Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Proverbs 16.16-30 Notes

COLLECTION 2: Solomon I  (10-22.16)
B. Collection 2B: The Lord and His King (15.30-22.16) 

1.  Outline the cohesive, tight connection of three part description of the king (King)
and the following section that begins in verse 6.31 and ends at verse 7.6 with Proverbs about an old man surround this group of verses.

2.  Have the class identify the three parts of this section on "Wise and Foolish Speech."
One section is unified by the word "man."  Another is unified by words that have to do with words and the mouth, etc.

3.  Point out how v. 16 is a common theme in Proverbs. How does the context here make this one unique?

4.  Review meanings of hokma (wisdom) and bina “understanding.”  ( Both are humble.)

5.  v. 17 - Archaeological imagery of those verses. "upright" go straight or direct in the way." fits it well

6.  v.18 Observations about the proud and how this familiar proverbs fits this context.  This context and spiritual perspective of proverbs gives
·         What constitutes a "proud" person? The negative sense points to a sinful individual who shifts ultimate confidence from God to self. In the Wisdom literature, "the proud" are distinct from "the righteous" and "the humble."   --"pride" Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
·         The proud and the haughty have their head up and failing to take notice of the perils along the road are prone to stumble.  Those who know it all, do not receive instruction and make needless mistakes.

7.  v. 19 reminds of the temporary prosperity of the proud and by implication the eternal benefit of the spiritually humble (like Moses in Hebrews 11.24-26) who are afflicted.

8.  Interpretation:  Godly wisdom and understanding have more value than gold and silver because they keep one on the path that will preserve him and instill the humility that will ultimately keep him from the stumbling and fall of the proud who experience only temporary gain.

APPLICATION:  Similar message as Psalm 37. 

2. Wise and Foolish Speech (16.16-30)
----(a) Introduction: Security and Wisdom (16.16-19)--------------------------

"...there does seem to be some distinction as the section moves from the motivations for acquiring wisdom (16.16-19) to the process of transmitting it (16.20-24)."  --Paul Koptak in the NIVAC
“The four-verse introduction to this unit on speech so resonates with the vocabulary of the prologue (cf. 3:13-14; 4:5, 7; 8:10-11) that is can be labeled “a miniature prologue,” matching the four-verse introduction of 15:30-33.  Verses 16 and 17 link the acquisition of wisdom with being upright, and v. 19 qualifies the assertion in v. 18 that pride precedes a terminal fall by implying that for a time he arrogant plunder the humble and afflicted."  --Waltke in NICOT

Interpretation:  Godly wisdom and understanding have more value than gold and silver because they keep one on the path that will preserve him and instill the humility that will ultimately keep him from the stumbling and fall of the proud who experience only temporary gain.

16                                                And
How much better 
to get                                       to get
wisdom                                  understanding
                                                  is to be chosen
than gold!                            rather than silver. 

Understanding: 8:14-24

"Wisdom … bestows spiritual virtues along with material benefits (see 3:13-18). Wealth without wisdom is vulgar and greedy..."   --Waltke in NICOT

wisdom...  647a  חָכְמָה (okmâ) wisdom.  The wisdom literature, while sometimes using wisdom as prudence and cleverness, majors on ethical and spiritual conduct. Because God revealed himself to Israel, their sacred literature has the effect of a divine imperative; ākam refers to godly cleverness and skill, which results in practical action. The one who hears (Prov 8:33; 23:19*; 27:11), will be industrious, will know how to talk, and his will, will be in captivity to God’s. He will have life. This wins divine approbation.  -- Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
*Poverbs 23. 19   Hear, my son, and be wise; And guide your heart in the way.

understanding...  239b בִּינָה (bînâ) understanding.  bîn is a power of judgment and perceptive insight and is demonstrated in the use of knowledge..    The verb refers to knowledge which is superior to the mere gathering of data. It is necessary to know how to use knowledge one possesses (Pirke Abot 3:12). … While understanding is a gift of God, it does not come automatically. The possession of it requires a persistent diligence. It is more than IQ; it connotes character. One is at fault if he doesn’t have it and in fact, not to pursue it will incur God’s punishment (Prov 2:1f; Ruth 1:21f.). When one acts on the objective presentations of God’s revelation, he will attain the ideal of the significance of understanding.  -- Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
is to be chosen... The form is a Niphal participle, masculine singular. If it is modifying “understanding” it should be a feminine form. If it is to be translated, it would have to be rendered “and to acquire understanding is to be chosen more than silver” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB).   --NET Bible translation notes

