A Father's Warning
Topic: English Passage: Proverbs 1:1-19
This morning we’ll be doing something a little bit different than we’ve done in the past. Rather than turning to John in your Bibles, we’re going to be looking at the book of Proverbs.
We’ll be in Proverbs 1 for a couple weeks, and I’ve decided that we’ll be coming back to Proverbs now and then, alternating it with John.
Also, just so you know, as I’ve been looking at our preaching calendar for the rest of the year, I’ve also decided to carve out 5 weeks to preach on the Reformation since this year is the 500th anniversary. But we’ll get to that sometime in the middle of October.
For now, open your Bibles to Proverbs chapter 1.
Read Passage: Proverbs 1:1-19
I don’t think it would be controversial to most of you if I said that this generation of young people are in serious trouble. Not simply from the world around them, but because of the decisions they make. We are in a culture that is absolutely failing at life. And the only people who would have a problem with that statement are the people stuck in it. That’s one of the worst parts. People are so far from God and righteousness and they don’t even know it. The results have been and will continue to be devastating.
Romans 12 gives us the instruction: “Do not be conformed to this world,” which implies that if you are not being intentional about fighting back against this world, you are being molded into it. And it can happen slowly and subtly.
It’s like the old story of the boiling frog. The water heats up so gradually that it never jumps out. So, it’s cooked to death before it knows what’s happening.
That may not be a true scientific fact, but we get the idea. Change can happen slowly, and before you know it you’ve got yourself in some major trouble.
Sometimes, you want to grab a young person and tell them right to their face: “Do you know how foolish you are? Do you know where this is all heading? Don’t you know that this will ruin your life?”
Every parent wants their kids to avoid a life that’s wasted or ruined because of poor choices and bad decisions.
So, for the benefit of the child, and the benefit of society, God has given each child a conscience. He’s also given them the truth of the Scriptures. But more immediate to a child, God has given them parents. And the duty of a parent is to train the child for life.
Another word for training is discipline. That’s basically the job description of a parent—train your child for life. How many of you have things you wish your parents would have better trained you for? I think we all do, once we get to a certain age.
Parents exist to train their children. Parents exist to discipline their children. Before we get into our passage today, I just want to help you understand parental discipline a little better.
The discipline of a parent is supposed to mirror the discipline of God. God is our Father. And so our parenting should be modeled after Him. And there are at least three main components to parental discipline. Three main components.
The first component of discipline is punishment. Punishment. This is punitive discipline. Discipline includes punishment. Now, for some of you, that’s obvious. Punishment inflicts a measure of pain or discomfort or undesirable consequences that serve a function.
Hebrews 12 talks about God discipling His children. It’s sorrowful for a moment, but it’s for our good, to share in God’s holiness. It helps us mature. Punishments teach a child that choices have consequences. They teach them that making bad choices hurts.
Every child has the freedom to make a choice. But they don’t have the freedom to decide the consequences of those choices. And so, from an early age, parents need to teach their children that disobedience makes life difficult.
And if my son can learn that at an early age with a relatively small amount of temporary pain, then he’ll be spared the much greater pain of a life filled with foolish decisions. So, we can’t shy away from punishment and negative consequences, even if we disagree about what that looks like at the time.
Now, there’s another component to discipline. Discipline is not just about punishing a child when he’s done something wrong. That’s not a complete view. Discipline also includes protection. So there’s punishment and protection in discipline.
As a parent, I am responsible to protect my child, not just his body but his soul as well. This is what God does for us. First Corinthians 10:13 says that God does not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle. He knows where our limitations are. And he always provides a way of escape.
That’s protective discipline. As a parent, I am responsible to protect my child, to the best of my ability, by making sure he isn’t exposed to things he can’t handle yet, things that will hurt him. That’s part of training. That’s part of discipline.
For example, you don’t take a 2-year old girl, and put her in a room filled with unwrapped cookies and candies, and then say, “Don’t eat anything until I get back in 1 hour.” She wouldn’t be able to handle that! She doesn’t have the capacity to resist at that point.
