Listen, Learn, and Live

20 My son, keep your father’s commandment,
    and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them on your heart always;
    tie them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will lead you;
    when you lie down, they will watch over you;
    and when you awake, they will talk with you.
23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
    and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,
24 to preserve you from the evil woman,
    from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.
25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart,
    and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;
26 for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread,
    but a married woman hunts down a precious life.
27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest
    and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals
    and his feet not be scorched?
29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife;
    none who touches her will go unpunished.
30 People do not despise a thief if he steals
    to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry,
31 but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold;
    he will give all the goods of his house.
32 He who commits adultery lacks sense;
    he who does it destroys himself.
33 He will get wounds and dishonor,
    and his disgrace will not be wiped away.
34 For jealousy makes a man furious,
    and he will not spare when he takes revenge.
35 He will accept no compensation;
    he will refuse though you multiply gifts. – Proverbs 6:20-35 ESV

We live in a society that is constantly trying to buck the system. And by the system, I mean the one that God has put in place. God has standards. He has rules for living that apply to all men, not just those who consider themselves God-followers. But ever since the fall, man has been trying to get around God’s standards and establish his own set of guidelines for living.

If God says that something is wrong or sinful, we go out of our way to justify it and convince ourselves that it is actually perfectly acceptable. To get there we either have to reject what God has said altogether or twist it in such a way that it no longer carries the meaning it once did. That is exactly what we have done with the subject of adultery. Once taboo, even among non-believers, it is not only acceptable but has become a regular part of daily life in America. In an effort to satisfy our own selfish desires and justify our sinful actions, we have played fast and loose with God’s laws and created an environment where we get to decide what is sin and what is not. It has all become highly subjective. The mantra, “If it feels good, do it” reigns supreme.

Yet Solomon warns his son, and us, “but sleeping with another man’s wife will cost you your life” (Proverbs 6:26b NLT). Far too many in our society, including Christian men and women, don’t believe that statement. They have convinced themselves that God wants them happy and, therefore, if they find another person who fulfills them better than their current mate, then there is nothing wrong with “falling in love” with that other person. They justify their actions by claiming that they were never really in love in the first place. They made a mistake. Surely, God wouldn’t want them to spend the rest of their lives miserable and unhappy just because they married the wrong person. Yet Solomon clearly states, “So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife. He who embraces her will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 6:29 NLT).

One of the things that have happened is that, as a society, we have removed the disgrace and shame that used to accompany adultery. It has become so commonplace and acceptable that there is no longer any stigma associated with it. Oh, we may be shocked for a time, but we have learned to go with the flow and accept adultery as the inevitable outcome of living in a fallen world. And while it is true that adultery, like all sins, is inevitable because of the fall, it is never to be acceptable. It should still shock and concern us. We should still view it as a sin against a holy God and an unjust crime against our fellow man.

Adultery is nothing less than stealing. Those who commit adultery are taking something that does not belong to them. And in doing so, they destroy that which God considers holy and sacred: A marriage between a husband and wife. Not only that, it destroys the adulterer’s marriage and violates a covenant made before God – even if the couple who made the covenant were outside a relationship with Christ at the time.

God views ALL marriages as sacred and holy. He does not apply His rules only to the marriages of believers. God’s standards apply to all men and women. None are excluded or exempt. Yet, it is within the body of Christ that willful obedience to His commands should be displayed most clearly. It is within our marriages that faithfulness and fidelity should be most readily visible. He has given us the power to live lives in keeping with His standards. He has placed His Spirit within us and equipped us with the capacity to live godly lives in the midst of an ungodly culture.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. –  (2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT

Because we share in the divine nature, we can escape the influence of this world and its constant encouragement to live according to our own standards, without shame and unrepentant.

