But a closer look at Proverbs shows that there is both a unity and a theological center to Proverbs.
Proverbs is composed of three sections. There is a prologue (chapters 1-9), the main body of the book (chapters 10-29), and an epilogue, or closing section (chapters 30-31). The main section is contained of proverbs of Solomon, words and sayings of "the wise," and more proverbs of Solomon which were copied, which means that some scribes maintained proverbs throughout history. This main section is composed mainly of single-sentence reflections or sayings that take a snapshot of life and offer a "wise" way of proceeding or viewing a situation. When most people think of Proverbs, they think of this section, which leads to the idea that Proverbs are just sayings that can help us live better. But they are more than that.
The closing section contains words of Agur and King Lemuel, including a closing poem on the virtues of an industrious woman. These sections are more similar to the opening prologue than to the main body of Proverbs in that they contain longer poems that reflect on the virtue and value of wisdom. It is here that we find the theological purpose of Proverbs, for Agur and Lemuel pick up on themes that were begun in chapters 1-9 (the prologue).
Because many people don't read Proverbs--they just dive into it, thinking it's a loose collection of sayings--they overlook that Proverbs begins with a profound theological statement: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (1:7). Earlier, wisdom and understanding are seen to lead to righteousness, justice, and equity (1:2-3), all attributes of the LORD.
The teaching in Proverbs proceeds as though a father was instructing his son (1:8-10). We could argue that God is the "father" in question, based on the theological intent of the book. But this opening section makes clear that wisdom, both the pursuit and application of it, is a godly thing. It is not a secular thing, as though the book exists only to make us "wiser" in this world. If we read the book and pay careful attention to it, the wisdom we learn will draw us nearer to God himself (note how James 3:13-18 picks up on this theme).
If the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and fools despise wisdom and instruction, we see that the purpose of Proverbs is to teach us that there are two ways to live. One, a godly path that submits to teaching and instruction and gains wisdom for godly living, the other a destructive road that embraces corruption, futility, and ungodliness while living for self. We are either wise or foolish. Our devotion to God, seen in submission to hsi teaching, or the lack thereof, determines this.
This focus on godliness is also seen in the epilogue of the book (chapters 30-31). Agur says "Every word of God proves true" (30:5). The sayings of Agur and Lemuel reinforce the earlier teaching in the book and close it out. Lemuel provides a descripton of how wisdom works in a household, through the example of the wise wife.
Therefore, the main body of Proverbs, chapters 10-29, should not be read in isolation from the rest of the book. Each of the sayings provides a snapshot of a moment in time, of a choice between wisdom and foolishness, of godliness and ungodliness. They are not written only to help us make better choices now, but to become more godly in how we live and make choices. Read Proverbs by actually reading it. Note the connections and the themes that run throughout the book, but never overlook the theological purpose--that this book is provided to us for our reflection upon godliness and wisdom, so we can adjust our lives to submit to the teaching of "the Father" and gain wisdom.