Text: Proverbs 4:1-9
Main Point: We want humble learners to become humble teachers who invest in the next generation of humble learners.
I want to tell you a story about a father named Larry and his son, Foo. Foo L. Proudman walks everywhere because he must figure out for himself the best way to travel from point A to point B. Foo has convinced himself that he alone is capable of knowing the best way to move around on this big spinning planet. Foo L. Proudman is sure all these people with their motorbikes, cars, trains, and planes are backwards and old fashioned. Foo’s parents and grandparents have been stuck in the same old ruts of transportation for generations! So Foo sets out to reinvent the wheel, the combustion engine, and discover afresh for himself how to harness flight for the benefit of humankind. Remember, Foo has convinced himself that only Foo knows what is best for Foo. And you guessed it, Foo is very tired and very frustrated but also very proud. Foo is angry and getting nowhere. He thinks his mother is an idiot when she talks to him about the blessings of riding a bus or owning car. What does that woman know about cars anyway? She certainly couldn’t know more than our young Foo. From a position of arrogance and self-reliance, Foo L. Proudman wastes his youth because he refuses to listen to lady wisdom.
Now I want to tell you about Foo’s dad, Larry. Since even before birth, Foo’s dad, Larry Zay-Faire Proudman, has seen Foo as a drain on his life. Just as Larry had to suffer and figure out life on his own, so also Foo must figure out life on his own. From Larry Zay-Faire’s point of view, the sooner Foo leaves home and goes out on his own the better. Larry has convinced himself the best way to make Foo into a man is to let him fail over and over until he either gets it right and moves on or quits and moves on. Either way is a win for Larry because the burden called a child will move on.
What is the problem with these guys? Foo has rejected his place as a humble learner and Larry has rejected his place as a humble teacher. What we see in Proverbs 4:1-9 is God’s good intention for the family. God’s good plan is for wisdom to be passed down from generation to generation. Humble learners become humble teachers who invest in the next generation of humble learners. There is a great blessing here. Let’s seek that blessing together. Read Proverbs 4:1-9.
I. We want multigenerational faithfulness (1-4)
- Parents teach their children
Parents, teach your children. Tedd and Margy Tripp show the potential of wise parents, “When we speak and live the words of God, we too speak and live with authority” (1 Peter 4:11, page 20). The ministry of the Word is powerful in the church and in the home. Have you noticed how, in the Book of Proverbs, it can be hard to tell when God is speaking, when the faithful father is speaking, or when the faithful father is speaking God’s words? Each parent should be so personally filled with the Word, seeking wise counsel, and following the Spirit’s lead applying the word that we can say to our children, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments and live” (v. 4). Parents, be a humble learner so you can give your children God’s Word and help them grow in godly wisdom.
The problem, it seems, is that we parents can be just as lazy as our lazy children. We are no more hungry to learn than our children. Parents, if we roll our eyes at instruction and reject correction then we should not be surprised when our children follow our lead and roll their eyes at instruction and reject correction. Parents, we are teaching our children. The question is what are we teaching our children?
Look at the example of this faithful father in verses 1 and 2, “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching.”
More than table manners and how to tie their shoes, parents are given children to teach them how to live well in God’s world. Look again at verses one and two, what are parents to do or give? Parents instruct, give good precepts, and teach. The role of the parent is one of teacher, mentor, and counsellor. You, mom and dad, are to teach what is good. Children, teenagers, it is your role to learn from your parents what is good. Youth, look at verses one and two, what does God want you to do? Talk to your parents; pay attention so you learn how to live in God’s world, and do not abandon your parents’ teaching. What do parents do? Humbly teach. What do children do? Humbly learn.
Verse 3 makes an interesting move
- Children, remember your parents were children once
Solomon was the author of most of Proverbs. He is here teaching his sons and singling out a particular son. Maybe Solomon is teaching his son, Rehoboam. And in verse 3 Solomon makes a reference to his father. Who was Solomon’s father? It was David. Solomon wants his son to think back to the time when Solomon was a boy (1 Chr 22:5). Solomon was tender, inexperienced, and lacking wisdom. Solomon was not yet formed into a wise and godly man. He was the only one in the sight of Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother. Solomon remembers fondly what it was like to be a boy growing up, being taught, and being the delight of his mother.
Children, it may be helpful to remember your parents were once children too. They were once foolish and clumsy unable to tie their own shoes or cut meat with a knife. Your parents were scared of a lot of things, especially the dark, and your parents needed their parents for everything. Youth, it may be helpful to remember your parents were awkward, unsure of themselves, and they wanted to fit in.
