The Parent Trap

trapLast week, Solomon gave us some clues to identify a wicked man. He told us there is no one with the intelligence or smarts to go against God. Don’t think you can fight against God either – He will always win. Names can evoke a lot of emotion and God says there is power in the name of Jesus. In fact, having a good name in the community is better than riches. Rich or poor, everyone belongs to God in the sense that He is the Creator. Prudent people pay attention: fools do not. It’s good to be humble and recognize that whatever greatness you may have on this earth is because God has given it to you. The reward for humility is riches and they may or may not be material, but the reward is assuredly eternal life in the presence of God. This morning, we’ll look at some restated principles and clear up a verse that many people have used as a parenting mantra.

Take a look at our passage today found in Pro. 22:5-11.

Solomon has painted a picture of wickedness and foolishness throughout this book. He continues by saying, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; he who guards himself will be far from them.” Again, he’s speaking in generalities. The way of the wicked is problematic and leads nowhere. Don’t confuse short term gain for long term rewards. The crooked, foolish, and the wicked way are synonymous. It’s filled with problems, with road blocks, with hurdles and it’s never smooth. It is contrary to God’s way. Do you find yourself consistently tripping through life? If you are a follower of Christ, I assure you that while the path of righteousness is straight and narrow, there are bumps and detours along the way. We have no guarantee of an easy life, but if you find yourself frustrated, angry, depressed, discouraged, hopeless, and defeated, you might consider the path you’re on. When you are on the path of righteousness, Satan will do all he can to get you derailed. While we all may experience those moments of wandering, if you are on the path that God had prescribed for you, there will be joy, there will be hope, there will be fulfillment because you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. The brief moments of frustration or doubt will pass because you are maintaining your focus on pursuing Christ and He will give you what you need when you need it. What happens to you in this life does not define who you are. The experiences God allows do help shape you and mold you and give you unique perspectives in life to enable you to rest in God and help you minister to others. Don’t discount your experiences.

Here’s the main point for today and it’s called the parenting trap. Probably every parent at some point has heard this next verse. New parents are given this verse on pictures and plaques to set around the house. Older, well-meaning parents teach it to young parents and sometimes think if the verse is said enough if will come true. Saying verses over and over again with the hope that the verse will come true in your own life is not the intent of God speaking through His Word. Solomon tells us to, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” It would be awesome if every instruction we gave to our kids was understood and followed immediately. I have met parents over the years that actually believe their kids were perfect, or at least more perfect than other kids. This verse is tucked in between unrelated verses and seems awkwardly placed. Having children is one of the most blessed and challenging things that two people can do. I say two people because the conception of a child does require the input from a male and a female. It doesn’t matter if it occurs inside the womb or in a test tube. All life, every single time, is conceived by the power of God.

This verse is traditionally applied to parents, but the instruction also applies to anyone that has influence over any child . . . so that really means everyone. So, let’s break it down. Train means to teach a skill or behavior through regular practice. Athletes train for sporting events. Musicians practice. Coaches teach new skills. As a gymnast and a diver, I was always learning new skills and it generally involved pain of some sort as I learned to do whatever trick it was. The training Solomon is talking about has to do with, “The way he should go.” There are lots of things kids must learn. Reading, writing, arithmetic, biology, dressing themselves, etc. Every kid needs to learn basic life skills to function in society. That’s the responsibility of parents, but Solomon gives parents specific instruction about eternity.

“The way he should go” doesn’t mean finding their own way, but being taught THE way. In Eph. 6:4 Paul said, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” I find it really interesting that parents do what they can to get their kids in the best nursery or child care program and groom the kids from a young age to go to the best schools, or get the best coaches or teachers and are determined that the kids follow a particular path, but when it comes to God, they back off and say they want them to find their own way. That is utter nonsense. Parents must take an active role in teaching their kids about God. If you doubt what I’m saying, let’s turn over to Deut. 6. This is what we have to do with our kids. Don’t leave the responsibility and privilege to teach your children about God to other people. I’m glad to do it, but I have limited time with your kids. Solomon concludes his thought by saying, “Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The “it” refers to, “the way he should go.” When the kid grows up, when he is older, he won’t depart from the teaching. There are parents that have diligently instructed their kids in the way only to have their kids choose the path that is not pleasing to God. This is the nature of many of the proverbs we have looked at. They are generalities and are not applicable to each and every situation out there. As a general rule, when parents intentionally include God in all that they do, the child remembers it because it was part of the DNA of the family. God wasn’t compartmentalized to Sundays only. The principles found in Scripture were lived out on a daily basis. Parenting isn’t a do as I say, not as I do endeavor. We must demonstrate by example what we expect out of our children. That is the gift of parenting, but it also represents a challenge to all of us.

This next one is a tried and proven fact. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” The rich and poor have a common bond in that they are all made by God, but as to the things of life, we see this ruling aspect every day. Those that have little will be in subjection to those that have much. There is an entire movement dedicated toward opposing the rich. According to the Occupy Wall Street website, their movement, “is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.” Right or wrong, good or bad, this is the principle Solomon is presenting.

The second half of the verse has been used a proof text prohibiting borrowing money. There is no such prohibition in Scripture, but the Bible does talk about caution when doing so. When you are indebted to someone, whether it be a bank, a title loan company or the local rent a center, you are their slave. You cannot get around it. You must pay back what you borrow. It is a whole lot easier to secure loans today than it was a couple of decades ago. You can get a loan from the comfort of your couch. People enter into a contract to borrow money and often don’t know what is in store for them. Did you look at the amortization schedule for the mortgage before you signed? You’ll see that the loan company gets its fees up front and that makes sense because they’re the ones taking the risk. There’s been pushes in recent years to forgive debt and it doesn’t matter whether its mortgage debt or student loan debt. For some reason, people secure a loan and then later determine that it’s not fair to have to pay back what they owe. It seems that people do not like being placed in bondage to others. This is the principle that Solomon’s talking about. It’s not good or bad, Solomon is simply stating fact. When you borrow money, you’re a slave to the lender.

Be careful what you sow. When you plant corn, you expect to reap corn. When you plant wheat, you expect to sow wheat. Whatever you sow, that’s what you’re supposed to reap. Solomon says, “He who sows iniquity, will reap vanity.” Vanity means trouble. If you sow iniquity or sin, you will reap trouble. “And the rod of his fury will perish.” This is talking about the man who sows iniquity. Rod is a symbol of power. When men rule with the thought of their own desires rather than the desires of people, the authority they possess will be stripped away.

We’ve seen the generosity of v. 9 before. And we’ve seen what to do with the scoffer from v. 10. And also, the relationship with a king in v. 11.

