Tags: Biblical companionship, Biblical friendship, Biblical Parenting, Christian friendship, Christian parenting, destruction, parenting, peer pressure, Proverbs 13, wisdom
Such are some of the worldly cautions about carefully and wisely choosing your friends. The Bible says it like this:
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
The Lord tells us to “walk with” wise men. This is obviously not a reference to the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other. It is a reference to those with whom we spend time on a daily basis, and with whom we form bonds of friendship. We are to join ourselves to friends who are “wise,” and those who are truly wise are those who follow the teachings of God found in the Bible.
The consequences of ignoring Proverbs 13:20 are dire. Those who fall in with a company of fools are not promised a period of trial-and-error, or even a second chance. The outcome of making a wrong decision about our friends is “destruction,” and destruction, in the Bible, is a thing that may come suddenly, without warning. Destruction speaks of finality and utter obliteration. It is a serious warning.
For those of us with junior high or high school aged children, we need to be especially careful of modern Christendom’s “youth group” or “teen ministry” mentality, which says that children (characterized in the Bible as “simple” or “foolish”) need to find their primary sense of belonging with others of their own age. The children which God has entrusted to our care need to “walk with” and learn from men and women of “wisdom:” those who have reached a level of Christian maturity that causes them to base their attitudes and actions on Scriptural principles and precepts.
Tags: attributes of God, Daniel 7, experience, old age, omniscience, Proverbs 16, Proverbs 20, senility, senior citizens, wisdom
There are two competing schools of thought about old age:
1. We need to give great deference to the elderly. Those that have lived long lives have acquired, through the mere passage of time if nothing else, great experience and therefore wisdom. They should be listened to, and even respected and revered.
2. Old people are doddering and confused. Biological studies show that the human brain starts to break down and malfunction with the onset of senior citizenry. Furthermore, they are old-fashioned and out of step with modern ways. Besides, time does not automatically equal wisdom, and younger people tend to be brighter, with newer fresher ideas. Old folks ought to be pitied and treated kindly and condescendingly, but not looked to as major sources of wisdom.
The truth is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, but personally I tend to skew much more toward the former view than the latter. Also, the first school of thought is much closer to the Bible’s teachings concerning the elderly.
For example, King David’s treatment of Barzillai in II Samuel 19:331-19 is a positive example of respect shown toward the elderly, and the fifth Word of the Decalogue, by extension, commands us to honor those who make up the preceding generations of our families and nation.
The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.
The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head.
One idea we need to be exceedingly clear about, however, is the reference to God Himself as the “Ancient of Days.”
I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
There is a sense in which the triune God is the “oldest” Being in all of existence. This is obvious, because He is the Creator of everything else, and nothing could exist before or apart from His sustaining and eternal power. In the case of God, we can make a clean break concerning our ideas of old age as a benefit or a detriment, because although God (as the saying goes) “has been around forever,” He is not getting any “older” or “aged” in the way we think of those terms, nor is it in anywise possible that any of His faculties, including His omniscience and wisdom, could ever be dulled or diminished in the slightest. It is especially important to remember these facts when we see God depicted as a white-bearded old man in popular Christian and religious art. Do not be deceived. God is the source of all wisdom, and He has gained none of this wisdom through experience, nor through the passage of time. He is as brilliant, smart, wise, knowledgeable, intelligent, timeless, eternal, and perfect now as He ever has been and ever will be. As one of my friends once told me, “Just because they call Him the Ancient of Days, it doesn’t mean He’s old.”
Tags: complications, contention, difficult life, good advice, humility, James 3, James 4, pride, Proverbs 13, wisdom
Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.
Contention is fussing and fighting. It’s squabbling and not getting along. It usually breeds things like gossip and revenge and unforgiveness and pettiness and loss of friendships and a bad testimony and wasting time. It complicates our lives in areas where they should be simple. Instead of helping us to love and serve others, it forces us to try to one-up them, or to show them that we don’t have to put up with something from them, or to manipulate them, or to try to get the last word, or to break off friendships and relationships, and to waste and end opportunities to glorify God in those relationships.
From where does contention come? From pride, of course. The “only” in Proverbs 13:10 can be read in two ways:
(1) Contention only comes by pride in the sense that it doesn’t come from anything else. Pride is the ultimate cause or source of all contention.