The highway of the upright is to depart from evil;
He who keeps his way preserves his soul.
"Dorsey explains the imagery.  Written and archaeological evidence indicates that in Iron Age Istael (1100-600 B.C.) the highway (mesillat) was the main prepared throughfare and normally passed by cities, not through them.  Those who wished to enter the city by way of an access road "turned aside" to enter it (cf. Judg. 19:11, 12, 15).  Here the metaphor depicts the course of life of the upright, whose geometric root meaning of being straight or level with reference to a fixed line or plain fits the image.  Those who steer a straight course resolutely turn aside from evil (see 1:6)) to a condemned city with its corrupt practices and certain calamity (13:14-15; 15:24; 17:13).   By this turning aside from the access roads to the condemned city, the upright stay on the road that is wide enough for all comers and free from all obstacles."     --Waltke in NICOT 

upright... 930a יָשָׁר (yāšār) (up-) right.  1. Literally. “To go straight or direct in the way” (I Sam 6:12), but more frequently in the intensive (Piel) “to make (a way) straight,” i.e. direct and level and free from obstacles, as when preparing to receive a royal visitor.   2. Ethically. Uprightness as the manner of life is a characteristic of the blameless (Prov 11:5) and of the man of discernment (Ps 119:128, “I have lived uprightly”).   -- Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

evil... Strong's H7451 - ra` : 1) distress, misery, injury, calamity  2) evil, wicked (ethically) 

keeps his way... "Better, 'he that guardeth his soul (life) taketh heed to his way,' i.e. does not walk aimlessly but carefully chooses the highway (Metsudath David)."  --A. Cohen in Soncino series

18                                                              And
Pride                                                      a haughty spirit
goes before destruction,                before a fall.
Cf. 18.12
The two lines of this proverb are synonymous parallelism, and so there are parasynonyms.
“Pride” is paired with “haughty spirit” (“spirit” being a genitive of specification); and “destruction” is matched with “a tottering, falling.” 
--NET Bible study notes
As the root is used in its basic sense it describes the height of persons, objects, places, and natural phenomena. … In several places the word is used in a very positive sense both with respect to man as a quality of life worthy of possession and as descriptive of God himself. … The usual nuance behind the words under discussion is pride or haughtiness.  -- Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
Pride...  299e  גָּאוֹן (gāʾôn) exaltation.  The primary meaning of this root is “to rise.” The word “pride” (or its synonyms) can be used either positively or negatively in the Old Testament.  … Preponderantly, however, it is in the negative sense that the OT uses this concept. … It is Israel, however, that comes under heaviest judgment. The attitude is as old as Sodom (Ezk 16:49 and cf. Ps 10:2). The precise charge is arrogance, cynical insensitivity to the needs of others, and presumption. It is both a disposition and a type of conduct (both of which are inextricably connected). Pride inevitably leads to destruction (Prov 15:25; 16:18; Jer 13:9; Isa 13:11, et al).  -- Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

haughty...  305b גֹּבַה (gōbah).height, exaltation.  The usual nuance behind the words under discussion is pride or haughtiness.   --BLB
> What constitutes a "proud" person? The negative sense points to a sinful individual who shifts ultimate confidence from God to self. In the Wisdom literature, "the proud" are distinct from "the righteous" and "the humble."   --"pride" Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

> The proud and the haughty have their head up and failing to take notice of the perils along the road are prone to stumble.  Those who know it all, do not receive instruction and make needless mistakes.

Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly,
Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

humble spirit...  Heb “low of spirit”; KJV “of an humble spirit.” This expression describes the person who is humble and submissive before the Lord and therefore inoffensive. It is always necessary to have a humble spirit, whether there is wealth or not.   
--NET Bible translation notes
2445a      שֵׁפֶל (šēpel) lowliness.  2445a  Though the idea “be low” in the physical sense underlies the verb and its derivatives, its most important use is in the figurative sense of “abasement,” “humbling,” “humility.”    -- Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

lowly...  1652d  עָנִי (ʿānî) poor, afflicted.  The primary meaning of ʿānâ III is “to force,” or “to try to force submission,” and “to punish or inflict pain upon,” mostly in the Piel. Birke-land (see Bibliography) defines the verb “to find oneself in a stunted, humble, lowly position.” -- Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
Isaiah 57. 15 For this is what the high and lofty One says-- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

divide the spoil...  Heb “than to divide plunder.” The word “plunder” implies that the wealth taken by the proud was taken violently and wrongfully – spoils are usually taken in warfare. R. N. Whybray translates it with “loot” (Proverbs [CBC], 95).  --NET Bible translation notes