It’s like leaving her alone with knives—she’s going to hurt herself. And no amount of punishment is going to help in that situation. Parents need to protect their children from foreseeable permanent harm. And again, we might disagree about what that looks like, or what a child is ready for. But the principle remains.
The third important component to discipline is preparation. Punishment, protection, and preparation. Besides introducing negative consequences for disobedience, and besides protecting them from dangerous temptations they can’t handle, a parent must be preparing his children.
This is what Ephesians 6 has in mind when it says that parents must bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This is preparation.
My kids don’t just avoid temptation because I stop them from it. And they don’t just learn from being corrected. They learn from me teaching them. I warn them about not touching the stove or the iron. I warn them about running around the pool. And my hope is that my instruction prepares them so they don’t make a foolish decision.
So, in a nutshell, that’s parental discipline. I punish. I protect. And I prepare. And if a parent loses sight of any of those aspects, their parenting is going to end up lopsided.
For example, you can emphasize punishment so much that the child resents you. And he’s never prepared for real life, where he’s going to make mistakes. It’s like a dad telling his 17-year-old son: “You scratched the car, so you can’t drive for one year.”
What does that do? It just sets him up to drive one year later. It doesn’t help him improve. It actually retards his maturity in that area. If I emphasize punishment too much, then he can get resentful, his development is slowed down, and he might never learn to recover on his own from mistakes.
The same thing can happen if you over-stress protection. A dad might be too concerned that his 17-year-old daughter can’t handle a credit card. So, he forbids it. He thinks he’s protecting her, but what he’s doing is removing the opportunity for her to learn responsibility.
Eventually, she’ll move out and get her own address and get her own credit card. And she may not be ready to handle that freedom, because dad never let her learn to do it. He was too concerned about protection.
And lastly, if you overemphasize teaching, then you get the parent who think that lecturing their children more is going to get results. But that’s not how it always works. No amount of lecturing can substitute for protection. And sometimes, rather than another lecture, a kid simply needs to be punished. And he learns the lesson a lot quicker. Disobedience hurts.
That is what a parent does. And every parent does it to the best of his ability, even if other parents disagree on the specifics. My job is to train and discipline my child through punishment, through protection, and through preparation.
Worst of all, I think, would be to avoid all of them. That’s not an option, because the Bible tells us we’re not inherently good. We’re not even neutral. We are sinners from birth. So we need other people shaping our live.
That’s what parenting is. It’s preparing someone for life. Kids and youth, that’s what your parents are trying to do, to the best of their judgment.
They’re trying to keep you from making dumb decisions, and from heading down the path of ruin. And in order for that to be done well, parents need help. And one of the best places to go when you think about parenting is the book of Proverbs. Look at the opening verse: Proverbs (1:1).
This is written by man who ruined his life. That’s what we’re reading through at the beginning of our services. Ecclesiastes is Solomon looking back on his life, pleading with us not to make the same mistakes he made. The mistake of ignoring the wisdom of God.
And the wisdom to guide you in life is the book of Proverbs. These are the things Solomon learned from his father David, and he wants to pass them along to his own sons.
So if you want to grow up, if you want to mature in life, this is the book you come to. We all need it. And parents, this is the book you take your children to. Verses 2-6 is the purpose of the book. VERSES 2-6.
He’s just saying the same thing in a bunch of different ways. What is this book for? To give you wisdom, instruction, insight, prudence, knowledge, discretion, learning, guidance, and understanding. Those are synonyms for learning life’s lessons. One very simple definition of wisdom is the skill to live life. Wisdom is the skill to live life.
We all want skill in something. We all have things we wish we were better at. But who wouldn’t want to be better at living life?! That’s what wisdom is. And verse 4 tells us this book is aimed at the simple, the youth. But verse 5 also says it’s for the wise. So whether you’re a novice in life, or a seasoned veteran, these are the lessons you need to learn. You need wisdom. You need maturity. You need to be prepared for life. That’s what this book is about.