We started by looking at the way of the wicked. If you are continuously tripping through life, you might want to check the path you’re on. What happens in your life does not have to define who you are. We spent some time on the parenting trap and most parents will tell you that some of life’s biggest challenges result following the birth of their children. Take the time to instruct your kids about the way they should go. While there’s no prohibition against borrowing money, understand that the borrower becomes a slave to the lender. You will reap what you sow so be careful in what you choose to plant. We finished by quickly reviewing several principles already covered. My prayer is that you will really grasp this thing called wisdom as you continue your journey of faith in Christ.

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What’s the Harm with Santa Claus?

This is a reposting of an article I wrote in December 2010 concerning Santa Claus and believers. This is my perspective as a child of the King, a father, a grand-father, and a pastor.

He’s fat and jolly. He loves kids. As Christians, is there a problem including Santa in your Christmas festivities and if so, what’s the big deal? I get asked that question fairly often during the weeks leading up to Christmas.

We see it all too frequently. Parents drag their kids all over town to get their picture made with Santa. Many children are placed on Santa’s lap kicking and screaming. I mean, really kicking and screaming. Think about it, some children don’t want to sit on the lap of someone they know let alone a complete stranger, but Santa dutifully endures the children, no matter what kind of mood they’re in.

By most reports, the origin of Santa Claus can be traced back to the 4th century and a man named Saint Nicholas. He was the Bishop of Myra, an area in present day Turkey. By all accounts St. Nicholas was a generous man, particularly devoted to children. After his death around 340 A.D. he was buried in Myra, but in 1087 Italian sailors supposedly stole his remains and moved them to Bari, Italy, greatly increasing St. Nicholas’ popularity throughout Europe. St. Nick’s reputation for generosity gave rise to the idea he could perform miracles. It wasn’t until 1822 when Clement C. Moore wrote the poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for his family on Christmas Eve that the idea of Santa Claus grew to legendary proportions. The story became known as, “The Night before Christmas” and was first published on December 23, 1823. The rest I suppose, is history.

Santa Claus continued to live on in the hearts and minds of children and adults as well. He is on TV every December in the classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as well as others. Santa has appeared in a myriad of movies including, “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Polar Express,”  The Santa Clause 1, 2, 3,” “Santa Claus, the Movie,” and “Ernest Saves Christmas.” And who can forget the popular 1964 movie, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.”

Santa is so fun, who could find fault with such a popular, lovable, jolly, old guy in a red suit?

I’m not going to tell you what to do, mostly because my experience has shown me that people will do what they want to do anyway. I would however, like to offer up some ideas why bringing jolly old St. Nick into our lives might not be the best thing to do as an authentic Christ follower.

Can we be authentic Christians if we include Santa in our Christmas activities? There are people that I love and respect that include Santa in their family Christmas traditions so I don’t want you to think I live with some lofty, high, and mighty, holier than you people attitude because I don’t. I love the Santa Clause movies (all three of them) and I love Elf. But what’s the difference in enjoying a good Santa Claus movie and telling our children that Santa Claus brings them presents? I would say there’s a huge difference.

 

SPOILER ALERT!       SPOILER ALERT!

 

Santa Claus is not real. At all. He’s totally fake. Really.

Look at the characteristics of Santa.

  • He knows when you’ve been good or bad, so you need to be good, for goodness sake, right? The idea is that Santa brings gifts to those children that are good. Often forgotten now a days, is that he gives a lump of coal to those naughty children. Have you ever known any child that got a lump of coal in his stocking? Can you name just one kid? Have you ever known someone that knew someone that knew someone else that heard of a kid getting coal at Christmas? Me neither. The idea here is that a child needs to earn the gifts that Santa brings. I’ve never met a kid that didn’t think they were “good” enough to receive presents.
    • Santa’s reward system is contrary to that of God. God’s gift is unconditional. John 3:16 tells us that God gave His son to us simply because He loved us. We didn’t have to earn God’s love.
    • So God’s gift is not dependent upon our behavior. Can I get a Hallelujah?!?!? In fact Romans 5:8 tells us God’s criteria is the exact opposite of Santa’s. Even though we are currently bad (sinners), Christ  died for us. It’s not whether or not we are good or bad, it’s simply because we are here.
    • Only God is omniscient.
  • Santa has the supernatural ability to deliver presents to children all over the world beginning on Christmas Eve by flying around in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Think about the logistics of that. Does he go back and forth to the North Pole to restock, or does he carry all the gifts at once? Is the sleigh equipped for landing on any type of terrain? I mean does it work on sand so Santa can go to places in Saudi Arabia? Does he have a conversion package that adapts the sleigh to concrete landings? I know these are silly questions, but you see how far you have to go to continue the myth of Santa. He has to be everywhere at once in order to carry out this feat.
    • Jeremiah 23:25 tells us that God fills the heavens and the earth.
    • Proverbs 15:3 says the eyes of the Lord are everywhere.
    • Psalm 139:7-10 tells us there is no place where He is not.
    • Only God is omnipresent.

So Santa takes on a God-like character. Is that a problem? I think so. I’m pretty sure that God said there shouldn’t be any gods before Him. Now I’m not saying anyone out there is worshiping Santa, but come on, when did it become okay to lie to your children? I don’t know a parent out there that would be okay with their children lying to them. After all, isn’t that what you are doing by perpetuating the myth that Santa is real? Do you tell your kids that there really is a talking sponge that wears square pants?

What about selfishness? Acts 20:35 says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Doesn’t the idea of Santa bringing presents contradict that? When a child sits on Santa’s lap, the conversation typically goes like this: Santa: “Have you been a good boy (girl) this year?” As a side note, why does Santa ask this? I thought he knew if you’ve been good or bad. Well perhaps it’s to give the kid an opportunity to fess up for wrongdoings. Anyway, back to Santa. After that question, he generally asks, “What do you want for Christmas?”  The child then recites a list of acceptable gift ideas for Santa. Now it’s about getting gifts, not giving which is consistent with Scripture.

In light of this, when do you talk to your kids about Jesus? Isn’t He the reason we celebrate Christmas? What about the manger? What about His miraculous birth? What about His purpose for coming? What about God’s incredible, unconditional gift to us? I cannot reconcile Santa with the Bible.

As Christian parents, our primary mission regarding our children is to introduce them to Jesus Christ at the earliest age possible teaching them who He is and why He came.

