Proverbs 4

1 Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding,

2 For I give you sound teaching; do not abandon my instruction.

3 When I was a son to my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother,

4 Then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments and live;

When you are young, wisdom and knowledge and understanding come through listening to and obeying your parents. Your father can teach you many things, if you listen to what he has to say, and if you respectfully express gratitude and thankfulness for what he teaches you.

If you act as if you already know, or if you convey a reluctance to listen, or if you convey a lack of appreciation of the value of what they are giving you, your parents might stop giving you more. On the other hand, if you treat your parents well, you will learn a lot of good things from them. You must do whatever it takes to make it comfortable and pleasant for your parents to endow every bit of wisdom they have to you.

A lot of young people make a very, very big mistake in their teens and early twenties by not tapping into the wisdom of their parents.

There are two traps to avoid…

One is to acquire the follies of your parents. For example, if your parents are smokers or drunkards or drug addicts or financially inept or lazy, you don’t want to copy that.

The other trap is to see the weaknesses of your parents and think less of them or disrespect them because of what you see. Don’t be like Ham in Gen 9. Instead, be like Shem and Japheth.

Gen 9 18–27 18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth. 20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” 26 He also said, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. 27 May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”

A really wise person is one who achieves the balance of independent thinking (so that you don’t copy the mistakes of others) without compromising on learning what wisdom is there to be learned from others.

5 Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth.

6 “Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you.

7 “The beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.

8 “Prize her, and she will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace her.

9 “She will place on your head a garland of grace; She will present you with a crown of beauty.”

Further, you must treat wisdom like gold and precious stones, or a like water in the mouth of a person dying of thirst. You must value it so highly that you become willing to sacrifice other things to get wisdom.

If someone is dishing out wisdom, you must stop and listen.

I remember how, when I was a single, young man, I didn’t know much about marriage and raising a family. Once, while I was listening to Christian radio, I heard a program where people were giving wisdom on those subjects. I listened and learned. I tuned in as often as my schedule would allow, and absorbed as much as I could.

If you get wisdom, you must make every effort to remember it. I remember how I would create documents in my computer on each topic of interest. Each time I learned something on the topic I would add a few paragraphs. Every so often I would reorganize my notes. Then, I would periodically go over my notes and remind myself of all that I learned. I would practice what I learned, and over the years, it helped me tremendously.

10 Hear, my son, and accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many.

11 I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths.

12 When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble.

13 Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.

Sometimes, what you hear may not jive with you. You may think some of the wisdom your parents give you is absurd. Instead of immediately discarding it, ask questions, and get clarifications so that you not just hear, but also accept what they say.

Not everything they say will be sound. Some things may be worth discarding. Even when you feel that you have to discard something they say, don’t contradict them or scoff at them. Learn to disagree in a disarming way. Their wisdom will help you in your early years, and you will be able to live and work efficiently for many years based on the wisdom of your parents. You will be able to acquire good habits and build a base from which you can rise to great heights in your later years.

14 Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men.

15 Avoid it, do not pass by it; turn away from it and pass on.

16 For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; and they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.

17 For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.

18 but the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

Just yesterday, I watched news describing four teenagers (they were just fourteen) who stood on an overpass and threw sandbags down into oncoming traffic. One bag hit the windshield of a car and killed a man. Those teens were caught and prosecuted.

There are ridiculously evil people around you, and if you interact with such people they will try to draw you into their evil ways. Rather than have to constantly push back against them, it is so much better to just avoid them. Stay away from their hangouts. If they go left, you go right.

Sometimes, such evil people may reside in the same home as you, and even be your siblings. It is tougher to stay away from them in such cases, but you must. Be strong and don’t give in. Fight against evil with every resource you have at your disposal, even if it will cost you. In fighting, you will become strong.

19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.

Evil people invariably get caught. They don’t realize when and how their evil catches up with them. They think that they have escaped, but God never lets them escape.

20 My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.

21 Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart.

22 For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body.

The writer reiterates the importance of valuing, seeking out and holding on to wisdom.

23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

Physically, if your heart fails, you die. Corresponding to a physical heart, we also have a spiritual heart - the part of you that ensures your spiritual health.

Your heart is that part of you that controls what you think and what you say, and how you act. It is the place where values are established and prioritized. If you want to be wise, then you have to take the time to examine what is happening in your heart. While other people are using their spare time to entertain themselves and seek pleasure, you should be using your spare time to examine your heart, noting its current state, and the direction it is moving. If your heart is in a bad state, you need to take immediate action to fix it. If it is moving towards a bad state, you need to change direction. Understand the forces that are acting upon your heart, and remove the forces that are pushing it in the wrong direction.

24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.

A good portion of wisdom involves what you say, and how you say it. Deceit and deviousness in speech are not a part of wisdom.

To be deceitful is to say what you don’t mean. To be devious is to say (or do) something in a roundabout way, sometimes manipulating others to do your dirty work.

25 Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.

26 Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.

27 Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.

As you walk through life, there will be many distractions. You need to ensure that those distractions don’t cause you to deviate from the path that God wants you to follow.

I remember when I was in university, far away from home. There was no parent to supervise me, and I could do what I wanted and go where I wanted. My fellow students used their liberty to get involved with all kinds of naughty things. But God protected me and enabled me to focus on the task before me. As a result, I did well in my studies and finished my course ahead of those who were with me. Those few months of advantage turned out to be very significant in determining which job I took, how much money I made, where I lived, and what kind of career I had.

Copyright (c) 2007-2026, Rosario (Ross) D'Souza. All Rights Reserved
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