"A wise son hears his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke."
Proverbs 13:1 (ESV)
A nobleman was once banished from the kingdom in which he lived. The day before he departed he committed to the care of his servant a casket of very precious jewels. Years went by. Over time the servant became ill. As his health was failing he determined that he needed to find a place of security for the precious stones. He went out to an oak tree on the property and cut a hole in it. Beneath the bark he hid the treasure that had been committed to his care. Years later, the nobleman returned. The steward was gone by then, but the nobleman knew where his gems had been stored. By this time the young tree had grown into a mighty oak. But nevertheless it hade kept what had been deposited within its trunk. The nobleman had the tree cut down, and there within the heart of the oak the jewels were found. All had been kept well, not a single one was missing or broken. They flashed in the light with the same brightness as they did in former days.
Is this not a great picture of how it shall be when our Lord comes again? Every precious gem of truth that has been deposited within our hearts will be found by our Lord. Like that nobleman he will delight to find his treasure (his truth) embedded in our hearts and shining brightly.
Young people, the word of God is of great value. It is the most precious thing that you can obtain in life. Even the book of Proverbs makes this plain. In this book the Lord tells us that wisdom is of greater value than rubies, knowledge is of greater worth than silver and gold. And since it is of such great value, we should prize it above every commodity in this world. We should make every effort to gain this treasure.
You will have many goals in life, all of which may be quite virtuous. If a man makes it his aim to be married and have many children, that is a wonderful goal in life. Success in your business and expertise in your trade are a grand objectives. These are things that God approves of and delights in. But your highest aim ought to be the acquisition of wisdom. This is the pearl of great price. For when you store up truth, you are building a wealth that can never be stolen or spoiled.
And as we come to this passage of scripture, we find that truth to be taught. In this proverb we find that God wants us to have a love for those precious gems. He wants us to learn to love instruction. He wishes us to have a spirit that is willing to receive instruction. In other words, we see here the importance of having a teachable spirit.
In this proverb God contrasts two men. One possesses a teachable spirit the other does not. We might say that on the one hand we have a child of God, whose heart beats for knowledge and understanding. And on the other hand we have one who stubbornly refuses to be instructed. We can call him a child of Satan, for in is pride he mimics the devil. So young people, let us consider well these two figures and see how God values a teachable spirit.
I. A child of God is attentive instruction
Now the first figure put before us is a child of God. We know he is a child of God because he is attentive to instruction. It says, “A wise son hears his father’s instruction.”
This is obviously the one God calls you to emulate. You can easily see why, can’t you? He is not just to be considered a son of some earthly father. He is a child of God too. That’s because he willingly listens to his father to gain the truth God wants him to have.
Now I need to clarify some things here with regard to the kind of instruction we re to embrace. First of all we need to keep in mind that the passage is talking about a godly father who is teaching what is right.
This may be obvious, but I think I better at least mention it. We have to understand that not all fathers are good, and not all fathers give good instruction. Some fathers in this world are wicked. They don’t give godly instruction. And if you have that kind of father you are not expected to listen to anything that he says.
This passage is assuming that your father is a godly man who is teaching you what is in accord with God’s word. If you have a father who is not godly, or not teaching what is godly, then you are not obligated to obey that. As a matter of fact, you are obligated to reject it. You need to remember that it is more important to obey your Heavenly Father rather than any earthly father.
That’s part of what the Bible means when it says, “children, obey your parents in the Lord.” You are to honor your parents and obey them, but you do it “in the Lord.” Or when what they teach is in accord with the Bible.
So as you think about the instruction you should embrace, remember that this passage is assuming you have a godly parent who is teaching you what is right.
But there is another thing that I need to clarify. You not only need to embrace the teaching when it is right. You need to embrace the teaching when it is hard.
When you read this you almost think, “Well, duh.” Of course you are supposed to listen to you father when he instructs you. But we have to understand what this means by “instruction.” The word for instruction actually has to do with correction. It has to do with discipline. It has the idea of being rebuked and perhaps even punished for having done something wrong.
