“Get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” – Proverbs 23:23 NLT
When our children are young, one of the most common words they hear come out of our mouths as their parents is “don’t!” It seems like we are constantly having to tell them what NOT to do. Why? Because they are young and lack the ability to know right from wrong. They are self-centered and live in a world that they think consists only of them. Their desires come first. If they see something they want, they simply take it, regardless if someone else is using it at that moment. If they desire something and someone denies them access to it, they find a way to get it anyway, even if it means disobeying the authorities in their life. Kids have to hear the word, “don’t” because they don’t know any better.
In chapters 22 and 23 of Proverbs we have a list of 30 wise sayings, most of which are prohibitions or restrictions against particular behaviors or attitudes. They address everything from drinking to the dangers of gluttony. We’re told not to cheat our neighbors and not to make friends with someone who has an anger problem. But why do we need to hear all these warnings and commands? Because many of us still lack the ability to make wise decisions on our own. Remember, the book of Proverbs is very practical, providing divinely inspired input for daily living. This is Monday-morning relevant stuff. No religious mumbo-jumbo or spiritual speak here. This is relevant counsel for real life. But if we try and apply these principles to our lives like self-help tips, we are going to be highly disappointed. Oh, they might work for a while, because they are truths from the very throne of God. But we will be incapable of keeping them long-term because we really don’t understand their value and we lack the convictions necessary to stick with them. We will be like a child who knows all the rules, but fails to keep them because he doesn’t understand the reasons behind them.
The key to all of this is understanding the truth. If we look at these wise sayings without an understanding of the truth behind them, we will simply see them as restrictions that keep us from doing the things we want to do. We will see them as road blocks to our self-satisfaction. We may keep them for a time, because someone bigger and stronger than us told us to, but as soon as we have the chance, we will rebel and reject them. That’s why we are told to “get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” The 30 wise sayings are not wisdom in and of themselves. They are the byproduct of wisdom. They are wise because they have come from a wise God and through the life experiences of wise men and women. We are told to get discipline, because without it we will never be able to follow the counsel in this book. We need good judgment, because without it we will never understand or appreciate the value of following the advice found on the pages of the book of Proverbs, or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter.
There comes a time when we no longer have to say, “don’t!” to our children as much as used to. Why? Because they have grown in wisdom, discipline and understanding. They have reached a point where they understand the reason behind the restriction. They have grown wise in the ways of the world. For some of us, reading this list of 30 wise sayings leaves us nodding our head in agreement because we already know the truth found in them. Others of us may read them and think, “This is hard stuff, I don’t know if I can pull it off or if I even agree with it.” They sound restrictive and unattractive to many of us. Because we lack wisdom. We need understanding. We are short on discernment. And all these things come from God. We need to get to know Him better. We need to know His heart so that we can see the truth contained in His Word. When our children are young and we tell them “don’t!,” they think we’re mean. But as they grow older and get to know us better, they realize just how much we love them and have their best interest in mind. The same is true with God.
Father, at the end of the day, I need to understand just how much You love me. I need to see life through Your eyes, with the help of Your wisdom, with Your understanding, and assisted by Your discernment. While so much of what this world offers up seems attractive and appealing, it is dangerous and could do me harm. I need to trust You when You say, “don’t!” I need wisdom, understanding and discernment to see life and your rules for living life in the right way. I need to know Your heart. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men