The life of godliness was never meant to be impossible or impractical. It is impossible only if we attempt to live it in our own strength or on our own terms. It is impractical if we fail to apply its lessons to our daily lives. We always run the risk of becoming so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good. In other words, we fill our heads with all kinds of pious-sounding religious platitudes but never apply them to our daily lives. Yet, Solomon reminds us that righteousness is to be highly practical. It is to be visible to those around us, impacting every area of our lives and changing the way we live, altering the way we think, and influencing our decisions. Righteous living is wise living. It is living according to God’s standards, and God is a highly practical God.

When you walk, their counsel will lead you. When you sleep, they will protect you. When you wake up, they will advise you. For their command is a lamp and their instruction a light; their corrective discipline is the way to life. – Proverbs 6:22-23 NLT

Solomon attempted to take what he knew about God and apply it to everyday life. He pleaded with his son to listen to and apply the commandments he was sharing. They were not simply moral platitudes in the form of fatherly advice. They were divinely-ordained requirements that were intended to promote and preserve human flourishing.

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
    and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,
to preserve you from the evil woman,
    from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. – Proverbs 6:23-24 ESV

Knowing the commands of God but failing to obey them is like having a lamp filled with oil, yet refusing to light the wick. The one who knowingly disobeys the commands of God is nothing more than an unlit lamp in the darkness. They receive no benefit from their knowledge because they refuse to apply it.

So, Solomon encourages his son to listen to wise counsel, from parents, peers, friends, and from the Word of God. Piety that is not practical is useless. It becomes hypocrisy. Our beliefs must impact our behavior. Our righteousness must result in right living. The way we live should reflect the God in whom we believe.

But for the commands of God to have their full effect requires listening. And there is an art to listening. All of us can hear, but not all of us know how to listen well. And the few of us who do know how to listen sometimes struggle with doing something with what we hear – especially when it has to do with obeying the wise counsel we receive from others. This is especially true of young people. This is why so many of the Proverbs are addressed to sons (and daughters). Solomon wants his children to know the value of listening to godly counsel. In Proverbs 6 the assumption is that the commands and instructions given by the father and mother are godly and worthy of compliance. The son is told to obey the commands of his father and not neglect the instructions of his mother. He is to value them and personally apply them to his life, hiding them in his heart and keeping them close like a valuable necklace or an expensive ring tied to a cord and hung around his neck.

Solomon is not suggesting that we wear these commands like ornaments designed to make us appear more righteous. He is simply accentuating their incredible value and worth. They are priceless treasures that provide life, not decorative trinkets that make us look more holy to our peers. He stresses their life-preserving nature.

Wherever you walk, they’ll guide you; whenever you rest, they’ll guard you; when you wake up, they’ll tell you what’s next. – Proverbs 6:22 MSG

Godly counsel can provide guidance on life’s journey. It is based on the wisdom of God and has been proven in the crucible of life. Wise counsel tends to speak from experience. It is able to say, “Do as I do, not just as I say.”

The godly counsel of parents and other well-traveled Christ-followers can save us a lot of pain and trouble, and prevent us from taking wrong turns and ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time. But not only does godly counsel guide, but it also guards and protects us – even in our sleep. Even when we’re inactive, godly counsel makes sure we’re safe and sound. We can rest easy and sleep well knowing that we have made the right choices and followed the right path in life. We don’t have to live anxiously or nervously waiting for the other shoe to drop and the walls of our life to cave in. We can know that we’re on the right path and headed in the right direction.

Finally, godly counsel speaks to us. It’s amazing how the wise advice of others can crop up and pop into our minds at just the right moment. When we wake up in the morning, we have a repository of wise advice to which we can turn. It speaks to us. It counsels us. It prepares us for the day ahead. Like a lamp, it lights our path and shows us the right way to go. It keeps us on the straight and narrow and out of the high weeds of life.

Wise counsel is like good, nutritious food. It not only feeds us for the moment, but it equips us for the journey. It gives us the strength, energy, and stamina to face all that lies ahead. It encourages, educates, and equips us for life in this world. Without it, we are lost, vulnerable to attack, and clueless as to what we should do and which way we should go.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.


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