(2) “Only” a little bit of pride will bring contention. In other words, the least little influence of pride makes a big stink.
Your friendship is going good, and all of a sudden you perceive yourself as being slighted. “So what?” you ask. Then you think, “What do I mean ‘so what?’ This is me we’re talking about. I don’t have to take that. Nobody does that to me.” And – boom! – you’ve got contention where there used to be peace and blessings and love and friendship.
Here is the contrast (which is a common device in Proverbs): “But…” with the well-advised there is wisdom – meaning that it’s smart to not be contentious. So how do we short-circuit the pride that brings it? By being well-advised. By taking advice from the Bible (the best) or from someone who is well-versed (pun intended) in Biblical knowledge (second best).
This also works in a two-fold way:
(1) The Bible will destroy your pride.
(2) The mere act of seeking advice is humbling and therefore pride-crippling, because it means admitting you need help from someone else.
When we get that stinging feeling which comes from our perception that someone has hurt our pride, we have options. We can do what we were taught to do in the past, but this is usually a mistake. We can do whatever just seems best in our own minds, but this is almost always a bad idea. We can just do what everyone else (the world) is doing, but that is really the worst thing we could do. Or we can be teachable and humble and get ourselves well-advised before we decide how we’re going to think, act, and treat that other person when they go off-script and don’t treat us how we think we deserve to be treated.
Let’s be wise, not contentious. Let’s be humble, not proud.
(By the way, I can’t technically prove it, but I personally believe that James 3:13 – 4:10 is a New Testament exposition of Proverbs 13:10.)
Tags: Biblical wisdom, Cinco de Mayo, Cinco de Mayo Bible lessons, folly, foolishness, Psalm 5, sin, wisdom, workers of iniquity
We tend to think of foolishness as childishness or silliness: frivolous behavior that does not meet the standard of wisdom, but is ultimately harmless. I used to have a middle school teacher who would light-heartedly admonish the students whispering in the back of the classroom to “stop actin’ a fool!” God, however, takes a much more serious view of foolishness.
The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
We must all seem extremely foolish to God when it comes to our intellectual capacities. After all, God is infinitely wise and omniscient, and there are times when we can barely remember where we put our keys! Here, though, as David the Psalmist prays to the Lord about his (and His) enemies, he is talking about a whole different level of folly.
You may note that the foolish men whom God will not allow to stand in His sight are sandwiched in the middle of verses that talk about God’s complete lack of pleasure in, and hatred for, the wicked, evil, and abhorrent.
You and I need to remember God’s passionate intolerance of sinful foolishness, and we need to especially remember it the next time we are tempted to gauge the seriousness of our sin by how silly, frivolous, or inconsequential it might seem to our biased minds. The Holy Spirit through David groups the “foolish” with those who “work” iniquity. Certainly God is judging us by our hearts, but our actions – those things in which we delight to participate – seem to be the best indicators of exactly what our hearts are embracing. Christians stand before God justified by the blood of Jesus, not by our works, but the application of that blood to our lives is supposed to result in holy living and sanctified functioning.
Tags: commentary on Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiastes 7, immanence of God, King Solomon, Sunday School lessons on Ecclesiastes, transcendence of God, wealth, wisdom, Would You Rather?
Have you ever played the game “Would You Rather?” The idea is to take two equally unpleasant propositions (or, in a variation, two equally desirable propositions), and force the contestant to choose one. At least that’s how it was played at recess when I was a kid. “Would you rather get hit square in the face with a Nolan Ryan fastball or slide down a giant razor blade into a pool of rubbing alcohol?” Gross, huh? Well, I like to use the basic concept of this game in thinking about Ecclesiastes Chapter 7.
Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun. For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
Would you rather have: wealth or wisdom?
They say that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but that, if you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. If we think of wisdom as only the means to acquire wealth, it might seem preferable to take the short cut and receive the wealth without the effort, but, according to the Bible, wisdom itself is the more valuable commodity. The caveat to the idea that learning to fish is better than receiving a free fish is: God is still the One Who provides the fish – and the rod – and the bait – and the water – and the strength to set the hook.
Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?
In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
Would you rather have problems or prosperity?