I am certain there are people that completely disagree with me including pastors and people a whole lot smarter than me. That’s fine. It is my choice to exclude Santa from our celebration. It is your choice to include him. I don’t love you less, I don’t think bad thoughts about you. When I present my case, some people get down right angry with me. Yes, it’s true. They’ll say, “Pastor Ian is just an old-fashioned fuddy duddy that wants to take the joy out of Christmas for my child.” On the contrary, I want to introduce you to Jesus Christ, the only person we can truly find joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. Jesus Christ is the reason for Christmas, not Santa Claus. What are you missing out by excluding something that is not in the Christmas story found in the Word of God? Remember, I’m talking to people who profess to be followers of Christ. Why would you want to take any of the focus off of the One that made our salvation possible?

One more thought. When your kids find out that you have been perpetuating a myth about Santa (okay, when they find out you have lied to them), how will they feel about what you have told them about Jesus. Will He be viewed as a myth or make believe too? Hmmm.

Rampant Laziness and Assault

lazyCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that wisdom is not some elusive quality. You can develop wisdom by listening to the godly counsel of others. Godly counsel that has resulted from years of walking with God. A biblical worldview will lead to godliness for the rest of your days. Make intentional plans in your walk with God; He will reveal the path to take and be open to what He wants rather than what you want. Just because something seems good and right does not mean God wants you to do it. Being a follower of God does not mean nothing bad will ever happen in your life or the lives of those you love. Circumstances must not dictate your love or devotion to God. God is God and He is in control no matter what life may look like at any given moment. This morning, Solomon talks about laziness and assault with some very condemning word pictures.

I encourage you to take the time and read our passage found in Pro. 19:24-29.

Solomon starts off talking about laziness beyond imagination. You’ve probably dealt with some lazy people in your days, but this is lazy. This is a word picture so vivid, it should immediately conjure up an image in your brain. “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish, but will not even bring it back to his mouth.” Sluggard means slow or idle. You’ll see slugs in the garden and they’re typically pests. It’s a gastropod – a snail like creature without a shell. This guy is the poster child for laziness. Get this in your mind; this guy is so lazy that he exerts all his energy just to make the stretch to the food dish. Since he’s expended his energy, he just can’t find the strength to bring his hand back to his mouth to feed himself. How lazy do you have to be to have food in front of you, but you just can’t bring yourself to eat it? That’s lazy. Is there really anyone so lazy that they would die before expending the energy to eat? Maybe your husband might die if you didn’t feed him. At least that’s how it might seem. Solomon is speaking metaphorically. The instinct to eat is very powerful. I know it is sometimes difficult to get your list of things to do accomplished when it’s a rainy, gloomy day and all you want to do is lounge around and watch movies. But that’s not what Solomon is talking about. Everyone needs time to recharge their physical batteries. The person Solomon is talking about is a sluggard; it’s who he is. He’s lazy beyond imagination. He works at doing nothing. If you’re a Christian, this laziness isn’t possible because of the ongoing transformation in your heart.

It is somewhat awkward to transition between topics and Solomon does it again in the next verse. “Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd, but reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge.” Before we get into it, rest assured this is not giving permission to put the smack down on someone. If we remember from previous uses of the word scoffer, it means contempt or openly expressed disdain. It is the feeling of contempt or feeling that something is unworthy. Think of it in this way. When people are held accountable for doing wrong, other people can benefit from it. Back in my Navy days, if someone got in trouble and went to Captain’s Mast, which is known as non-judicial punishment, the results were published so others could see what can happen when you do wrong. Our newspaper publishes the crime report every week and tells the readers who has been arrested and what the charge is. In a biblical context, we see the same thing. Deut. 13 tells us the punishment for idolatry was stoning. Deut. 13:11 concludes by saying, “Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never do such a wicked thing among you.” We saw just a couple of weeks ago that a stubborn and rebellious son could be stoned to death by the elders of the city. (Deut. 21:18-21) Before you go and tell me how barbaric that is, you have to go back to the root of the issue. These were consequences for violating God’s law. Nowhere in Scripture has it ever been permissible to go around killing or harming people. That’s what people miss. We want to live in a society where everyone else is held accountable, but many people don’t want to be held accountable for their own actions.

The New Testament is filled with examples of where we are commanded to hold ourselves and others accountable to the standards found in God’s unchanging word. Let me highlight three examples from three different writers.

  1. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matt. 18:15-17)
  2. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (Ja. 5:16)
  3. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1)

The goal is always recognition, redemption, and restoration. These verses apply in a Christian to Christian context. The principles of learning should be nothing new to us. Pro. 9:9, “Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.” Pro. 17:10, “A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” God’s goal is not to hammer us every time we do wrong. His goal is for us to be continually transformed into the image of His Perfect Son. When we read the instruction manual first, the chances of failure are drastically reduced. When the scoffer is struck, even the naïve or simple can learn from it.

Here’s some more parenting advice. Look at vs. 26-27. We’ve seen the principle in v. 26 before, but I want to make sure you don’t miss that key phrase in v. 27. “Cease listening” is probably one of the most frustrating things in parenting. Quite honestly, this is one of the most frustrating things I engage in nearly every day. Many times it’s not that the listening stops, it’s that there’s no listening to begin with. You try to give some guidance and you’re waved off. Sometimes you’ll get the ‘I know what I’m doing’ look. Sometimes you’ll get the ‘I’ve already decided what to do and nothing you say is going to change my mind’ look. Sometimes you get the ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’ look. When you quit listening to people who can provide you with good, solid biblical guidance that back it up with a lifetime of passionate following after God, “You will stray from the words of knowledge.” When you ignore the instructions, disaster results.

Let’s shift over to a rather amusing choice of words. Solomon says, “A rascally witness makes a mockery of justice, and the mouth of the wicked spreads iniquity. Judgments are prepared for scoffers, and blows for the back of fools.” When you hear the word rascally, you might think of Bugs Bunny and his arch enemy Elmer Fudd. Maybe you think of Spanky and Alfalfa. A rascal in this context is an unprincipled or dishonest person. That makes sense doesn’t it? Someone that is unprincipled or dishonest will make a mockery of the justice system where people take an oath to defend the constitution or swear to tell the truth. There is still the fundamental tenant of our justice system that people will tell the truth. It’s a crime not to tell the truth in a court of law or to law enforcement. This guy is a liar, he is wicked, and he is a fool. Over and over again, Solomon has talked about the important of listening to wisdom. Over and over again, we’ve seen the wicked and the foolish fail to heed the godly wisdom of others. Judgment awaits him as judgment awaits all of us. I love how the Psalms start and it certainly fits here: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Ps. 1:1) In one of the most sobering verses in Scripture, Matt. 25:41 says, “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” The mocking and the evil and the wickedness will one day end. Until then, we need to follow the wisdom God has set forth in the Bible.

