourages others.  We need to know our strengths, know how to rejoice, and be happy about our gifts.  What do you think of these statements?  I think the foundation of love as well as my personal opinion is God's love rather than self-love.  However, there is a part that resonates a bit when Pastor Byeong-gyu Kim said that it is the basis of his love.  In other words, we think that we can love our neighbors when we can first love ourselves with the love of God.  And I agree that we can forgive our neighbors when we sincerely forgive ourselves, just as God forgives us.  Particularly, the words ‘people who rejoice in their strengths praise and encourage others’ come to my heart.  Perhaps the reason is because I don’t see my own strengths well, and I am not happy to see them.  As a result, I feel that I am lacking in praising and encouraging others.  In a word, I don't seem to love myself well with God's love.

 

In Proverbs 19:8, 16, the Bible speaks of he who loves his soul and he who keeps his soul.  Today, based on these two verses, I want to meditate on two things under the heading “We should love our souls.  We should keep our souls.” and receive a lesson from God.

 

            First, we should love our souls.

 

                Look at Proverbs 19:8 – “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good.”  Do you love yourself?  If you answer “yes” to this question, do you think loving yourself is a little selfish?  I think when we say that we love ourselves, we have to make two distinctions.  First, as 2 Timothy 3:2 says, when there is terrible times in the last days, “People will be lovers of themselves,” that is, selfish love.  Second, just as God loves us, we also love ourselves with God's love.  We must not love ourselves with selfish love.  But we must love ourselves with the love of God.  We must love our souls as Proverbs 19:8 says.  Therefore, we must enjoy the blessing of being answered by the petition of 3 John 1:2 – “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”  So, what must we do to make our souls prosper?  In other words, because we love our own souls, what must we do to make our souls prosper?  As Proverbs 19:8 says, we must gain wisdom in order for our souls to be prospered.

 

What is “wisdom”?  Wisdom is the fear of God.  What blessing does it give us when we gain wisdom and fear God?  Look at Proverbs 19:23 – “The fear of the LORD leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”  The Bible says that the fear of God not only leads us to life, but also makes us satisfy and untouched by evil.  This blessing is the blessing given to us when we gain wisdom and fear God.  So what must we do to gain wisdom?  We can think of it in two ways.  First, in order for us to gain wisdom, we must meditate on the word of God day and night.  Look at Psalms 1:2 – “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.”  So, for several years, we have already meditated on the books of wisdom out of 66 books of the Bible such as the book of Ecclesiastes every weekly Wednesday night prayer meeting, and now we are meditating on the book of Proverbs.  The reason we meditate on the books of wisdom, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, is, of course, to gain wisdom.  And it is because we must first receive a discipline through the word of God in order to gain wisdom.  Look at Proverbs 19:20 – “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days.”  Clearly, the Bible commands us to listen to counsel and accept discipline.  The reason is because as we hear counsel and discipline, we will eventually become wise.  But if we hate to be disciplined, this is an act of despising our own souls.  Look at Proverbs 15:32 – “He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.”  Contrary to this saying, if we value (love) our souls, we should love to be disciplined.  In order for us to gain wisdom, we must meditate on God's word day and night and like to receive instruction from God through His word.  However, the more we meditate on the book of wisdom, the more we become aware of the lack of wisdom when we receive the instruction that God gives us.  I think this is very natural phenomenon.  In other words, I think the more we meditate on the book of wisdom, the word of God, the more we will realize how much wisdom we lack and how foolish we are.  Therefore, in order to obtain wisdom, we must ask God for wisdom.  Look at James 1:5-6a: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without any doubting  ….”  As we thoroughly realize our own lack of wisdom, we must ask God for wisdom without doubting at all by faith alone in order to obtain wisdom.  Then God will give us wisdom generously.

 

            Second and last, we should keep our souls.

