A Study in Contrasts

The proverbs of Solomon.

A wise son makes a glad father,
    but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,
    but righteousness delivers from death.
The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,
    but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
A slack hand causes poverty,
    but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
    but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
    but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
    but the name of the wicked will rot.
The wise of heart will receive commandments,
    but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
    but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
10 Whoever winks the eye causes trouble,
    and a babbling fool will come to ruin.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
    but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12 Hatred stirs up strife,
    but love covers all offenses.
13 On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,
    but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.
14 The wise lay up knowledge,
    but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
15 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city;
    the poverty of the poor is their ruin.
16 The wage of the righteous leads to life,
    the gain of the wicked to sin.
17 Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
    but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,
    and whoever utters slander is a fool.
19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
    but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
    the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
    but fools die for lack of sense.
22 The blessing of the Lord makes rich,
    and he adds no sorrow with it.
23 Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool,
    but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.
24 What the wicked dreads will come upon him,
    but the desire of the righteous will be granted.
25 When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
    but the righteous is established forever.
26 Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
    so is the sluggard to those who send him.
27 The fear of the Lord prolongs life,
    but the years of the wicked will be short.
28 The hope of the righteous brings joy,
    but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
29 The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless,
    but destruction to evildoers.
30 The righteous will never be removed,
    but the wicked will not dwell in the land.
31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
    but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
    but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse. – Proverbs 10:1-32 ESV

In this chapter, Solomon introduces the writing style that we most commonly associate with the book of Proverbs. In it, he utilizes a series of contrasting couplets that juxtapose the righteous and the wicked. For nine chapters, Solomon has emphasized the need for wisdom and the preferred lifestyle that the way of wisdom provides to all who avail themselves of it.

Now, he begins to differentiate between God’s way and that of the world. He refers to the righteous 13 times and he mentions the wicked 11 times, and he goes out of his way to differentiate between the two. To Solomon, wisdom was far more than an intellectual commodity that one acquired over time. It was a way of life. And it stood in stark contrast to the more prevalent and popular way of the godless and worldly.

“Most of the proverbs in this section are one verse long and contain two lines each; they are couplets. The second line contrasts, compares, or completes the idea expressed in the first line. This is Hebrew parallelism.” – Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Proverbs

Solomon starts off this Proverb by declaring his desire for his son to choose the way of wisdom. That would be the preference of any loving father. No parent wants to raise a fool. No father or mother finds joy in discovering that their son or daughter has chosen the path of wickedness and unrighteousness. But unless those parents make the determination to promote and model a lifestyle of wisdom, they may very well end up experiencing the sorrow of raising a wayward and foolish adult child.

A wise child brings joy to a father;
    a foolish child brings grief to a mother. – Proverbs 10:1 NLT

Parenting is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart or the weak-willed. It requires incredible energy and fortitude, limitless endurance, boundless courage, and a certain degree of blind faith. Raising children is a huge responsibility that can intimidate the bravest of souls. It can make the strong weak in the knees and turn the most confident of men into sniveling, teary-eyed basketcases.

But all the same, there is nothing more gratifying than to watch your children grow and mature, making the most of the gifts and abilities God has given them. It is a blessing to pour into their lives and see God use you in His grand scheme to mold them into the likeness of His Son. It does not always go well or even quite like you had imagined or expected. There are setbacks and heartaches along the way. Children have a mind and a will of their own, and their not afraid to use either one. They can be loving and frustrating. They can warm our hearts and try our patience. They can bring a smile to our faces and a tear to our eye – all within just a few minutes’ time span.

It seems that Solomon knew well the joys and sorrows of parenting. He talked about it a lot. And he dealt regularly with the topic of the foolish child. Here in verse one of Proverbs 10, he describes two different children. One is wise and the other is foolish. He says the wise child brings joy to his father. He makes him proud. But a foolish child makes his mother sad. He brings her to her knees in prayer and despair. The specific Hebrew word Solomon uses for fool is kecîyl and it means “fool, stupid fellow or dullard.”

This is a very specific kind of fool. He is not talking about the simple fool, that child-like fool who, because of his young age, doesn’t know how to make good choices and lacks good judgment. No, Solomon is describing an individual who is stubborn, arrogant, and set in his or her ways. They reject the discipline of their parents and all authorities in their lives. They seem determined to make wrong choices. They are sensual fools, driven by their passions and obsessed with immediate gratification. They refuse to deny themselves anything and lack the common sense to know better. These kinds of children don’t just happen; they get this way over time. They are that innocent, young boy who one day turns out to be that insolent, rebellious teenager whose parents barely recognize him. He is lazy, unreliable, unteachable, and will ultimately be destroyed for his lack of common sense.

The words of the godly encourage many,
    but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. – Proverbs 10:21 NLT

They actually enjoy doing wrong.

Doing wrong is fun for a fool,
    but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible. – Proverbs 10:23 NLT

And they made a habit of making light of sin.

People who wink at wrong cause trouble,
    but a bold reproof promotes peace. – Proverbs 10:10 NLT

What mother wouldn’t cry over a child like that?

So, how do we keep our children from becoming sensual fools? The easy answer is that we expose them to the wisdom of God. We teach them the truth of God’s Word. We model what it means to fear God and honor Him with our actions. But in the end, there is no guarantee that our children will turn out either wise or godly. Proverb 22:6 says, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

But that’s not a promise. Solomon is stating a proverb or maxim that contains a time-tested truth. It’s not a guarantee from God that our children will turn out well if we do our part. There are far too many examples that prove otherwise. Too many children raised by well-meaning parents have ended up turning their backs on wisdom and taking the way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

Throughout this Proverb, Solomon paints a stark, black-and-white picture that clearly distinguishes the way of the wise from the far-less-flattering way of the fool. And the descriptions he uses to differentiate the fool from the wise person are intended to make that lifestyle unappealing and unacceptable.

Lazy people are soon poor… – Proverbs 10:4 NLT

one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace. – Proverbs 10:5 NLT

the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions. – Proverbs 10:6 NLT

the name of a wicked person rots away. – Proverbs 10:7 NLT

babbling fools fall flat on their faces. – Proverbs 10:8 NLT

those who follow crooked paths will be exposed. – Proverbs 10:9 NLT

People who wink at wrong cause trouble – Proverbs 10:10 NLT

And on and on it goes. Those who refuse the wisdom God offers and godly parents promote will likely end up with train-wrecked lives.

But God still calls on parents to do their part.  They have a God-given responsibility to teach their children well, to point them to Christ, and model Christlikeness in front of them. But when all said and done, every child has a will of their own. They each have to develop a faith of their own. They may make wrong choices. They may prefer to take a different path. They may become sensual fools and bring tears to the eyes of their mothers.

We can’t make godly children. Only God can do that. So, with all our effort at parenting, we must never forget that we need God’s help and our children will need His abundant mercy and grace. He alone can make our children wise. He alone can keep them on the right path. It is their relationship with God through Jesus Christ that will make them wise, not us. We have a part to play, but it is ultimately up to Him. So, we must turn them over to Him early in their lives. We must place them in His hands for safe keeping. We can do our job. We can love them, teach them, discipline them, and entrust them to God for their future well-being. We can point them to wisdom and provide them with godly counsel.

The mouth of the godly person gives wise advice – Proverbs 10:31 NLT

The lips of the godly speak helpful words – Proverbs 10:32 NLT

 But, ultimately, our children belong to the Lord and we must trust Him to do what needs to be done so that they might fear Him live in the wisdom that He alone provides.

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. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.


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