Listen, my child, and be wise,
and guide your heart on the right way.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this theme that runs through the whole book of Proverbs. It has to do with speaking and not speaking. The one who speaks too much, they’re a fool. But the one who listens, the one who doesn’t just say whatever comes to his head, he is wise. It’s almost as if, in this one little sentence, we get a clue into the way to be wise. Listening. Listen, and you will be wise. You’ll at least have a better chance of it. If you don’t, you’ll prove for certain that you aren’t wise.
I’ve had so many interactions and relationships that have proven this to be true. The person who says too much, will eventually say too much.
The next phrase is also interesting. Guide your heart. How often do you think of guiding your heart? We’re very familiar with the phrase, “guard your heart.” But, have you ever thought about guiding your heart?
If you haven’t tried to guide your heart, there’s a good chance you’re in a world of hurt right now. When you don’t guide your heart, but you instead let your heart guide you, things don’t go well for you.
Human beings are complex individuals. We have a body, a mind and a heart. And I’m not convinced yet that the heart and spirit are the same thing. Our body does some things on its own, like digesting food and beating our heart. Our mind does some of those things for us, but we also have the ability to control parts of our mind to do other things. And then there is our heart. Our heart adds the flavor to everything. Our heart is what gives us our passion. Our heart is what gives us love. Our heart is the one thing that can easily derail our mind and our body.
If we don’t guide our heart, our heart will mislead us. Our heart will take us to places we never wanted to go.
Jeremiah 17:9 says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
So, guide your heart. Don’t let your heart control you. Instead, be in control of your heart. Lead your heart on the right way. And you will be wise.
Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but rather be zealous in fearing the Lord all the time.
For surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.
I’m a do it once kind of a guy. I don’t like to go back and do things twice, so I do my best to make sure I’m doing them right the first time. I figure, it’s better to spend a little more time doing it the first time than it is to have to come back and do the whole thing over again. Some of this is born out of laziness, and I know that’s not a good thing. But, I don’t like to do things twice that should only be done once.
It’s easy to play the comparison game. Easy, but dangerous. Especially when we are envying people who have gotten ahead by cheating the system, by cutting corners and bending or breaking the rules. That’s a dangerous situation to get into. Easy, but dangerous.
They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day. And no, I’m sure it wasn’t. Doing things the right way takes time. There are things that have been done right that were done quickly, but for the most part, things done quickly don’t last. When people rush things, corners get cut and the rules get bent. And the end result is never as pleasing as it could have been. Because we had to get there quickly.
The real future, the kind of future that is worth getting to, is the one that you get to by going the right way. And the right way is by doing what is right, by taking your time and making sure the work you’re doing is worth being done. Otherwise, why bother with doing it at all.
When we play the comparison game, and compare our lives to the lives of those around us, it can drive us to want to start taking shortcuts to get ahead or at least catch up. But that is not who our hearts should envy.
Our hearts should envy God, and more of Him in our lives. For surely, in this – fearing the Lord – is where our future lies. Fearing the Lord is the right kind of future to build. Fearing the Lord is doing things right the first time. And when you do things right the first time, you’ll have a great future to look forward to. It’s not necessarily the easy way in the beginning, but it pays off in the end.
My child, if your heart is wise,
then my heart also will be glad;
my soul will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.
This verse resonates deep within my soul right now as a father. I do a lot of thinking about the kind of adults we are raising. I’m sure this is the case for many parents. If it’s not something you worry about it, you probably should start thinking about it. If you don’t come up with a plan, the chances of your kid growing into a great adult that makes tangible contributions to society aren’t very good. Good adults don’t happen by chance. Good adults happen because of good parenting.
But it can be something that causes a great deal of worry within the heart of a father or mother. “What kind of adult is my child going to grow up to be?”
As a parent, you see all the good and all the bad within your kid. You can see their strengths. But, you can also see their weaknesses. You know the areas they will succeed in, but you also know the areas that will be a struggle with them. And once you start to see some of their weaknesses, it’s really easy to let your mind play those out to their worst possible conclusion.