 

Look at Proverbs 19:16 – “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, But he who is careless of conduct will die.”  Here, the Bible speaks of keeping one's soul.  What does it mean to keep one's soul?  To answer this question, we need to look more at the word “soul” in today's text.  In the original Hebrew, “soul” can be interpreted as “heart”.  Indeed, the word “wisdom” in Proverbs 19:8 means “heart” in the original Hebrew language (Swanson).  In other words, the Bible says, ‘He who gets heart loves his soul ...’ (v. 8).  But in the second half of verse 8, the Bible says, “He who keeps understanding will find good.”  In the first half, “heart” refers to the wisdom of the heart that fears God as “understanding”.  That is why the Bible says, “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good” (v. 8).  Then, coming to Proverbs 19:16, the Bible talks about keeping one's soul.  Here, the word ‘keeping one’s soul’ can be interpreted as keeping one’s heart.

 

Are you keeping your heart well?  Many people now think that their health is the best, so they are striving to keep it.  My personal opinion is that I don't think health is the best.  But I think we have responsibility to keep good health as we take good care of the physical health God has given us as stewards of the Lord.  However, I think that it is to keep our hearts (souls) healthy that we Christians should do more than to keep our bodies healthy.  The reason is because this is what the Bible Proverbs 4:23 says: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (KJV).  In particular, we must keep our hearts so that we don’t have distrust toward the Lord.  The reason is that Satan is constantly trying to deceive and tempt us to distract us from our faith in Jesus.  If we fail to keep our hearts well and fall into the Satan’s temptation, then it isn’t keeping our lives well.  Also, we must keep our hearts well so that our hearts may not be defiled (Tit. 1:15).  We must keep our hearts well so that we don’t get give them over in the lusts of our hearts to impurity (Rom. 1:24).  We must keep our hearts well so that the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness may not proceed out of our hearts (Mk. 7:21-22).   What, then, can we do to keep our hearts well?  In Proverbs 19:16, the Bible teaches us two lessons:

 

(1)   We must keep the commandments of the Lord well.

 

Look at Proverbs 19:16a – “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, ….”  Here what is “the commandments”?  Look at 1 John 3:23: “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.”  In other words, the commandment we must keep to protect our souls is to believe in Jesus and love each other.  In fact, Jesus said in John 6:29, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."  And Jesus commanded, “He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk. 10:27).  Keeping this twofold commandment of Jesus is to keep our own souls.

 

(2)   We must be careful with our actions.

 

Look at Proverbs 19:16b – “…  But he who is careless of conduct will die.”  This means that if a person isn’t careful about his actions, he will be destroyed.  This is a warning of the destruction of those who do it contrary to the words in the first half of verse 19 (Park).  In order to keep our own souls, we must strive to believe in and love each other.  But if we don’t keep this commandment, we will be destroyed.  The only thing that has to be done is to believe in Jesus.  And if we don’t keep that commandment, we will have no choice but to perish because there is no eternal life.  Those who don’t keep the commandment to believe in Jesus cannot keep His commandment to love each other.

 

Last Tuesday, I read an article on my friend’s Facebook about a word that changed the life of a Korean soccer player Ji-sung Park (Internet).  That one word that changed Ji-sung Park's life was what coach Hiddink spoke to him, and the interpreter translated to Park: ‘Park Ji-Sung has great mental power.’  According to Ji-sung Park, his heart was palpitating and was strength when he heard what Hiddink said.  The reason is because that single word penetrated his heart.  And this is what Park said: ‘If I had not met coach Hiddink, there wasn’t me now.  It doesn't mean that I became a famous star with a well-known name, or that I have enough money to buy a pretty big apartment for my parents.  It means that I have become the "I" who love myself more than before.  The words that the coach threw in less than a minute changed my life for the rest of my life.’  As I read this last part, it came to my mind that Ji-sung Park, who had been a national soccer player in Korea, became “I” who love myself more than before.  And I thought about this: If Park became more in love with himself like this because of what coach Hiddink said to him, how much I should love myself with the love of God, that the fact that Heavenly Father loves me so much that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus on the cross for my salvation.  We should love ourselves with God's love.  In other words, just as God loves us, we should also love ourselves.  To love ourselves means to protect our own soul (heart) because we love our own souls.  In order to do that, we need heavenly wisdom.  We must ask God for wisdom.  And we must keep Jesus’ twofold commandment well with God's wisdom.  In the meantime, we must be careful with our actions.  May God keep our souls.