----(b) The Wise Speaker (16.20-24)----------------------------
"...this cluster stresses matters of giving and accepting wisdom teaching."  --Paul Koptak in the NIVAC
The pun in v. 20a, whose Hebrew  means both “the one who pays attention to a saying” and “the one who is prudent in speech,” along with the catchword tob (“good”), functions as a transition from the miniature prologue to the body.  The rest of the subunit fleshes out “the good” the competent speaker finds esteem and influence in the community (v. 21); being a well of life (v.22), increasing persuasiveness in teaching (vv. 21, 23) and being as sweet and healing hurt as a flowing mass of honey (v. 24).  The center line, uniquely antithetical and and uniquely not mentioning speech, pits the attractive life of prudence against the punishing chastisement of fools.  --Waltke in NICOT 

20                                                                And 
He who                                                       whoever
heeds the word wisely                         trusts in the Lord,
will find good,                                        happy is he.

"He who pays attention to a saying finds good,
and as for the one who trusts in the LORD, blessed is he!"   --Waltke trans.

The AV (he theat handleth a matter wisely), praising both efficiency and faith, is a possible translation.  But RV and most moderns rightly find a closer parallelism by taking the Heb. dabar (av: word) in its primary sense of te word (he that giveth heed unto the word...)  With the brevity of poetry the definite article is omitted before 'word', as in 13.13, wher clearly the divine word is meant.  ---Kidner in TOTC

Those with insight in to a matter find prosperity,
blessed are those who trust Yahweh
"...'insight' (for the root skl, see 1.3) is a word closely associated with wisdom and speaks of one's ability to discern a situation in order to do or say the right thing.  Since the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge/wisdom, the second colon may be seen as the theological expression of the first.  That the reward mentioned in the proverb was likely understood as material may be seen by the use of "prosperity" (tob) in the fist colon.  Since the second colon of a parallelism may be heighten the thought of the first colon, it may imply more than material prosperity, but it is hard to be certain.
There is some ambiguity in the first colon.  "Matter" may also be "word," and if so, could refer either to the word of God or the teaching of the sages.  All three meanings make sense, and the idea suggested by all three would be supported by the sages.  In any of these readings, the proverb in the first colon suggests that reward comes from human effort, and in the second by placing oneself in a submissive position ot God.  The two were obviously not thought to contradict each other."  --Tremper Longman III in BCOTWP

heeds the word...  
> Heb “he who is prudent” or “he who deals wisely” (cf. KJV). The proverb seems to be referring to wise business concerns and the reward for the righteous. One who deals wisely in a matter will find good results. R. N. Whybray sees a contrast here: “The shrewd man of business will succeed well, but the happy man is he who trusts the Lord” (Proverbs [CBC], 92). Synonymous parallelism is more appropriate.  --NET Bible translation notes
> דָּבָר  Strong's H1697 - dabar: speech, word, speaking, thing or business, occupation, acts, matter, case 
> The word is the law of right as given by the sages and by God and it is unnecessary to add of Yahweh (Grätz)  --C.H. Toy in ICC

happy is he
...  Although traditionally this word is translated “happy” (cf. KJV, ASV, NAB, NRSV, NLT), such a translation can be misleading because the word means far more than that. It describes the heavenly bliss that comes from knowing one is right with God and following God’s precepts. The “blessed” could be at odds with the world (Ps 1:1-3).  --NET Bible translation notes
ylt, kjv, nkjv--happy; nlt--joyful; nasb; esv, niv84, net--blessed

trusts in the Lord..."Trust" (cf. 3.5) is an active confidence, more that Believing in God's protection and provision, trust believes that God's way is the best way and so gladly follows it.   --Paul Koptak in the NIVAC

The wise in heart will be called prudent,
And sweetness of the lips increases learning.