Laziness and authenticity as a follower of Christ are not compatible. It’s incomprehensible to use an ungodly adjective to describe your walk of faith. We should be growing more and more like Christ as we allow the transforming power of God to change us from the inside out. When you discipline someone and it’s made public, others will see that there are consequences for wrong doing. We must take the time to intentionally instruct others in the ways of faith. What if they don’t listen? It shouldn’t stop us from doing what is right. One thing that works my patience is for people to stop listening to wisdom when it’s obvious they could use some help. Do not cease to listen to the wisdom of others. We finished up by talking about that rascally witness. Don’t be him. Judgment is coming one day, let’s make sure we’re doing God’s work.

You Can’t Kill Your Kids

barneyCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that it’s not good to be on the receiving end of a lion’s roar. If you consistently do what is pleasing to the Lord, you’ll find yourself as refreshed as the morning dew. Solomon moved over and talked about domestic relations. It’s tough to have a foolish son – in fact it can destroy a father. Constant wifely nagging is like a dripping faucet: it can drive you out of your mind. Having a wife is a good thing, but finding a prudent woman is a gift from God. Don’t be lazy – it can lead to hunger. We talked of the importance of keeping the commands of God. It is probably the primary indicator of an authentic relationship with God. If you do a good deed in the name of Jesus to help someone, God will reward your actions; we don’t know if it will happen here, but it will definitely happen in eternity. This morning, we enter into the much debated topic of child discipline.

Pro. 19:18-19 says, “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death. A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.”

This is still a hot topic. Child discipline has been debated for some time. We’ve had experts for years telling us the virtue of corporal punishment and others saying how harmful it is. Other experts tell us that parents need to provide positive reinforcement. Still others use the, “it’s just a phase” argument to excuse inappropriate behavior. There are definitely dos and don’ts of parenting. If you remember back to Pro. 13:24, Solomon said, “He who withholds the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” That sweet smelling, cuddly baby has something lurking within them that is nearly impossible to see when they are so young and innocent. As they grow older, that natural tendency begins to come out. It is stronger in some than in others. That natural tendency is known as sin and it takes many forms. Rebellion, pride, disobedience, stubbornness, deafness, the ability to ignore, laziness, lack of focus, short term memory loss, a propensity to perform certain functions at half their ability. You parents know exactly what I’m talking about. These characteristics come naturally to human beings because we are all sons of Adam. That means we were born with this ability to be ungodly, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12)

The way to overcome that natural tendency is to use the rod. Rod in this verse means correction. It does not refer to a physical rod, or a broom handle, or a switch, or a wooden spoon, or a hair brush. There are other places in Proverbs where that is true, but not in that verse. Solomon is talking about correcting behavior that is not godly; that’s not consistent with the standard. We’re in a church setting here so the Bible should be our standard of truth. We’re to instruct our kids to adhere to the standard. Since we’re all at different places in our walk with Christ, it only makes sense that our kids will follow suit where we walk. Your kids will tend to model the behavior that you demonstrate day in and day out. If you’re prone to lying, your kids will tend to lie and they will get confused as to why they get into trouble for lying. If you’re lazy in your walk of faith, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand why their faith is so important.

Discipline is a good thing. Rules and policies are good things. Believe it or not, most people follow rules and don’t even realize it. If you think otherwise, let me give you a few examples. Our students get on the bus each morning at a certain time so they can get to school without being late. I bet one of the questions you asked during open house at school was, “What time does my child need to be here?” You probably said the same things about the end of school. When you were hired at your job, you probably asked what time you needed to be there and how long you work each day. You file your taxes no later than April 15th of every year. You pay your bills by the date they’re due because if you don’t, the rule is a late fee will be imposed by the business or utility if you fail to adhere to the deadline. You use a #2 pencil on answer sheets so the machine will read your answers. You wait in line at the movie theater to get your tickets, you don’t just go to the front.  For the most part, when we know the rules to live by, life is easier to live for all parties involved.

So Solomon broaches the subject of discipline again. “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.” You don’t want to pass the point of no return. You’ve seen this and maybe you’ve seen it in your own children. There will come a time that it is too late to parent your kids. Don’t misunderstand, you’ll always be their mom or dad, but there will come a time where you will be removed from the process and that’s a good thing. All of us should desire to raise our children in a manner that glorifies God and will maximize the possibility that they choose to follow Christ at the earliest possible age. Remember though, there are no guarantees that your child will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I can guarantee you one thing: if you’re a believer and you don’t share the life changing message of the Gospel, you will be held accountable. The follow on question would be, why wouldn’t you tell your child about Jesus? “Discipline your son while there is hope.” We need to take the Barney Fife approach. The moment there is behavior that is not acceptable, we need to nip it, nip it in the bud. If not corrected, those inappropriate behaviors will take root and will develop into habits that are tough to break. It’s way easier to pull a weed when you first see it than it is to pull it when you have time.

Parenting must be intentional. There is no such thing in parenting as losing the battle and winning the war. Every time your child battles you, you must win. You don’t have to be a tyrant, a screamer, or a hitter to win. And don’t apologize for your rules. Will they cry? Probably. Oh, I just can’t listen to my child cry. You’re going to need to get over it. Will they be sad? Most likely. Will they pitch a fit? Maybe. Will it be hard? Naturally. Will they appreciate your consistent discipline? Not for a few years. You’ve seen the parents that are ineffective. They’re the counters. They’re the one more time parents. they’re the ones that call the police when their child won’t go to school. They’re the ones that are training their kids that there’s always another chance and they don’t need to listen right now. They’re the ones where the kids make the rules and rule the roost. Let me be transparent here. I have made major blunders in my parenting. There are times when it’s all you can do to hang on until bedtime. There are times when you feel like you’re a total failure as a human being. Depending on the child, those times may be frequent or infrequent. Some kids are compliant; some are defiant and it can be in the same family. I want you to understand something very important. As a parent, you are responsible for your child. Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that having reasonable expectations for our kids will somehow harm them. At some point, we’ve come to believe that if we tell our kids no, that their psyche will be irreparably damaged.

Every child will benefit from being held to a reasonable, age appropriate standard. This is how they learn and grow. When you don’t correct your children, chaos will result. “Discipline your son while there is still hope, and do not desire his death.” KJV translates this verse, “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” An old German saying goes like this: “It is better that the child weep than the father.” The second part of that verse is to moderate the discipline or punishment. When we go back to the Law, it says, “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.” (Deut. 21:18-21) The Law empowered the elders of the city to mete out punishment by death, not the parents. Think of the elders of the city like our modern day justice system. In Eph. 6:4 Paul said, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In Col. 3:21 he said, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” If you take the time to teach, correct, and discipline your children while there is hope, there’ll be no need to bring them to the elders of the city to be put to death. That gives you the idea of just how bad having rebellious kids really is.