Solomon says to his son, Rehoboam, I was a boy once who needed his father and mother like you need me. I needed to be treasured, and my mother treasured me. I needed to be taught, and my father taught me. With patience and humility, we parents are to give our children what we received (or needed to receive) when we were children.
- We want multigenerational faithfulness
We want multigenerational faithfulness in the home and in the church. We see three generations here in Proverbs 4. The grandfather taught, the father learned, the father now teaches, and the grandson learns. We see the generations in the church in 2 Timothy 2:1-2 and Titus 2:1-5. Turn to 2 Timothy 2:1-2 and follow along as I read.
Paul is teaching Timothy with the understanding that Timothy will teach other faithful men who will teach other faithful men. Proverbs has three generations and 2 Timothy 2 has four generations! Our desire is to make disciples, to multiply disciples. Turn now to Titus 2:1-5 and follow along as I read.
Older women, wise women, have a teaching ministry in the church; they are to teach what is good. This is the ministry of the Word in the church. The goal of older women is to teach young women so those women are trained; trained to love, be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive. Just as there is a bent in young men to be silly-minded, undignified, lacking in self-control, weak in the faith, weak in love, and weak in the courage it takes to remain in the family, church, and work, so there is in young women a bent to not love husband and children, to lack self-control, to be impure in thought, word, and deed, to be lazy at home, unkind, and not submissive.
Tim Keller identifies three levels of word ministry that must fill up our world. The first level is the every person level where we all speak the word of God to one another and pass along wisdom to one another. We need everyone to be teaching all day every day. Utilize your home and your phone to share the Word with your brothers and sisters. Next there is the gifted member teaching role; think here of gifted men and gifted women. Think here of our Sunday school teachers and ministry leaders. The next level is preaching; faithful men feeding and leading the church. At home, school, and work every day, in a host of teaching opportunities, and in the gathered church, we need the ministry of the Word to spread so that the immature become mature, the novice become experienced, and the young become wise. We need multigenerational faithfulness therefore,
I. Apply yourself to the task of gaining wisdom. Get wisdom!
With your biological family and with your church family, apply yourself to the task of gaining wisdom.
- The big picture is remember, obey, and live (4)
Look back at Proverbs 4:4. What did David teach Solomon and what is Solomon teaching his son? “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.” Remember, obey, and live. Unlike our culture, the Hebrew culture understood that the person was in charge of his/her loves. Instead of love being a virus you accidentally catch and quickly get cured of, love is a choice and a commitment. So you can set your heart on good things instead of being a slave to every passing emotion or desire. Let your heart hold fast to what is good, right, true, and beautiful. Set your heart on wise words from God passed down from generation to generation. But more than remember the commands, keep the commands, and live.
It is one thing to remember you are supposed to take out the trash. It is another thing to actually take out the trash. It is one thing to remember what God wants you to do. It is another thing to pray for God’s help and do what God wants. And why does this matter? There is life in God’s commands which means there is death in disobedience.
Remember Proverbs 3:2, the father’s commands and teaching lead to length of days, long life, and peace. 3:16, long life is in the right hand of wisdom. 3:18, wisdom is a tree of life. 3:22, wisdom brings life to the soul.
Grandparents and parents, are we giving the generations God’s wisdom that brings life? Are we teaching the Word? Youth and children, are you looking for God’s wisdom that brings life? Are you willing to remember and obey? Do you want to live? Now the call of verse 5
Follow along in verse 5, “Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.” Some parents lack love and grit, so they give up on teaching. Some churches lack love and grit, so they give up on teaching. Some youth lack humility and grit, so they will give up on learning. Teaching and learning can be exhausting. Remember, getting wisdom, getting insight, and knowing how to live well in God’s world do not come because you show up for church and family worship. Like the bum who walks around the gym watching other people workout, so our children are tempted to walk around the church and home watching other people get wisdom. Then like the guy at the gym they will say, “I tried the gym-thing, the Jesus-thing, and it didn’t work for me.”
Listen, if you want the good life, the wise life, you must be gritty. You’re going to get punched, knocked down, and taken advantage of. You must keep humbling yourself, keep asking for wisdom, keep saying you are sorry, keep seeking to restore others who are broken like you, and keep seeking the Lord’s good. Now let me show you the reward.
III. Get wisdom because with wisdom comes great reward
In verses 6-9, Solomon recounts to his son what David taught Solomon when he was young. Look at the wisdom of verse 6, “Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.” I put it this way,
- Be good to wisdom and she will be good to you (6)
Solomon teaches his son using two types of women who symbolize two paths in life; there are good women who represent wisdom and there are bad women who represent folly. Like a prostitute, folly promises to give you some good but ends up taking your money and leaving you worse off for it. Doing dumb stuff is like that; dumb stuff looks good and promises good and feels good for a moment but leaves you more dull, more dry, and more angry or more empty.