This is a no-brainer for most of us. However, in a previous lesson we did learn that problems are an inevitable part of life, and in some ways, they are extremely beneficial when facing an uncertain future. So the caveat to this one is: We have to accept adversity from God without getting bitter at God for sending it.
All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness. Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time? It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.
Would you rather have purity or pleasure?
As Christians we choose purity, which just so happens to contain real joy, which is far superior to temporal pleasure. But, again, there is a caveat: Beware of self-righteousness or pride.
For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
Would you rather have infamy or ignorance?
Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.
On the one hand, no one really relishes the idea of being ignorant, but on the other hand, do you really want to know what everyone is saying about you? Sometimes, they say, ignorance is bliss. Here is the caveat to this one: Only Christ can control our thoughts and tongues.
All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me. That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?
Would you rather have a God who is knowable or knowledgeable?
I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her. Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.
If you are a lady, you are probably not appreciating the smug satisfaction my sinful flesh is taking in knowing that at least Solomon found one man out of 1000 with some wisdom, while not finding a single woman! (Sorry, just kidding.) The fact is, we have a God who is both transcendent and immanent. We can never truly know the depths of His glory, nor His secret counsels, nor the fullness of His wisdom. Yet He has revealed Himself to us to a degree that allows us to know Him intimately. The caveat to this is: We must accept that we can never know as much as God, and, left to our own devices, we tend to go astray.
Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
Tags: Ecclesiastes 1, Jesus Christ, King Solomon, life and death, life cycle, monotony, vanity, wisdom, wisdom of Solomon
The common expression, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” is from the Bible.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
When God spoke the universe into existence, He created all the “matter” that exists today. Scientists have been able to discover that matter is made up of molecules. It’s kind of strange to think about, but these molecules have been around for a long time. The molecules that make up the water you drink today might be some of the same molecules that made up the water that Julius Caesar drank over 2000 years ago. Some of the cells in your body might be made up of some the same material that used to make up King Solomon’s body.
There is a joke about a group of scientists who came to God and said, “Well, God, we don’t need You any more – we can finally do what You can do. We can ‘create.’ We have invented a machine that can create anything we want. All we have to do is add dirt-”
“Hold on a minute,” said God. “Go get your own dirt.”
You are breathing air right now, and scientists have discovered a great deal about that air. They understand the elements that make it up and the way it behaves under certain circumstances. But no scientist provided the air you are breathing right now. You are breathing God’s air. He created it and He provides it, and He deserves the credit and the thanks for it. If He decides that your next breath is your last one, no scientist will be able to prevent that. There have been great advances in the field of cardiology, but your heart is not beating right now because a cardiologist created your heart or gave it the ability to pump blood. Your heart is beating under the power and supervision and control of God, and it had better be beating to His glory. He could stop it in an instant.
“Life is vanity” was the perspective of Solomon “under the sun.” “Vanity” is a key concept in Ecclesiastes. It is sometimes defined as “emptiness” or “vapor.” It is something that is insubstantial although it is still noticeable, like “wind.” In our day it is sometimes linked with the idea of arrogance or pride. We say that somebody who is “vain” is “stuck up,” or somebody who thinks she’s “all that,” with the implication being that she’s really nothing. There was a popular song by Carly Simon when I was a kid called “You’re So Vain” that exemplified this idea. Vanity can be something that causes a lot of consternation, but doesn’t amount to anything. One commentator on the Book of Ecclesiastes defined vanity as “what’s left after you pop a soap bubble.”
According to the “under the sun” viewpoint of King Solomon:
1. Life is vain because of its monotony. (Referring to the ordinary repetitiveness of life, not the board game where you collect $200 for passing “go.”)
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
How many days in your life do you really remember in detail? Probably a small percentage. You probably remember your wedding day, the days your children were born, the day you hit a game-winning home run, but overall you only remember a small percentage of the days of your life, because so many of them are so much alike. Even fewer are the days of your life which stand out in the memory of other people. However, we do remember some “historical” dates – dates on which famous people did important things. This is one reason why man – even man “under the sun” – is different from the beasts. We have personal histories.
Ecclesiastes reminds us that, although we are part of a “life cycle,” the life cycle always ends in death. They say that the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. [I would add two others: (1) If I leave my car windows down in a parking lot, it will rain before I get back; (2) If I change from a slow-moving lane of traffic into a faster-moving lane, the cars in front of me in that lane will immediately stop.]