Let’s talk about anger again. “A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.” This typically plays itself out when we make excuses for people that act in ways that are not appropriate. People will say things like, “He can’t help it, he has anger issues.” “He can’t help it, he’s off his meds.” There are bona fide cases where medication is an appropriate treatment for issues, but we’re talking about people just being angry about things and many times, it’s anger about things that cannot be controlled. If you rescue someone that cannot control his anger, you will rescue them over and over and again.

Child discipline is a very hot topic in our culture today. We’ve got people that tell us to spank and not spank. We’ve got people that tell us to let our kids find their own way and don’t discipline at all. Every child will exercise their free will at some point. Not every type of discipline works for every child so figure out what works for your child. For the experienced parents, help new parents. If you see an out of control kid in Walmart or on a plane, offer words of encouragement instead of telling the parent that they need to take care of their child. Rules and policies are good to have; it teaches boundaries. The hope we have in our children turning out good diminishes with each passing year. Take care to raise them while there is still hope. Don’t tolerate out of control anger. If you bail someone out that is frequently angry, you’ll continue to do so. Let them bear the penalty for their behavior.

Domestic Disharmony

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Last week we did some review about money and learned that God doesn’t care how much you have. God’s position on wealth hasn’t changed and it shouldn’t impress us if people have a lot of money. It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury. It just doesn’t make sense and even if somehow they enter into a luxurious lifestyle, it won’t last long. We saw the importance of self-control. It is one of the bench marks of salvation. We went through the 4th Chapter of Ephesians and I encouraged you to review it from time to time. Forgetting a wrong-doing does not mean there will not be consequences. As an authentic believer, you are positionally secure in Jesus Christ. Because of this, you need to walk in a manner worthy of your calling. This morning, we take a different look at some relationships.

I hope you’ll take the time and read our passage found in Pro. 19:12-17.

Solomon shifts from fury to wrath. He spoke about the king’s fury back in 16:14 and said that the king can bring about life or death in 16:15. The same general idea is presented here again. “The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.” Probably no student likes to get sent to the principal’s office. There’s probably no worker that wants to get summoned to the supervisor’s office. If and when you do, do you get this sick feeling in the pit of your stomach? If you’ve done nothing wrong, you shouldn’t worry. Solomon is saying if you’ve done wrong, the king’s wrath is like that of a roaring lion. Substitute supervisor, manager, principle, or boss and you get the idea. If you hear the roar, you’re on the receiving end of his wrath. But if you’re doing good and right, “His favor is like dew on the grass.” It’s refreshing, it’s delightful, it’s the sign of a new day. It’s a good place to be. Paul said it like this in Rom. 13:3, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same.”

Let’s shift over to some household issues. Many people grow up and dream of getting out on their own, getting married, and starting a family. It’s a normal part of life. The opposite is true: if you have grown children that never want to leave the house, that’s abnormal. I’m not talking about arrangements of convenience or mutual benefit. I’m talking about no plans, no ambition, and no desire that can lead to issues. We start with the parent son relationship. “A foolish son is destruction to his father.” We saw the foolish son causing grief to his mother in 10:1 and to his father in 17:25. We saw the foolish man despising his mother in 15:20. In 17:21 we saw there’s no joy in being the father of a fool. Now he’s causing destruction to his father. Have you ever wished you never had children? Do you wish that they could be shipped off somewhere? Children were meant to be a joy and a blessing. Do you wonder if and when they will stop causing such sorrow in your life? All of these feelings fall under the umbrella of what Solomon is talking about. Even after they move out of the house and began life on their own, they can cause problems. No matter how old you get or they get, you’ll always be a parent.

Have you ever thought about the importance of relationships? Well, Solomon has and he shifts over to the second most important relationship in this world. Outside of the relationship with Jesus Christ, the husband wife relationship is the most important relationship you’ll be engaged in. As equally troubling, Solomon says, “The contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.” You may have heard this verse quoted before. It seems like a departure from the last thing he said about wives: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” (Pro. 18:22) We’re talking about a contentious wife here. Contentions are quarrels, arguments, disagreements, or controversies. Solomon’s talking about bickering and fighting between husband and wife and he’s not talking once in a while. There are certain things that are not up for discussion in the home. How you hang the toilet paper or paper towels. What type of peanut butter or coffee to buy. The relationship Solomon refers to is a continuous struggle and it seems he’s directing this at the woman. No matter the time or day of the week, this woman makes it unsettling and uneasy to be around her.

It’s a, “constant dripping.” Have you ever tried to think or sleep with a dripping faucet? The longer you are in silence, the louder it gets? Not long ago, our ice maker began making a knocking sound. That refrigerator is about as far away from our bedroom as it can be. With our door shut, it sounded like a hammer against concrete and it got louder and louder and louder until I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got out of bed and disassembled it until the noise stopped. It was irritating, it got under my skin, I couldn’t think about anything else except how annoying the noise was. That’s what Solomon is talking about. Continual strife in the home. Bickering, arguing, snarky comments, purposeful antagonizing make that an unpleasant place to be. So what’s the solution? It’s the same one you’ve heard before. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” (Eph. 5:25) All of us need to get out of the business of trying to change other people. You be the person God is transforming you to be and pray that you’ll be able to demonstrate the same love, grace, and mercy that has been bestowed upon you. Impossible? No. Easy? Doubtful, but it should get easier as you grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God. Solomon talks more about problematic wives in Chapters 21 and 27.

He continues the domestic angle in the next verse. “House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” Notice the wifely contrast from the previous verse. This verse refers to the ancient practice of arranged marriages. Believe it or not, arranged marriages are still common in India, Pakistan, Japan, China, and in Israel among orthodox Jewish communities. In order to make it more attractive to potential husbands, dowries were offered. The bigger the dowry, the better quality husband to be attracted for marriage. No matter how big the estate or dowry, “A prudent wife is from the Lord.” Prudent means acting with care and concern for the future. The prudent wife makes the best of everything. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “A marriage made in heaven?” A prudent wife is more valuable than a big house and great wealth. The most important factor in marriage is dedication to God and His Son. Show me a wife that earnestly follows Christ, and I’ll show you a woman that will stick it out in difficult situations, that will demonstrate love and respect for her husband, that will not nag him to death, that will not drive him out of the house. Show me a prudent wife, and I’ll show you a husband that is blessed beyond measure. Show me a prudent wife, and I’ll show you a husband that should praise the Lord and thank Him for His goodness. If we would be more patient and trusting, the Lord would provide that person in our life.