But, that doesn’t do much good. Worry is a motivator, but it’s not the best motivator. The best motivator is vision. Worry motivates out of fear. Vision motivates out of hope. When we are planning our children’s future, it should not be born out of worrying about the kind of person they are going to be. It should be born out of the kind of person we hope they will be.
When our parenting decisions are based around trying to keep our kids from becoming something bad, we’re just teaching them about things to avoid. We’re just teaching them about things not to do. We’re basically telling them all the places not to look.
When our parenting decisions are based around trying to move our kids toward a vision for their lives, we’re teaching them about the things they should move toward. We’re teaching about the things to do. We’re telling them where to look.
Telling you’re kids where to look is much better than trying to tell them all the places they shouldn’t look. There are countless things they shouldn’t do, and shouldn’t look at. So they will never be focused. They will never be determined. But, when we tell them where they should look, they can be focused. They can be determined. They can be driven.
So, what should the vision for our kids’ lives be? If nothing else, we should hope they will be wise. For them to be wise, we intentionally have to lead them toward being wise. It won’t happen by chance. Trust me, I’ve known so many old people who are not wise. Wisdom isn’t a given, it’s a pursuit.
As for me, when I grow old and gray, I hope I’m sitting around wondering how my kids got to be so wise.
When you gaze upon riches, they are gone,
for they surely make wings for themselves,
and fly off into the sky like an eagle!
Do not eat the food of a stingy person,
do not crave his delicacies;
for he is like someone calculating the cost in his mind.
“Eat and drink,” he says to you,
but his heart is not with you;
you will vomit up the little bit you have eaten,
and will have wasted your pleasant words.
I don’t think I have to put together a big, fancy argument to be able to convince you that riches are fleeting. I suppose someone might read this someday and think that their riches will never fade. I suppose there might be a day when the majority of people around you might be so secure in their finances that there is no doubt in their mind where their financial future lies. I suppose.
But, from where I sit today, I don’t think that’s the case. I heard a statistic the other day that the average worker is still earning approximately 20% less than they were in 2007. And since that was six years ago, it seems that many people will understand the truth of this proverb. When you gaze upon riches, they are gone. They make wings for themselves and fly off like an eagle.
Just like the eagle, many people I know watched their retirement accounts and savings account fly away like an eagle. People who had been working hard for many years all of a sudden had no income, no savings and no hope of any change. And it happened almost literally overnight. Actually, overnoon. Overnoon, everyone went from being concerned about their finances to being fairly certain they were now up a creek without a paddle. Overnoon, millionaires became thousandaires, thousandaires – hundredaires and hundredairs – broke. All overnoon.
This is how it is with money. Overnoon it’s gone. Overnoon it fades away. That’s why it’s important not to spend your life going after it. That’s why it’s important not to make everything revolve around it. Because, overnoon, it’s gone.
Now to the stingy person. For starters, yes, the bible does talk about being stingy and how it’s not a good thing. If you thought you were justified in being stingy, I’m sorry, but this proverb bursts your bubble. Stinginess is a bad thing. We are supposed to be generous with our resources, not hoard them like preppers.
It’s amazing just how stern this proverb is on the stingy person. It’s a waste of breath to even have conversation with a stingy person. You will have wasted your words. You shouldn’t eat the food offered to you from a stingy person because they’re doing the math in their head as to how much of their money you just ate.
It all goes back to having a proper perspective on money. When money starts trumping things, you’re in trouble. When money starts trumping people, you’re in big trouble. But how many people do you know who have let their stinginess ruin relationships? It’s not worth it. Money is so not worth all the fuss.
Do not wear yourself out to become rich;
be wise enough to restrain yourself.