The Lord Jesus miraculously broke into the “life cycle” of this planet – and into human history. He made it so that resurrection is possible. Life doesn’t have to end in death. You can be “born again.” Your life was put in motion with your first birth, but with a new birth you can start over – with a new destination.
According to Ecclesiastes, “under the sun:”
2. Life is vain because of the limits of wisdom.
Solomon was the wisest man in the world, but he could not equal God’s wisdom. In fact, Solomon’s wisdom was even God-given. The human race has been around for about 6000 years, and it is questionable whether we have really come up with any real solutions to any real problems – at least without a willingness to create even more problems. We desperately need God’s wisdom.
Tags: asking God, dumb questions, James 1, Jesus the Teacher, lacking wisdom, no dumb questions, prayer, Rabbi, raise your hand, students, teachers, teachers and students, upbraiding, wisdom, wisdom of God
In school, students are often taught to raise their hands if they have a question.
A good teacher understands that everything being taught is not understood by every student the first time it is spoken. Some students, however, are shy about asking questions, fearing that they will appear less intelligent to other students who already know the answer.
The axiomatic teacher’s platitude for this situation is, “Remember, students, there are no dumb questions.” While this sentiment may be encouraging for some, most of us remember, at one time or another, being mocked or scorned by a teacher for asking a question to which everyone else already knew the answer.
The Lord Jesus’s disciples sometimes called Him “Rabbi” (John 1:49; 6:25), which meant “Teacher,” but aren’t you glad that God is not like an earthly teacher? The Bible says that, when we do not know what to do, and even when we might feel dumb for not knowing, we need to ask God. He gives wisdom freely, and never shames us for asking.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Tags: Biblical child-rearing, child-rearing, gift ideas for children, Malachi 4, parenting principles, Proverbs 23, Romans 12, truth, understanding, wisdom
The Bible tells us of three things that parents should be for their children:
Be an enforcer.
Be an encourager.
Be an example.
It also tells us three things that parents should do for their children:
Pray for them.
Play with them.
Pay attention to them.
Now, let’s conclude by looking at what parents should buy for their children.
We are not talking about material things, although obviously parents should provide certain material things for their children. We are not even talking about things like paying medical bills, or paying for their education. Those things are good, and I understand that parents want to give their children all the things they didn’t have when they were growing up. But “thou shalt give thy children all the things that thou didst not have” is not a command from Scripture. In fact, the things that your children don’t have – the things that aren’t given to them – the things they have to work for themselves – may just be the very things that God uses to make them the kind of men or women God wants them to be.
The Bible tells us what parents should buy for their children – and what parents should teach children to buy for themselves.
Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
Now, I know that “the truth” is not really for sale, but what the proverb means is that there are some things worth sacrificing for in this life, and the truth is one of them. I can spend my time as a parent investing in worldly or material things, and my children will learn to do the same. Or, I can invest in eternal things, and “buy” for my children something much more valuable. “Buy the truth and sell it not.”
As one preacher warns, “Do not sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the immediate.” Good works done for Christ will last. Everything else is vanity, and will not last.
Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
From where does wisdom come? It comes from the Lord. Instruction is the obtaining of wisdom, and the application of truth. Understanding comes from knowing God and His Word. These things are so valuable that they are invaluable. They are worth too much to be traded for anything.
When we see a Bible verse like Proverbs 23:23, we can do one of two things. One thing will bring great blessings, and the other thing will bring a great deal of trouble.
We can say, “I know that’s the Bible, and that’s God’s Word, and I see now that what I’m doing is different from what God says. Therefore, I’m wrong, and God is right, and I must change.” This attitude stings, but it brings great blessings.
Or, we can say, “I know that’s what the Bible says, but I’ve got my own way of doing things. Besides, that verse couldn’t be for me because it would be impossible for me to do things differently from the way I’m doing them now. God will just have to understand. My kids are different. My work schedule is an exception. My financial situation is an exception. God will just have to give me a break on this one. I can provide for my kids on my own. They’ll have a place to live, they’ll have nice clothes, something to eat, they’ll be happy.”
By taking this attitude, we cut ourselves off from God’s help.