Verse 15 is nothing new. “Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger.” Solomon has little patience for laziness. “How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” (Pro. 6:9) “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.” (Pro. 6:10) and that exact verse is repeated in Pro. 24:33. Laziness seems to be rampant these days. Idleness seems to be rewarded. That’s totally contrary to the work ethic mandated for followers of Christ. “Laziness casts into a deep sleep.” When you’re lazy, you fall asleep and dream. You accomplish nothing. When you’re idle, you’re not working. If you’re not working, you’re not earning money. If you’re not earning money, you can’t buy food. If you can’t buy food, you will be hungry. It is as simple as that. I always scratch my head at people that are unemployed and when you tell them about a job, they say they don’t want to do that kind of work. If you’re able to work and you’re too lazy to work, shame on you.

Obedience is a good thing. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (Jo. 14:15) I don’t know of any better way to demonstrate your love and commitment to Christ than to be obedient to His teachings. Solomon knew this and that’s why he says, “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul.” Keeping God’s commands is a really good thing to do. We don’t do it to earn our way to heaven; we’re obedient because we defer to God’s plan and to His will. Back in Pro. 13:13, we saw, “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” In Luke 11, Jesus had cast out a demon from a mute man and after the demon was gone, the mute man was able to speak. The Pharisees told the people that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus explained about demons and about a divided house and the teaching was so incredible that, “One of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Lu. 11:27-28) This woman was praising Jesus’ mother for giving birth to Him, and Jesus turns it around into obedience. It’s not good enough just to listen to the Word of God. You can hear the Word day in and day out, but if you don’t take it to heart and follow what the Word says, are you really hearing it?

Don’t misunderstand what Solomon is saying. “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul.” This is not a works based faith. Apart from Christ, you’re not able to keep the commandments of God. Solomon is talking about walking the walk that you talk. He’s talking about walking the path of righteousness. When you follow the commands of God, the principles found in Scripture, the teachings of Jesus, and the teachings of the prophets, you will keep your soul. The opposite is also true. If you ignore the teachings of the Bible, you will die. Make no mistake about it, everyone has eternal life. That eternal life is either present with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit or separated from the Trinity for eternity.

Our last verse for today: “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed.” This goes hand in hand with Jesus’ words when He said, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matt. 25:40) Essentially, if you want to help someone in the name of Jesus, God will bless you in whatever way He deems appropriate.

It is not good to be on the receiving end of a lion’s roar. If you consistently do what is pleasing to the Lord, you’ll find yourself as refreshed as the morning dew. Solomon moved over and talked about domestic relations. It’s tough to have a foolish son – in fact it can destroy a father. Constant wifely nagging is like a dripping faucet: it can drive you out of your mind. Having a wife is a good thing, but finding a prudent woman is a gift from God. Don’t be lazy – it can lead to hunger. We finished by talking about keeping the commands of God. It is probably the primary indicator of an authentic relationship with God. If you do a good deed in the name of Jesus to help someone, God will reward your actions; we don’t know if it will happen here, but it will definitely happen in eternity.

Joy is what the Doctor Ordered

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Last week Solomon said that if wisdom could be bought, the fool doesn’t have enough sense to make the purchase. The fool has no capacity for wisdom. We talked about real friendship – don’t confuse friendship with acquaintances. Real friends are hard to come by; developing true friendship takes time and effort. Fools are also bad with money. They don’t understand how financial issues can come between people. Someone that loves sin loves to argue. Know when to remain silent and don’t start arguments for the sake of arguments. You can’t choose how your children will turn out so do the best to raise your kids in a godly home because no parent likes to have a fool for a child. This morning, Solomon starts out with a very familiar passage of Scripture.

Pro. 17:22-25 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice. Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.”

We have all experienced this first verse. This Scripture is often written on the walls in hospitals, even in this day and age. “A joyful heart is good medicine.” KJV translates it, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” I think it’s a verse that is frequently taken out of context. Some have taken it to mean that if you are sick, laughter is the best medicine. If you’ve ever been sick, you can see how that’s kind of a dumb thing to say. I can just see the mom as the child is throwing up, “Come on, just laugh and you’ll feel better.” Solomon is not saying laugh yourself to happiness. He’s not saying if you just laugh about it, everything will be all right. This verse has nothing to do with illness. If you’re sick, go to a doctor. They can give you medicine if appropriate. Solomon is not suggesting laughing off an illness under some veiled idea of spirituality. This is a metaphor and you know Solomon loves using metaphors. There is only one way to get the joy of the Lord. Paul said in Eph. 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” These gifts are from the Spirit of God.  You don’t have to pray for them or work for them; they’re a gift from God because of your relationship with Christ. If you have a genuine faith in Christ, you have these gifts. We have made joy and happiness synonymous in today’s language, but they really are different and that’s what Solomon is talking about. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances. It was way easier to be happy before my wife Kari was diagnosed with cancer. It’s way easier to be happy when people are not criticizing me. It’s way easier to be happy when everyone follows Scripture, listens to every word I say, and then actually lives it out in life. It’s way easier to be happy when everything is going great. Solomon is talking about something way deeper than that.

Joy comes from knowing who Jesus is. I’m not talking about a head knowledge, but knowing Jesus personally and intimately. It means a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that results in a transformed heart, soul, and mind. Rom. 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” That is the joy of the Lord. Your heart is not addicted to sin. There have been drugs developed to help kick drug habits. We have methods to assist in quitting smoking – you put a patch on your arm and it weens you off of nicotine. That’s not quite what Paul is talking about though. There is no tapering off from sin. You don’t ween yourself from sin. God transforms your heart in a manner that you aren’t a slave to sin – you don’t have to do what it says. The joy of the Lord gives you the ability to focus on God and not on circumstances. Yes, that can be difficult to do, but not impossible. That joy is soul healing just like the medicine prescribed by the doctor provides healing to your physical body. Pro. 15:13 says, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” A different, healthier perspective is that everything going on in the world today that leads to heart sickness can be cured by knowing who is on charge. I think we need to continually remind ourselves that God’s got this. This world is not our home, so don’t think too highly of it. One day this will all pass away. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” What can break your spirit? Think about guilt, fear, doubt, resentment, bitterness. A broken spirit dries up the bones. This is still a metaphor for the body. If you remove the moisture from your bones, they become brittle and are susceptible to breaking. The bone marrow that produces blood cells dries up. When your bones dry up, life is destroyed. To tidy it all up, having a cheerful disposition can positively impact your overall health while having a depressed spirit will do just the opposite. In 1988, a singer named Bobby McFerrin won the song of the year Grammy. The lyrics for that song included a verse that goes like this: “In your life, expect some trouble, when you worry you make it double, don’t worry, be happy, be happy now.”