You see how this is a little harder nut to swallow? Nobody likes being corrected, do they? Let me see a show of hands on who likes being punished. Nobody likes that. Nobody likes admitting that they are wrong. But the Bible tells us that if we are wise, we will learn to embrace it even when it is hard for us to take.
Your dad can be hard on you sometimes too, can’t he? He can get on you about your schoolwork. He can get on you about your chores. He can say, “Hey, I don’t like the way you’ve been treating your mother lately.” You might be fed up and say, “What do you mean? I always do what mom says!” Then he’ll say, “Well, when she tells you to do something she usually has to tell you 3-4 times before you do it. And when you do finally acknowledge her you act disgusted (e.g. sigh, roll eyes and say “All right” with a defeated tone.
Now you can think, “He’s just being picky.” And you are right. He is being picky. But he’s right, and you know he’s right. You haven’t been honoring your mother. And, even though you don’t want to, you need to accept the fact that he is right. And you need show that you accept it by fixing it as fast as you can.
It might be hard at times to honor your dad, especially when it comes to him correcting you—and correcting you all the time! But no matter how often he corrects you—no matter how hard he comes down on you—if you are going to be a child of God you need to listen to him and heed his words.
And young people, if you need any encouragement to do this, you can just look at Jesus. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus came into this painful world and “learned obedience” by his sufferings. Now we know that Jesus was never disobedient, so he didn’t have to be corrected. But he did accept whatever came his way, even though it might not have been all that welcome to him. His ears were always attentive to what his Heavenly Father was teaching him at every moment and he accepted the Father’s discipline by even going to the cross.
Every child of God will replicate the the Son of God in this regard. Jesus had a teachable spirit. If you are going to be God’s child you must have one too. You must heed your father’s instruction, even when it is hard to take.
Well, if the child of God is one who has a teachable spirit and is attentive to instruction. You would expect that the child of Satan will be the opposite won’t he? And that is exactly what we see in the second half of this proverb.
II. A child of Satan is deaf to correction
The second half of the proverb says, “A scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Here you have one who is deaf when it comes to correction. He is so puffed up with pride that he can’t be wrong. He will not admit that he is mistaken. When someone comes to him and corrects him, he treats it with scorn. Even though they love him and want the best for him, there is no way he is going to listen. He just blows it off. Or worse, he laughs at them. (That’s what a scorner is—he hates the truth so much that he mocks it or ridicules it).
So you see how satanic this guy is. He is completely deaf to the Lord. He wants nothing to do with God’s word or God’s way—just like Satan himself.
Now there are a few things I want you to glean from this second half.
A. Note how general it is
You’ll notice that in the second half of this proverb no teacher is mention. It doesn’t say that anything about a father. The father of the scorner is not even in the picture here. This line is very general as to who the scorner is not listening to. It is very open-ended.
The point that is made is this: If you are not going to listen to your father’s instruction, you won’t listen to anybody. You will have a complete disregard for all authority. If you blow off your dad, of all people—the most important teacher you have in your life—you can grow up to be a complete menace to society because you won’t listen to anybody.
Derek Kidner in his commentary on this verse says, “If you cannot stand home truths from your own father you are well on the way to becoming insufferable.” Nobody will want to be around you because you’ll be like an uncontrollable fire. You’ll be willing to burn anyone.
As you note how general/open-ended it is, note also how picky it is.
B. Note how “picky” it is
I mentioned a minute ago how your dad can be rather picky. Why is it that he is so picky all the time? Why is he picky about my friends? Why is my mother so picky about me placing the decimal points in my home work? You might say, “What’s the big deal, here?
You know when your mom or dad corrects you about something small they are doing that because they know that if you don’t deal with the little things then that will just snowball.