All parents need to know this about God’s will: God’s will is perfect.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
God will never command us to do something, and then make it impossible for us to do it. He will never ordain something for us in His providence, and hold us accountable for it, unless He has made it so that we can handle it.
Parents will give an account before God of what we did with our children, along with (and possibly even before) giving an account for our time, talent, resources, and even our ministries.
Dad: Are you the most faithful person in your household? Are you the one who insists that your family will not miss church unless it’s absolutely necessary? Are you leading the way in Bible study, in prayer, in worship, in personal holiness?
As a father, on the day of accountability, I will not be able to say, “But Lord, I needed to earn more money to give to missions. I needed to spend more time with my friends – I was trying to get them to come to church.”
If “my” children, who are really “His” children, are lonely, needing affection, needing their father, needing somebody to protect them and keep them from going astray, I will answer to God for that.
When I do anything right as a father, I have to admit that the Holy Spirit gets the credit. But if I mess up, that’s on me. The truth is, I will do more right on accident while being led by the Spirit, than I will do on purpose leaning on my own understanding. However, that is not an excuse for me to just sit back, do my own thing, and trust that the Lord will fill in for me when I’m not on the job, leading my family. God is sovereign, but it may well be that, in His sovereignty, He has ordained me to be the means by which He protects and blesses my children.
The last two verses in the Old Testament are Malachi Chapter 4, Verses 5 and 6: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
The next time you’re out in public, take a moment to really look at the kids you see. I know we don’t judge people strictly by their outward appearance, but when you see the wildly spiked, multicolored hair – when you see the bizarre-looking piercings and tatoos – when you truly can’t figure out if some of the kids are boys or girls – see if you do not agree that today the hearts of children are turned away from their fathers like never before. I may be wrong, but I think the devil knows that the great and terrible day of the Lord – the day of the return of Elijah – is getting near. I think he’s doing everything he can to turn children’s hearts away from their parents.
My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
We must teach our children to keep constant watch on their attitude, actions, and acquaintances.
Tags: child-rearing, devotions, God time, prayer for children, prayer principles, principles for parents, Psalm 115, Psalm 127, time management, wisdom
A while back, I pointed out three things from the Bible that parents should be for their children: Be an encourager; be an enforcer; be an example.
This time, I want to talk about three things parents should do for their children.
No. 1: Pray for your kids.
When you pray for your children, pray for their safety.
[A Song of degrees for Solomon.] Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
I can think of numerous times that God protected my children from danger when I wasn’t around to do it.
Pray for your children to have wisdom.
No. 2: Play with your kids.
Lectures are good. Bible study devotions are good. But one of the greatest areas of training is just in day to day living. Take some time out – spend time with your children. There should not be a difference between “God time” and “real life” in our families. With God’s help, you can make a Bible lesson out of swimming in a lake, hitting a softball, or teaching a teen-aged child how to drive a car.
I have had the chance to visit with a few people on their death beds. These people did not wish they had worked more overtime. They did not wish they had killed one more deer, or caught a bigger bass. They did not wish they had done a better job mowing their grass to keep up with their neighbors. They wished they had spent more time with their kids.
The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.
God wants us to enjoy our children. Take the time to play with your kids.
No. 3: Pay attention to your kids.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of being too busy for our kids, but even easier to fall into the trap of not having the patience to listen to our kids. “Thanks, Honey, I’ll just stick that coloring sheet in my Bible and look at it later.”
When my patience is being tried by that long story about how Sally said her hair ribbon was yellow when my daughter knew it was really orange, I need to realize that, at that moment, this story is very important to her, and she needs to see that it is important to me, too.
How does God listen when I pray? Is He bored, and wishing I would wrap it up? No, He hears my prayer about finding a parking space just like He hears my prayer that my friend will be healed from cancer.
Dad, it may take fifteen minutes to teach your son how to pull nails with a hammer under your careful supervision, when it would only take you two minutes to do the whole job by yourself. But how excited will your son be the next day, when he tells his friends about it? What will he learn in fifteen minutes about hard work, about being careful, about a dad who’s willing to help him feel like a little man?
What parents should be for their children: Encouragers, Enforcers, Examples.
What parents should do for their children: Pray, Play, and Pay attention.
Next time: What to buy for your kids.