And this brings us to the central theme of the book. VERSE 7.
This book is all about wisdom. But the definition of wisdom in the Bible is not just about being clever or savvy or intelligent. It’s about being a person who fears the Lord. That’s the essence of this book. This is the motto. Fear the Lord.
If you get rid of that component, all you get is a person who wants to “be better” or “be successful.” But that shouldn’t be a parents’ goal. And it shouldn’t be your own goal. The person who is skilled at living life, is the person who fears the Lord, who responds rightly to Him, who honors Him in all that he does. This is a person who is teachable. That’s the life that invites God’s blessing.
The opposite is the fool. That’s the second half of verse 7. Go with me for a second to Proverbs chapter 12, verse 1. Proverbs 12:1. Let me read it out loud. PROVERBS 12:1.
Now, you may have come from a home that told you not to use the word “stupid.” And that’s a good thing. Jesus warns us in Matthew 5 about using harsh words in anger to attack or insult someone. That’s sinful. Don’t do it.
So then why does Proverbs use the word “stupid”? It’s because the motive is not to insult or attack. It’s to help you and to warn you.
We have some fancy, expensive Hebrew dictionaries in our church collection. And when I looked up this word, it said: “Stupid.” In bold letters. The Hebrew word here is connected to the word for an animal or a brute. Human beings think. They are intelligent. But animals are dumb. They’re stupid. They don’t rationalize like we do.
What do you want to be like? Do you want to be a person who is wise? Or do you want to be like a stupid animal?
He who hates reproof (or correction) is stupid. Think about that next time you tell your parents: “I know, I know, I know.”
By the way, this Hebrew word is only used about 7 or 8 times in the Old Testament, so it’s a pretty serious word. And if the writers of Scripture didn’t use it very much, then maybe neither should we. But just be warned, I’ll probably use the word a couple times when I’m preaching from Proverbs, because I think it’s a faithful way to express what’s being expressed.
If it sounds a little shocking, it would have sounded the same way to it hearers. This book is filled with many, many lessons about how to honor God with your life, how to navigate this life well, and not be a fool.
We live in a culture where wisdom is no longer prized. We praise foolishness and stupidity and immaturity. People win awards for it. Some people call it “cool.” But God says it is absolute foolishness. And it leads to disaster.
Just so you know, in the Hebrew culture, boys were considered men at the age of 13. Girls, at the age of 12. They became accountable for their actions. That gave parents about 13 years to get them ready. Today, our culture has extended the time we let someone be a child to 18 years, and sometimes even up to 30 years. And that’s tragic. It retards the growth of a person. And it retards the growth of a culture or a church.
I’m using that word correctly, although it sounds funny or offensive. We live in a retarded society because kids are being allowed to be kids well into their twenties. There is no accountability.
But Proverbs puts us on the fast track. Proverbs is here to help us mature, and to help us help others mature as well.
The main lesson we’ll be studying this morning is verses 8-19. Proverbs 1:8-19.
Again, this is a message from a father to a son. Verse 8 says: Hear, my son. Verse 10: My son. Verse 15: My son. So, this is a very personal lesson.
And what we’ve got is two different commands, each followed by a consequence. So it’s command, consequence, command, consequence. The first pair is positive, and the second pair is negative.
Let’s start with the positive command. This is what we are supposed to be doing. VERSE 8.
Both a mother and a father are supposed to teach wisdom, and the responsibility of a child is to hear. To listen. To obey. To forsake not. Don’t ignore the lessons your parents are going to teach you.
Why not? This leads us to the positive consequence? VERSE 9.
I’m not sure how many of you wear jewelry, but back then it was common, especially if you were royalty. Expensive jewelry was an expression of honor and attractiveness. That’s what people wanted.
Do you want a good life? Then listen to the wisdom of your parents. Don’t just hear it with your ears. But apply it to your life. Don’t walk away from it. Then life will be better for you. That’s the positive command and that’s the positive consequence.