sweetness of the lips... Heb “sweetness of lips.” The term “lips” is a metonymy of cause, meaning what is said. It is a genitive of specification. The idea of “sweetness” must be gracious and friendly words. The teaching will be well-received because it is both delightful and persuasive (cf. NIV “pleasant words promote instruction”).  --NET Bible translation notes              
> "When questioned, the answers he gives wshould be choicely worded and spoken in pleasant tones, so that his replies find ready acceptance (Isaiah da Traini)."    --A. Cohen in Soncino series 
learning...  ylt, kjv, nkjv, niv84—learning; nasb, esv, net –persuasiveness: nlt—persuasive
>  Heb “teaching” or “receptivity”; KJV “learning”; NIV “instruction.”  --NET Bible translation notes
>  1124a   לֶקַח (leqa). Teaching, learning, persuasiveness. This word occurs nine times, in four of which it is the object of yāsap “to add more, increase” (Prov 1:5; 9:9; 16:21, 23). As with the root meaning “take, seize,” the “grasping” is with the mind and hence “perceiving” is the nuance prominent in this derivative. Note some of the words with which it is paired: bînâ “understanding” (Isa 29:24), ākām “wisdom” (Prov 1:5; 9:9) and tôrâ “instruction, law” (Prov 4:2). In Prov 7:21 leqa means “the persuasiveness” of a harlot. But in Prov 16:21 the word is used in a good sense of a teacher’s persuasiveness.  --Theological Wordbook of the Old

22                                              But
Understanding                     the correction of fools
is a wellspring of life         is folly.
to him who has it.
Understanding...  is sekel: 'good sense'   2263a      שֵׂכֶל (śēkel), שֶׂכֶל (śekel) understanding. The noun also has the sense of insight or understanding. David prayed that the Lord would give his son Solomon wisdom (or discretion) concerning the affairs of Israel (I Chr 22:12). The man who does not neglect kindness and love finds favor and good understanding (here a synonym of grace, causing others to admire) in the sight of God and man (Prov 3:4). A man’s prudence makes him slow to anger (Prov 19:11) and a man wins commendation in accordance to his wisdom (or insight, Prov 12:8).
The context can also indicate bad sense or cunning.    --- Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

the correction of fools... "The meaning of folly rules out taking mûsar to denote verbal instruction of "fools"...  More probably mûsar means here discipline/chastisement as with a rod (1:2) and "of fools" is objective (cf. 7:22 [MT] and 15:5).  In that case "folly" refers primarily to the punishing consequences of moral insolence  (14:1, 3, 15:20)."   --Waltke in NICOT
> The word from punishment" (musar) is typically used for instruction or disipline; punishment is a rare meaning of this word(13.24; 22:15).  --Paul Koptak in the NIVAC

23                                                     And
The heart of the wise 
teaches                                         adds learning
his mouth,                                   to his lips.
>  Repetition of words from verse 21 ("wise," "heart," and "plesant words promote instruction) signals the connection with this saying about wise hearts and pleasant words, good for the body and soul (cf.16.24).  --Paul Koptak in the NIVAC
> "Notice the close parallel between 16/21b and the second colon of this verse."  --Tremper Longman III in BCOTWP 

 heart of the wise...  "...this proverb motivates the disciple to have "the heart of the wise" through accepting the sage's inspired teachings in love and faith (cf. 2:1-4; 16:16-19)."   --Waltke in NICOT

And adds... 
> "The phrase defines the meaning of speaking competently in verset A.  Thus the proverb motivates the disciple to have "the heart of the wise" through accepting the sage's inspired teachings in love and faith (cf. 2:1-4; 16:16-19).  That kind of heat will constantly place the right teaching on his lips to speak in a persuasive way to each new challenging social situation."   --Waltke in NICOT
>  Those who are wise say wise things. The proverb uses synthetic parallelism: The first line asserts that the wise heart ensures that what is said is wise, and the second line adds that such a person increases the reception of what is said.    --NET Bible study notes

learning...  H3948 - leqach; learning, teaching, insight
"The arts by which anyone's mind is captivated."  --Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldean Lexicon 
The last expression of the second line (RV. learning, as in 1.5) is to be rendered persuasiveness, as in 7.21, on which see note;  such is the effect of sweet speech (lit. of lips). --C.H. Toy in ICC

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
                                                 Sweetness to the soul and 
                                                 health to the bones.