But wisdom is a good and faithful woman, a good and faithful wife. It is important here to commit ourselves to not speaking poorly of women in general; don’t mock, shame, or demean women. By illustrating wisdom as a woman, the Book of Proverbs rightly portrays the value of faithful women. When the Spirit led Solomon to illustrate God’s wisdom, the Spirit chose to use a faithful woman.
Look at how David and Solomon put it in verse 6, “Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.” As we read these verses it is hard to tell if we are talking about wisdom or a wife; there are many similarities between the two. For clarity, verse 6, we’re talking about wisdom. If you stick with wisdom, if you are gritty about getting her, she will keep you. If you cherish wisdom, she will guard you. Folly is like an easy woman who laughs at and joins in with your stupidity. But wisdom is like a good woman who is unimpressed with your foolish and selfish heart. Folly is easy but wisdom takes work. And mark this down, wisdom is worth the work.
Wisdom will keep you and guard you. I think of all the pain, trouble, and heartache my wife has protected me from; there is the way of wisdom. Wisdom will keep you and guard you. So, how do I get wisdom?
- Getting wisdom starts with the commitment to get wisdom (7)
Look at verse 7, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.”
What is the most important thing to you? What would you give your right arm to have? A scholarship, a way out of this town, a promotion, your health or your family back? Solomon chose wisdom. Now, Rehoboam is called upon to make the same decision; choose wisdom. Pursue wisdom above wealth and power and pleasure because wealth, power, and pleasure take life from you. Wealth, power, and pleasure always take more than they promise to give. Look at how Solomon ended his life. Rejecting wisdom, Solomon embraced wealth, power, and pleasure and it destroyed him and brought destruction on God’s people.
Get a dry erase marker and write on your mirror, “Get wisdom.” Young men, young women, ask good questions. Go to the wise in this church and ask them how they handled the stuff you are struggling with. Sure, when they were young they didn’t have a phone in their pocket like you, but they struggled like you. They had doubts about their faith and often limped after Jesus instead of running. Your life could be so much better if you would humbly learn. Getting wisdom looks like two simple commitments: read your Bible and ask wise people how they handled the problems you face.
Here’s more incentive to read your Bible every day and have some good conversations with wise saints. Wisdom gives good gifts.
- Seek the better woman who gives good gifts (8-9)
Remember, we are comparing folly and wisdom, the prostitute and the good wife. “Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.
Now guys, I understand. You probably don’t lie in bed at night wishing for a graceful garland or a beautiful crown. But, if you had been born 4,000 years ago in the middle east you would have. The graceful garland was a sign of peace and the crown was a sign of royalty. Think of a celebration, like a wedding, where everyone and everything is right and good. You long for a good woman to prize and embrace. Pursuing her and being faithful to her, she is willing to become your wife. Getting her is getting a blessing. She exalts you and honors you like a champion’s wreath or a king’s crown. Proverbs 12:4 says, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.” Listen, it is exceedingly wise to get a good wife.
One problem we face is we live in a day that is as confused about the good as it is confused about gender. Our culture is as confused about wisdom as it is about what a woman is. Our culture says people on TikTok and YouTube, people making money off of you, know better than your parents and your church who know and love you. When you go online you are being monetized. The question before you today is if you are going to act like the wise and seek help from those who love Jesus and love you.
Mom and dad, grandmother and grandfather, spiritual brothers and spiritual sisters, will you lead the way through humble repentance? Will we go and seek forgiveness from our children for the wrong ways we have led them and for the good ways we have forsaken? Will we work to have conversations with our children instead of yelling at them? Will we ask more questions than we lecture? A good piece of advice from the Tripp’s book, Instructing a Child’s Heart, and from my Wednesday night group is if you only teach when you discipline then your children will soon despise teaching. Instead, live life seeking wisdom and sharing wisdom; playing together can lead to good times talking together. Parents and grandparents, will we seek to enjoy life with God and share that life and joy with the generations to come?
Don’t be like Larry or like Foo. The good news for both the foolish child and the laissez faire parent is there is super abundant grace in Jesus Christ. Wisdom points to Christ so that we can know Him, the One who gives the freedom of repentance and forgiveness. In Jesus we enjoy the better way, the way of wisdom. In Jesus, we see a child submitting to his parents and growing in wisdom; we see God humbling himself under sinful Joseph and Mary. In Jesus, we see a young man hungry to be with his Heavenly Father and talk out important things with the older men in the temple. In Jesus, we see a faithful man teaching the next generation. Christ is our wonderful forgiveness and glorious righteousness. Christ is our example of humbly learning and humbly teaching. It would be wise to repent and follow Jesus.