On using "secular" illustrations
Some may question my use of non-Christians, particular in the first half of the "Wisdom" series, to illustrate Christian principles. I know nothing of Bill Gates� spiritual life. But if he fails to seek God, then no matter how wise he is about computer software, he�s foolish in the most important of all areas � matters of eternal significance. (Ps. 111:10; Lk. 12:20,21) But that doesn�t mean that a secular life can�t positively illustrate the application of certain biblical principles. I take my cue from Jesus, who once illustrated a positive principle ("�use worldly wealth to gain friends�") with the story of an unscrupulous manager. (Lk. 16:1-8) As Jesus noted, "For the people of this world are more shrewd ("sensible, thoughtful, prudent, wise" [Baur, Arndt and Gingrich])in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light." Gates inspires me in some areas of my life. So I feel free to use these areas of his life to motivate others.
Just as God�s physical laws, such as gravity, govern both Christians and non-Christians, so Proverbs� laws of success often apply equally to both. A Christian may fail for lack of counsel, while a non-Christian prospers for obtaining it (Prov. 15:22). This side of heavenly perfection, I despair of finding people who perfectly illustrate all facets of wisdom. Even Solomon, with all his wisdom in so many areas, played the fool in multiplying wives, even pagan wives, to himself, resulting in a compromised spiritual life in his latter days.
God�s principles are being acted out, both positively and negatively, in people�s lives all around us. Use these lives to illustrate truth, and your students will begin to see the truth of God�s Word.