Now, the bulk of this message though, is the negative side. It’s is the warning. And for this lesson, the warning is against greediness and against getting in with the wrong people. Let me read the negative command. This is what you should NOT do. VERSES 10-15.
Now, you need to understand the appeal here. Verse 10 says there are sinners, so these are people who do not honor God. And they come to entice, to persuade.
Sin and foolishness is persuasive. But the dad here says: “Don’t do it. Don’t go with that group.”
Now what exactly is the enticement? What makes this appeal alluring or attractive?
They are asking this young man to join them in assaulting or killing someone, and then stealing what he has. That’s verses 11-12. Let’s get rid of someone. Why? Verses 13-14. So that we can make some money. “All precious goods. You can fill your house”. So the primary appeal is an chance to make money.
But there’s even more going on here. You’ve also got the peer pressure. This is a group coming, not just one guy. Join us. We will all have one purse. We all take an equal share. You can be part of our group. Don’t sit there all alone! This can’t be that bad. Look at how many people are in on this.
Then there’s also the appeal of adventure. There’s some riskiness here. And that’s exciting. There’s a rush to doing something wrong to make money. There’s a rush in physically attacking someone.
And complementing that rush is how easy it is. If you’ve got a group, it means less work for everyone. So it’s not going to be a one-on-one fight. You’re not going to lose. Let’s say it more like 5-on-one, or 10-vs-one. It’s easy to win. On top of that, the group is lying in wait. They’re hiding. The other guy won’t see it coming. It’s a surprise attack. We can’t lose.
And the reward is instant. People didn’t have credit cards or debit cards. They carried money on them. So you get rid of one guy who’s on a journey probably, and you get to keep all the money he has on him. So there’s an instant and substantial reward.
And what’s also here is the pressure of time. Verse 16 says they run. They make haste. They are in a hurry. “We’re leaving right now. Are you in or out? Don’t regret NOT coming?” That’s a high pressure tactic. Act now! Acts fast! Offer ends soon!
Young men, young women, you need to be ready for that. That’s appealing. That’s an attractive offer. That’s like the story of the three little pigs. The first two pigs were enticed by fun and pleasure and shortcuts.
I was thinking this week: “What is the modern-day equivalent of peers asking you to join them in killing someone?”
At its core, this is a call to do something morally wrong with a promised reward. And when you say it like that it includes all kinds of things. All kinds of expressions of greed.
Pornography is an expression of greed. You take what isn’t yours. Sneaking into a movie theater. Stealing. Selling drugs. Cheating on a test. Lying to get a discount on something. Not paying your taxes.
Those are all examples, and there are many more, of trying to get some quick satisfaction or reward without the required work. It comes from a heart of greed. That’s the appeal. It’s a promised shortcut. It’s a get-rich-quick scheme essentially. And we just need to admit, that if we’re not ready, it will be alluring. It’s a convincing argument.
But what does the Father’s wisdom say? “Do not consent. Do not walk with them. Hold back your foot.” Those kinds of instructions imply that there will be a desire to go. You will feel like you want to go with that group. You will think it’s a good idea. But there needs to be an intentional and decisive decision NOT to go with that group. Don’t shift into neutral. Don’t just hold your foot on the brake. Put it in reverse and get out of there.
Why? Because Dad is boring? Because Dad doesn’t want you to have any fun? Because Dad doesn’t want you to enjoy life? NO! Because Mom and Dad love you, and they want you to be spared the consequences of foolishness. The consequences of stupidity.
Dad, here, isn’t motivated by hatred. He isn’t even trying primarily to avoid having his son be an embarrassment. What he wants is his son to be joyful and successful. And what he’s trying to avoid is the death and the ruin of his son. So, he goes right into the negative consequences.
He’s already anticipating his son, asking: “Why? Why can’t I go with them?” And dad’s answer basically is: Because they’re stupid. They are fools. They are sinners. They do not understand the consequence of their actions. Look, now, at the negative consequences in VERSES 16-19.
