The word “love” occurs 31 times in Proverbs—that’s once for every chapter. And why not? Love is a basic human need. You can own the world but if you don’t have love—it’s all kind of meaningless, isn’t it? On the other hand, if you have love, it changes everything. It was Victor Hugo who wrote, “The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
Love is an innate need. Being created in our Father’s image means we are made to give and receive love and are most fulfilled when we are doing that. When the writer of Proverbs said, “What a person desires is unfailing love” (19:22), he knew what he was talking about!
That’s why the love of a spouse, family, and friends is of surpassing value and the person who has them is blessed. Again, from Proverbs, “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fatted calf with hatred” (15:17). A veggie burger with love is better than a ribeye with resentment!
Social media has seen to it that we all have boatloads of “friends” and “followers,” but very few, if any, in the words of Proverbs, will love us “at all times” (17:17). Think of the great friendships in the Scripture: David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Paul and Timothy. They were great precisely because they were born of adversity and characterized by constant love and concern.
Proverbs gives attention to this loving faithfulness/faithful love as the crowning aspect of our character and conduct toward God and others.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man. (3:3-4).
Something that is bound around your neck goes wherever you do. If it is written on your heart, it has been internalized—it is now a part of you. In these ways the writer argues for love to have permanency in our lives as opposed to being something that appears and disappears. Love can and is characterized by powerful emotions that can come and go, but it is ultimately an expression of our continued good will toward others.
It’s not surprising that when you live out faithful love, you experience it from others. “Do not those who are evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness (14:22). We’re even told that “Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love his throne is made secure” (20:28).
The writer touches the eternal when he informs us that, “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through fear of the Lord evil is avoided” (16:6). We needn’t understand him to be undercutting the grace of God by saying this, he is probably emphasizing God’s desire for mercy above sacrifice (Hosea 6:6)—righteous conduct above external offerings.
In 10:12 we’re told, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs.” In 17:9 it says, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” These verses remind us of the more familiar “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). This is redemptive living at its finest. Sins aren’t being ignored—they’re being called for what they are and forgiven. We learn that from God and the love He has shown us through Christ.
As you can see, the book of Proverbs has a lot to say about love!