Solomon takes the time to clarify bribery. In Pro. 17:8 Solomon told us a bribe works like magic. Here he says, “A wicked man received a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice.” We know from the previous verse about bribes that they are biblically wrong and they are illegal, so this is an easy one. The wicked man here likely refers to a judge or someone that has been called to testify in a legal case. Ex. 23:8 says, “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.” When someone lies to officials and especially in a court of law, the wheels of justice grind to a halt. Court cases rely on the oath administered to people that testify and those witnesses swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help them God. Justice becomes perverted when that does not happen. Justice moves away from what is right and true and so it is not justice. There are so many things we deal with every day that rely on our basic ability to be truthful. What time we get to work in the morning or when we leave at the end of the day. Did you properly cite the sources for that paper you wrote or that project you worked on. That maintenance item you were required to do at the job. When the officer stops you for speeding and asks you, “Do you know how fast you were going?” and you reply that you don’t know. If you can be influenced to shade the truth or not tell the whole story, or be vague in an answer – this is what Solomon is saying. He mentions a, “bribe from the bosom.” This refers to where the bribe comes from. The bribe is prepared and hidden away in a place not normally used for holding money. Back in Solomon’s day, money was typically kept in a money pouch or bag. Judges generally were not paid so men that lacked integrity could sometimes be influenced to rule in less than honorable ways. This perverts the whole system of justice and it can still happen today.

I love this next verse. Solomon knows no bounds when it comes to describing the fool. He says, “Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.” Understanding and wisdom go hand in hand. You can’t have wisdom without understanding. You can’t have understanding without knowledge. Here’s the idea. The man who has understanding looks toward wisdom. The source of wisdom is God. The wise person knows and understands that it’s all from God. Without God, there is folly and foolishness. Without God, there is emptiness. Without God, there is nothing. “The eyes of the fool are on the ends of the earth.” There’s no focus, no direction, no ambition, no goals. Whatever will be, will be. He pursues meaningless endeavors and misses out on the most important thing in eternity. He lacks the fundamental capacity to follow God. Please understand, God has not chosen people for eternal foolishness. 2 Pet. 3:8-10 says, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” Peter is talking to believers being impatient toward the second coming. God doesn’t want anyone to die separated from Him and that includes fools. The fool thinks there’s a tomorrow; the fool thinks that he has time; the fool says it doesn’t matter; the fool says it’s no big deal; the fool says if there is a hell, it’s going to be a big party and I can’t wait to be there with all my friends. That’s all absolute nonsense. If the fool would just open his ears and open his heart and fear God for who He is, then and only then can the foolishness be driven from him. Apart from an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, foolishness will always be a part of a fool.

From fathers to mothers. We just saw in Pro. 17:21 that having a fool for a son brings no joy for the father. It’s bad for the mom too. Solomon says, “A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.” So a dad has no joy when it comes to a foolish son, and now you can add grief. According to 10:1, the mom already has grief and she can add bitterness to that. What’s curious about this verse is that bitterness toward other Christians is condemned throughout the New Testament. One of the passages that probably comes to mind is found in Eph. 4:31-32 where Paul says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Paul is talking to the church at Ephesus so he’s talking to believers interacting with other believers. So what is Solomon saying about a mom that has a fool for a son? That’s a great question that I will answer from Matt. 26. During the last supper, Jesus was telling His disciples that one of them would betray Him. I am sure this caused some very heated and confused conversations among them and Peter concluded, “Even though many will fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” (Matt. 26:33) Perhaps you know the Master’s response when He told Peter, “Truly I say to you that this very night before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times . . . [Peter responds by saying] even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You. All the disciples said the same thing too.” (Matt. 26:35-36) I give you this background because it happened just as Jesus said. When you read the end of Chapter 26, you find Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. The very instant Peter denied Christ the third time, a rooster crowed. Matt. 26:75, “And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” This is the bitterness that the mom of a fool feels. It is a desperate sorrow, pain, and despondency. That’s the heartache felt collectively by the parents of fools.

Joy and laughter are not necessarily joined together. Joy can’t be bought; it is delivered at the moment of our spiritual birth, but we do need to develop that joy which serves as life giving spiritual medicine for our soul. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances; joy is from Jesus and knowing who He is. Solomon clarified bribery and it’s still wrong and undermines the foundation of justice. Wise people have understanding which serves to help keep them focused. Fools are driven by the shifting winds of whatever suits their fancy. Finally, we saw that having a fool for a child is vexing for the father and the mother. No parent wants to raise a fool and the only way to minimize that chance is to continue to Deuteronomy 6 your kids.

Can Wisdom be Bought?

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Last week Solomon gave us a great word picture about dealing with a fool. It’s better to deal with an angry momma bear than it is to deal with a fool. When you have the supernatural love of Christ, forgiveness should come easier and easier for us, but forgiveness does not mean that there won’t be consequences. Don’t repay evil for good. The best way to win an argument with a fool is to not start one. People that justify the actions of the wicked or condemn the actions of the righteous are both an abomination to the Lord. This morning, Solomon starts with a rhetorical question.

Here’s what Pro. 17:16-21 says, “Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, when he has no sense? A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A man lacking in sense pledges and becomes guarantor in the presence of his neighbor. He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction. He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil. He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy.”

If you weren’t sure where Solomon stands, he makes it clear here. This verse is hilarious to me, “Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, when he has no sense?” I can hear Solomon’s voice go up when he asks this. This is just like a fool. If wisdom could be bought, which it can’t, would the fool be standing in line to get it? He’s too foolish to know that he lacks wisdom. The phrase “he has no sense” literally means there is no heart. The heart is the center of one’s being; it is the seat of emotion. In Lu. 24:25 Jesus said to His disciples, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” Jesus was saying the slow of heart don’t get what the prophets are saying. You’ve experienced this too, I am sure. You’ve heard the expression he has no heart or he’s heartless. That normally is attributed to someone that has no capacity for empathy or understanding. That’s what Solomon is saying. The fool has the money in his hand to buy wisdom, but lacks the capacity to actually obtain wisdom. While true biblical wisdom can only be found from God, biblical wisdom is available from godly parents, church leaders, pastors, as well as your common, garden variety, authentic believer. The only problem with that is the fool has no capacity for it and that’s what Solomon is saying. The very thing needed for a fool to become not a fool – wisdom – is unattainable because of his heart. So can one become biblically wise? Pro. 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” so if a fool decides to put down his foolish ways and follow God, yes it’s not only possible, it’s expected.