Verse 17 uses the analogy of setting up a net to catch a bird. But what if the bird sees you setting it up? He’s not going to fly into it. He’s not that stupid. But this group is. They, in a sense, are setting the trap for themselves.
Dad is saying: That way leads to death. That way leads to their own hurt. Look at the repetition of the words. Verse 11: “Let’s lie in wait for blood. Let’s ambush.” But here in verse 18, Dad says: They’re lie in wait for their OWN blood. They are ambushing themselves.” They’re the ones who are going to get the surprise attack. They are the ones who will end up hurt. They are the fools.
It might not happen today. It might not happen the next day. But this will all come back on them. Sometimes that includes the punishment of the law. But even if it doesn’t, ultimately, there is the judgment of God.
Do you remember, what happened to Achan in Joshua 7 when he stole the silver and the gold? Do you remember in Acts 5,what happened to Ananias and Sapphira? Where did their greed get them? Buried in the ground! They died under the judgement of God.
Verse 19 is basically the summary. VERSE 19.
Greed is a nasty enemy. Greed is filled with false promises… But you can combat the appeal of those false promises with the promises of God for judgment.
First Timothy 6:9-10 says “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” [los que quieren enriquecerse caen en tentación y lazo, y en muchas codicias necias y dañosas, que hunden a los hombres en destrucción y perdición; raíz de todos los males es el amor al dinero]
Galatians 6 tells us: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” [No se dejen engañar, de Dios nadie se burla; pues todo lo que el hombre siembre, eso también segará. Porque el que siembra para su propia carne, de la carne segará corrupción, pero el que siembra para el Espíritu, del Espíritu segará vida eterna.]
This is what we all need to be reminded of, especially you younger ones. It’s not just that living in foolishness makes the older generation not like you. It’s not just that they will disapprove of you. It’s that that style of life brings the discipline of God. And even if life seems to go well for a while, eventually the righteous wrath of God wins. And then we’ll see who lived a better life.
This is such a simple message. But it will change your life. We all need this kind of reminder.
If the kind of people you regularly associate with are looking for ways to make money fast or to cheat others out of money, you need to find a new group of friends.
Don’t get sucked into peer pressure. Don’t get sucked into a greedy decision.
Whom do you fear more? Whose approval and praise do you want? Those peers, those fools, who will praise you on Facebook or on Instagram for a day? Or the Lord of Creation who will give to you the crown of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let’s learn this lesson for ourselves. And let’s teach this lesson to the generation that is coming up. Can I have all you younger ones come on up here. We’re going to pray for you. Even if you’re not going on the youth trip, come on up. Give us a chance to see you all together.
If you’re going on the trip with the Youth, come on up too. Jimmy, we’ll wait for you to come down. Let’s pray for these young men and women. Obviously, we want them to be safe. But beyond that let’s pray that their week is effective in strengthening their relationships with one another, with their leaders, and most of all, with the God of Creation.
Feel free right now, parents or friends, come on up, and let’s pray for our young men and young women. Join me in prayer.
***Father of all creation. We worship you for your great might power. You have given us a magnificent world, filled with treasures for us to enjoy. But with the addition of sin, there are also dangers. And there is the sin inside us that pulls us toward that danger because of its false promises.
Help us, and help these young people especially, fear you. Keep them from wasting or ruining their lives because of a foolish decision. Keep your judgment at the front of their minds. And turn their gaze to the promise and the blessing of obedience and faith.
Some of them here know Christ and are saved. Others think they know Christ, but it’s only fake faith. And some of them know they are rebelling. We ask you to draw near to their souls. Redeem them. And enable them to draw near to you.
Lord Jesus, you are able to save forever those who draw near to God through you. Use this week, and use our church to give them a fresh awareness of your glory and your salvation.
Watch over them. Keep them safe in all that they do. And make this week a productive time, not just in fun, but in true joy and lasting righteousness. And help them strengthen their unity as a group in Christ, that we as a church would be strengthened as well. We ask these things for your glory, Lord Jesus. Amen.