Pleasant words ... "Wisdom adorns words with graciousness, just as its ways are pleasant (iii.17)."  --A. Cohen in Soncino series

Sweetness...  Were the healing words bitter, the tonic would not be consumed and of no benefit.  The metaphor, however does not walk on all fours.  Too much honey makes an person sick (15:16), but not too much good speech."  --Waltke in NICOT

Bones...  "“Bones” is a metonymy of subject, the boney framework representing the whole person, body and soul. Pleasant words, like honey, will enliven and encourage the whole person. One might recall, in line with the imagery here, how Jonathan’s eyes brightened when he ate from the honeycomb (1 Sam 14:27)."  --NET Bible translation notes

>  "Words are critically important to the sages.  They never would have understood the modern idea that "sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you."  Indeed, words can hurt but they can also heal."  --Tremper Longman III in BCOTWP 

----(c) The Foolish Speakers (16.25-30)----------------------------------
The catchword “person” (is) gives coherence and focus to this subunit on destructive speech.  Verse 25, which explicitly teaches not doing your own thing and implicitly accepting the teaching, introduces the periscope.  This janus verse leading from the topic of constructive speech to that of destructive speech is linked by is, the last word of it’s a verset and the initial word of vv. 27-29 to introduce the four malevolent speakers; a troublemaker (v. 27), the perverse (v.28a), the slanderer (v.28b), and the violent (v.29).  –Waltke in NICOT

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Same as 14.12
"Following the proverbs on teaching, this saying also states our need for an external reference point by which we set our course."   --Paul Koptak in the NIVAC

The person who labors, labors for himself,
For his hungry mouth drives him on.

The person... Strong's H5315 - nephesh:  soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion
Rashi explains the verse to mean that the labourer labours for himself when his mouth compels him and demand food; then his toil stands him in good stead, for he eats what was earned by his toil.
Gernodi explains nefesh in its very literal, spiritual sense.  He renders: Sometimes the soul of the labourer labours for the labourer, viz. for his body instead of for the soul itself, the opposite of the wise man, who labours for his soul, 'for his mouth compels him,' the food for his mouth is extremely necessary for him, since he seeks luxuries and rich foods.  Therefore he must toil and labour in order to fill his mouth with these desires.  This follows verse 25, since this way 'seemeth right to a man.  But the end thereof are the ways of death.'  He wastes his days with vanity and forgets his Maker, thinking only of the wants of his body."   --A. Cohen in Soncino series

drives him... "A similar intensity of motivation should drive the quest for wisdom."   --Paul Koptak in the NIVAC

I think that this proverb might state this positive example of someone who, in the words of Ephesians 4.28, “labors with his hands” so that he will be able to satisfy his hunder (plus some to give) as a contrast with the three or four (depending on who is counting) scoundrels described in the following verses.  They stand in stark contrast to the simple hard working man.

Verses 27-29 each begin with the Hebrew word for man (š) and add a new description; the "scoundral," "perverse," "and "violent" man are all the same person."  --Paul Koptak in the NIVAC

An ungodly man digs up evil,
And it is on his lips like a burning fire.

ungodly...  tn Heb “a man of belial.” This phrase means “wicked scoundrel.” Some translate “worthless” (so ASV, NASB, CEV), but the phrase includes deep depravity and wickedness (C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 125-26). 
--NET Bible translation notes

digs up... Regarding אישׁ בּליּעל, vid., Proverbs 6:12, and regarding כּרה, to dig round, or to bore out, vid., at Genesis 49:5; Genesis 50:5; here the figure, “to dig for others a pit,” Proverbs 26:27, Psalm 7:16, etc.: to dig evil is equivalent to, to seek to prepare such for others.   --The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
> Used in the metaphorical sense, to trap the innocent.  R.V. 'deviseth mischief' is a good equivalent (after Metsudoth).    --A. Cohen in Soncino series

burning fire...  The second line likens evil speech to this action, adding that it also burns lik fire.  A "scorching fire" quickly spreads..." --Paul Koptak in the NIVAC
> Better, 'scorching.'  The root occurs again in Lev. xiii.23, 28 for a skin inflammation, and in Ezek. xxi. 3, all faces shall be seared in a forest fire.  The words on the lips of a mischiefmaker have a scorching effect upon the object of his malice (after Isaiah da Trani).      --A. Cohen in Soncino series 

 28                                    And
A perverse man           a whisperer
sows strife,                   separates the best of friends.

sows...  Soweth (AV): rather, spreads (RV).  It is , appropriately, the word used of the release of flaming foxes in the Philistines' corn, Judges 15:5.  Cf. Proverbs 17:9    ---Kidner in TOTC
ylt—sendeth forth; nasb, esv, net—spreads; kjv—soweth; niv84--stirs up; nlt--plants

best...  tn The term אַלּוּף (’aluf) refers to a “friend” or “an intimate associate.” The word has other possible translations, including “tame” or “docile” when used of animals. Rashi, a Jewish scholar who lived a.d. 1040-1105, took it in the later sense of “prince,” saying that such speech alienates the Prince, namely God. But that is a forced interpretation of the line.    --NET Bible translation notes

ylt—familar; nasb95—intimate; kjv—chief; nkjv, nlt —best; esv, niv84—close; net--closest

a whisperer...  "The gossips of the second colon should be understood as a subcategory or specification of the perverse, and through their loose and misleading tongues, they even end up separating thsoe who beforehand were "intimate associates) (for‘allûp, see 2:17)."  --Tremper Longman III in BCOTWP 

A violent man entices his neighbor,
And leads him in a way that is not good.
He winks his eye to devise perverse things;
He purses his lips and brings about evil.