What exactly is unconditional love? You’ve heard me say often that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Solomon says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” The Beatles got by with a little help from their friends. The Rembrandts sang “I’ll be there for You” on a show called, “Friends.” Bette Midler told her BFF that she was, “The Wind beneath My Wings.” James Taylor said, “Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend.” Queen said, “You’re My Best friend.” Michael W. Smith said that, “Friends are Friends Forever.”

Solomon is talking about real friendship. How do you know you have real friends? Pro. 18:24 says, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” I think we often confuse acquaintances with friends. How do you define a real friend? You’ve heard the phrase a friend in need is a friend indeed. Real friends will stick by you no matter what. Real friends will tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear. Real friends are there and you don’t have to ask them to be. Real friends call you and don’t want anything. Real friends don’t have expectations. Real friends are generally not those listed as friends on Facebook. In my estimation, if you have one, two, or three real friends, you’re doing well. I think many people shy away from developing true friendships because that means opening up to one another.  It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to develop trust. Notice Solomon says, “A friend loves at all times.” Love here is a verb – it’s an action word. This love is a demonstration of the strong and lasting bonds of true friendship. When that occurs, Solomon concludes that, “A brother is born for adversity.” Adversity means difficulty or misfortune. When troubles come, the friend is there. When adversity strikes, the friend is there. When tragedy occurs, the friend is there. You can’t run off a real friend.

Here’s some more foolishness. “A man lacking sense pledges and becomes a guarantor in the presence of his neighbor.” In Pro. 6:1 Solomon warned against being surety for your neighbor. In Pro. 11:15 he warned against being surety for a stranger. Solomon just said that a real friend is born for adversity, but that doesn’t mean covering someone else’s debt. That’s the meaning here. It’s a third party – a friend of a friend. Realistically, the fool doesn’t know how to biblically use money and certainly doesn’t understand how monetary dealings between friends can complicate relationships. The wise person doesn’t allow himself to be trapped like that and the good friend doesn’t even bring it up. “He who loves transgression loves strife.” Transgression means sin, plain and simple. Strife means angry or bitter disagreement. I don’t know anyone with good sense that enjoys strife. I guess the caveat is good sense. Strife can result from disagreeing about the truth. There are some really hot topic issues out there that people get instantly insane about. Bathrooms, animal rights, global warming, school prayer, and politics immediately come to mind. There are folks that want to talk about these and other issues, but it’s not really a discussion, it’s a diatribe. Fewer and fewer people are actually willing to sit down and hear a biblical perspective on an issue and this is exacerbated by people that are unwilling to study something out for themselves preferring to pick up what is put out on social media or the most popular blogs. Still others make the point that they don’t want to rock the boat; they don’t want to stir up what they call trouble. I’ve been that guy pleading with other believers in the room to help me out in a discussion and take up the mantle of biblical truth only for those others to avert their eyes.

I’m not suggesting that we go around starting arguments with other people, but I am suggesting that we become secure in our faith in order to defend what we believe in and why when the opportunity presents itself. “He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction.” That’s a strange combination isn’t it? “Raises his door” is a metaphor for opening the mouth. Transgression and strife generally go hand in hand. One of the problems with people that talk too much is they tend not to know when it’s best to remain silent. Strife can lead to a host of biblical problems. Anger, bitterness, doubt, resentment, discontentment. Solomon assumes this isn’t going on in the life of the believer, but it is happening in the life of a fool. We’ve seen some really anti-Christian behavior so far in this series and those behaviors shouldn’t be part of the life of the authentic believer. We’re not talking momentarily losing your mind and doing something that dishonors God; we’re talking this is the way it is in your life. We need to continuously be growing in the area of our behavior. It’s incomprehensible to the writers of Scripture for us not to become more and more like Jesus. It’s a process that occurs each and every day. Strife will come into our lives, but let’s not be the source of it.

One last one for today. “He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.” This is another written for today. Crooked means bent or twisted. I’m sure you’ve talked with people like this. You wonder how in the world they can think the way they think. You ask yourself, “Where do they come up with this stuff?” Yes, this also happens in the church. People saying the Bible says something that it does not. People quoting things they’ve heard in church that have no biblical basis. You’ve heard hate the sin, love the sinner. More and more people are defining themselves by their sin. We should hate sin – God hates sin and has given us a list of things He hates along with numerous biblical principles regarding sin. What’s curious though is we seem to be ready to hate the sin in everyone else’s life, yet are not so quick to hate when it comes to our own life. Hating sin is falling out of favor in society today. Have you heard, this too shall pass? It likely has some beginning in Matt. 24:35 that says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” We generally say this during times of trouble or grief. Not everything in our lives passes. Sometimes heartache lasts a lifetime.  How about, God just wants me happy? He’s not against your happiness, but He’s more concerned with your holiness. What about cleanliness is next to godliness? I’m not even sure why we say this. Is it to try and get kids to wash their hands before they eat? I don’t know many kids that care about being godly so it’s kind of silly. Parents, just whoop your kids if they don’t obey. There are others and you might think, what’s the big deal. The only source of absolute truth is the Bible and God provided His word as a testimony of Him, as a manual for life, as the basis for all that we know about what really matters. Some of these sayings are paraphrases of biblical truth and others are total heresy. Even if a catchphrase is encouraging or edifying, if it isn’t in the Bible, we can’t guarantee it’s the Word of God. The only way we’ll know for sure is to study the Bible for ourselves.

In another obvious statement, Solomon says, “He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy.” No one can pick what kind of child they have. When a child chooses to go his own way and ignore the teachings of his father, sorrow will follow. Remember that Solomon is speaking from his perspective – the perspective of a God fearing man. Lifelong sorrow in our life can come as a result of the decisions of our children. While all of our children can make foolish decisions, “The father of a fool has no joy.” None. Zero. Nada.

We began this morning saying that if wisdom could be bought, the fool doesn’t have enough sense to make the purchase. The fool has no capacity for wisdom. We talked about real friendship – don’t confuse friendship with acquaintances. Real friends are hard to come by; developing true friendship takes time and effort. Fools are also bad with money. They don’t understand how financial issues can come between people. Someone that loves sin loves to argue. Know when to remain silent and don’t start arguments for the sake of arguments. You can’t choose how your children will turn out so do the best to raise your kids in a godly home because no parent likes to have a fool for a child.