Have you ever heard of the snowball effect? The snowball effect is when you stand on the top of a hill and make a snowball—just a normal sized snowball. Then you take that snowball and put it on the ground and give it a little push. As it starts to roll down the hill it collects more and more snow and gets bigger and bigger as it goes until it has become a gargantuan snowball that can cause a lot of havoc if it crashes into something.
That’s the way sin acts. Little sins can snowball and become big sins. If you blow off your dad or your mom in the little things, then you won’t feel bad blowing him off on bigger things.
I see an example of this each week at my daughter’s soccer practice. I begin each practice by having the girls jog around the field. And when I say “around the field,” I mean around the field. I tell them stay outside the white lines and don’t cut any corners. But almost every week I have some girls cheat by cutting the corners. So I have to tell them to do it again. So they go out and do the exact same thing—they run the exact same pattern and cut the corners. I suppose they think that if you add the two times around the field together they make more than enough. So I have to stop them, get real serious and say, “You are not doing this right.”
What’s the point? The point is obedience. They know that if they can get away with cutting a few corners at the beginning of practice, they can get away with a lot more in the next hour and the next few weeks. If they don’t listen to me in this little thing of running all the way around the field, then they will cut corners in a lot of other things and make life really miserable for all of us.
Let’s talk about decimal points. In your schoolwork, what is smaller than a decimal point? Probably nothing. You might consider it to be the most insignificant thing. And you might have worked hard on your math problems, but your mom looks at it and says, “It’s wrong.” You say, “What? What do you mean it is wrong?” Your mom says, “It is wrong because you forgot your decimal point.”
You will want to complain, “It’s just a decimal point.” But what really is the problem is that you were sloppy with your work. That’s a form of laziness. And your mom might make a big deal out of a little decimal point because it is the principle of diligence. If you are willing to be sloppy with your schoolwork, what would happen if you started working at a bank? If she lets this “small” thing go now, it could snowball later in life.
I taught a Bible class for some recovering alcoholics once. And in talking with those guys I came to see that none of them woke up one day and said, “I’m going to be an alcoholic.” It was a gradual process. It started with something small, like staying out past their curfew. Then they began hanging out with the wrong crowd. They maybe went to a party and someone offered them a drink. At first they said, “No, thanks.” But then their friends pressed them. So they said, “Why not just a couple of sips. That won’t hurt anything and that will get these guys off my back.” These were just what you might call “little sins.” A disrespect for their parent’s curfew. A few friends who you liked to hang out with—so they have a rougher side to them. Not a big deal right?
Well those “small sins” developed over time. These guys who sat there with their Bibles open before me had lived in misery for a long time because their little sins became huge shackles in their lives.
So don’t gripe that your parents are picky. You should be thankful that they are picky. If you don’t have that kind of teachable spirit—if you are going to have that kind of arrogance, then you’ve already started down that leads to death.
Remember that Satan was proud. He was the highest of the angels. But then he thought he could go one up on God. He didn’t want to honor God anymore. He didn’t want to submit anymore. So what happened? He rebelled and he was thrown down. And because he wasn’t willing to submit, someday he will be thrown into the lake of fire. And all his children who have hated instruction will go with him.
One of the most elegant jewels in the world is a diamond. They are simply beautiful to behold. After I gave my wife her engagement ring, she used to sit there and just look at it sparkle in the light. It wasn’t all that big, but it was still quite nice to look at.
But you know how you get a diamond? A diamond is actually formed from a lump of coal—a black, ugly piece of coal. But when you apply a significant amount of pressure to that ugly piece of coal it converts into a diamond. But then, the diamond isn’t yet ready to be set in a piece of jewelry. It then has to be taken to a professional who can cut the diamond. You see, diamonds don’t come straight from the ground to your ring. When they are mined from the earth they are still jagged in form. They need to be chipped into shape before they are set before the customer.
That’s the way it is for a child of God too. You must be like that diamond. When you get pressure from your dad, you must understand that he is seeking to make you better. When your mom starts in on you, you need to remember that she is simply trying to chisel those jagged edges off of you. They want you to be ready to be presented to Christ as one of his precious children.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.