A violent man...  Heb “man of violence.” He influences his friends toward violence. The term
חָמָס (khamas, “violence”) often refers to sins against society, social injustices, and crimes.  --NET Bible translation notes
> "One who enters a career of crime."   --A. Cohen in Soncino series

entices... Cf. Genesis 4:8. The subject is not moral enticement, but enticement to some place or situation which facilitates to the violent man the carrying out of his violent purpose (misdemeanour, robbery, extortion, murder).   --The Keil &; Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

not good... tn Heb “not good” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “a harmful path.” The expression “a way that is not good” is an example of tapeinosis – a deliberate understatement for the sake of emphasis: It is terrible. This refers to crime and violence. The understatement is used to warn people away from villains and to remind them to follow a good path.  --NET Bible translation notes

>  The winking eye and pursed lips of v. 30 may be taken eithr as signals among conspirators or as a general statement of shiftiness in the facial mannerisms of scheming people.  The point may be that the reader should learn to read the faces of others in order to spot the three kinds of evil men described in vv. 27-29.  --Duane Garrett in NAC

winks...   sn The participle עֹצֶה (’otseh) describes one as shutting his eyes (cf. KJV, ASV). This could mean simply “closing the eyes,” or it could refer to “winking” (so many English versions). The proverb is saying that facial expressions often reveal if someone is plotting evil (e.g., 6:13-14).  --NET Bible translation notes
ylt—consulting; nasb95, nkjv, esv, niv84, net—winks; nlt--narrowed
evil... Strong's H7451 - ra`  : 1) unhappy, unfortunate; 2) evil, badness in an ethical sense

Monday, August 26, 2013

Is the Word working in me?

I hear the statistics about how Christians get divorced and sin just as much as everybody else.  That just doesn't seem to square with my understanding of what a Christian is.  Christians continue to sin, but surely there should be a significant difference between those who truly know that Lord and those who don't.  It makes we wonder who they are counting.  
Well, you can imagine my interest when The World and Everything in It ran a series called "The Bible: Bestselling book, but the least read."  The series made reference to the difference that regular Bible reading made in peoples lifestyles and choices.  I thought now we are getting closer to a comparison between real Christians and the world as opposed to self-identified or nominal Christians who give little if any evidence of God as work in their lives.
Here is a summary of the findings from the Bible Engagement as the Key to Spiritual Growth: A Research Synthesis byArnold Cole, Ed.D. & Pamela Caudill Ovwigho, Ph.D.(August 2012) provided online by the Center for Bible Engagement.

"Key findings include:
  • If a person engages the Bible four or more times a week, their odds of giving in to temptations such as drinking to excess, viewing pornography, lashing out in anger,gossiping, and lying significantly decrease.
  • Receiving, reflecting on, and responding to God’s Word four or more times a week decreases a person’s odds of struggling with issues such as feeling bitter, thinking destructively about self or others, having difficulty forgiving others, and feeling discouraged.
  • Engaging scripture produces a more proactive faith among Christians. Controlling for age, gender, church attendance, and prayer practices, the individual engaged in the Bible has significantly higher odds of giving financially, memorizing scripture, and sharing their faith with others.
  • People’s perceptions of their own spiritual growth are also impacted by how often they hear from God through the Bible. Those who engage scripture most days of the week are less likely to feel spiritually stagnant and to feel that they can’t please God.

In sum, the powerful effects of Bible engagement on spiritual growth have been reliably demonstrated across many studies. In addition, organizations such as the Willow Creek Association and Lifeway Research have reporting similar findings as well.  Together these independent lines of research lead to one simple conclusion: Engaging the Bible most days of the week is critical to grow in the Christian faith. The implications of this conclusion are wide-reaching and profound for Christian pastors and leaders, churches, schools, and evangelistic ministries. Those serious about helping people grow in a relationship with Jesus Christ need to carefully consider where they are investing their energies and if those activities are producing lifelong impacts by getting people engaged in the Word.