As you may (or may not) recall, when I was in High School, I worked in a pizza shop. It was a great experience for me. I learned a lot about responsibility and diligence. I also learned about building relationships with lots of different kinds of people – most of whom didn’t spend much, if any time in church. It is one of the things that shaped me as a young adult. It’s also one of the reasons I recommend teens get a job.
There was a season, toward the end of my time there when things got busy. The place had been a pick-up and delivery store only. Then the owner bought an old store and converted it into a sit-down restaurant. It was a really busy time.
There was one thing that didn’t happen though. The owner didn’t hire any extra workers to step up to the new level of work we’d be doing. As a result, there were some of us who worked a lot when the store first opened. We’d work from 8 in the morning to 11 at night. And on weekends we’d work until midnight or 1 in the morning. We worked well over 120 hours that first or second week. As I recall I ended up working 139 hours that week.
On the way home from work on the last night of that crazy week, I decided to take a different way home. For some reason, I went out to the highway. And I fell asleep while I was driving. It just so happened that I fell asleep on the only straight stretch of that road. And I woke up just before the road turned. If I had gone home the other way and fallen asleep, I probably would have been going through an intersection or into someone’s house.
I wore myself out. I was burned. I did it to make some extra money to take with me to college. And while I am a proponent of working hard, there is a too hard. And when you’re killing yourself to get rich, you will never feel very rewarded. I remember getting my check that week. It was quite a bit bigger than normal. But, it wasn’t that big. And I remember feeling like I had given way more than I was being paid for. Those 139 hours were probably worth more with my family than I was getting reimbursed for.
And that’s the point. We have to be wise enough to restrain ourselves when we’re working. Yes, we should be diligent. Yes we should be wise with our money. But, we should also know when to restrain ourselves. We need to know when other things are more important. We need to know when we’re sacrificing something extremely important to get something that is worth very little.
If you’re working 139 hours a week, it’s probably time to restrain yourself from pursuing money and time to start pursuing the more important things in life. And it’s through wisdom that we understand the difference.
“When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
consider carefully what is before you,
and put a knife to your throat
if you possess a large appetite.
Do not crave that ruler’s delicacies,
for that food is deceptive.”
There’s a great scene in “The Office” shortly after the two branches merge. Andy has just come down to Scranton and it watching his co-workers from the Stamford branch quit or get fired.
“It’s like we’re touring Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and dropping off, one by one… Well, guess what? I’m not falling in a chocolate river.”
As I’m sure we all know, the whole point of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket charade was to test some kids in the hopes of finding someone who could replace him. He didn’t want to hire an adult because the adult would want to make candy their way not Willy’s way. As you the kids and their chaperone’s toured the factory, they each had the opportunity to try certain things. They also had the chance to see and observe things that weren’t for them to test. Things were put before them as a test, and if they partook of them, they failed.
Of course, all of them failed the tests but one, Charlie, and even he made a few mistakes. However, he passed the biggest test which is why he ended up getting everything.
This is how it was with King’s back in the day. They would bring people into their kingdoms to test them. Who knows what reasons they had. They may have wanted something. They may have wanted someone to owe them something so they could get something from them.
But imagine yourself in that situation. Imagine yourself touring Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and you have the opportunity drink from the chocolate river. Imagine you have the chance to drink fizzy lifting drinks. Imagine you have the opportunity to make a huge amount of money if you’ll sell a secret.
It’s tempting. Especially when it’s right there in front of you. When it’s within reach and you’re hungry, it’s tempting to want to reach out and take a bite of food.
It might not be food. It might be money, or a job offer. It might be a relationship or friendship. It might security or peace. But whatever is being put in front of you to get that thing very likely comes with consequences you’ll want nothing to do with.
But that isn’t just food. It’s a test. And as soon as you take that bite, you’ll instantly regret it. You’ll wish you could spit it back out. You may not actually turn blue and puff up like a blueberry, but you’ll feel like you are. And, you’ll feel just as ridiculous. Do whatever you have to do to restrain yourself. You’ll be glad you did.