"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.
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
As we renew our series in the book of Proverbs it is good to remind ourselves of the familial setting of this book. This is a book from a father to a son. And we should expect that there be “Fatherly advice” in this book.
It is important for us to note that because it reminds us that this is the primary book we are to use when training up our children. It is their textbook. It is the curriculum of God’s choice that we as parents are to be using.
Moreover, we ought to remember that that this book is intimately addressed to each and every one of us here today. For we are to remember that, through faith in Jesus Christ, we are children of God. And by these inspired words our Heavenly Father speaks to us.
And such is the case today. The counsel we receive here is some of the greatest fatherly advice we could ever receive. That’s because it deals with who we regard as our closest companions.
As fathers we are responsible for the nurture of our children. Part of that nurture means we must help our kids discern who their friends should be. That is exactly what the Lord does in this passage.
This proverb calls us to godly fellowship. That is to say, it tells us that we are to surround ourselves with people who are wise. And our passage gives us two reasons why we should do this. The first half of the verse says that we should surround ourselves with wise people because…
I. Wise companions will make us wiser
It says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.”
You know how you catch a cold. You hang around with people who are sick. The same is true when it comes to wisdom. If you want to be wise, hang around with people who are wise.
Now, before I talk about some specific applications, I want you to remember something very important here. This is not talking about people who get straight A’s or telling you that we are to hang around with people who we might consider “bright.” This has nothing to do with someone’s IQ or SAT score. You need to remember that a wise person is not necessarily an intelligent person. A person can know a lot of things, but that does not make him a wise person.
A wise person is a person who is a Christian. He is a person who knows God’s word and knows how to live by the word. To put it another way: A wise man can be someone who flunked out of school or never passed the 8th grade. But despite his IQ, he is a god fearing man who has devoted himself to the study and application of God’s word. Though he might not have read a lot of books, there is one book that he does know—it’s the Bible.
This is the kind of person that this passage is talking about. That is the kind of person with whom we are to “walk”. That is the kind of person we are to seek out and fellowship with on a regular basis. If our companions are wise and godly people, that’s going to rub off on us. We will become wise and godly ourselves.
Now, having clarified that, let talk about some applications we can make. I want you to take a second and ask yourself…
A. With whom do you associate regularly?
Who you are friends with right now? Are you surrounding yourself with godly people? Are the people you are hanging around with right now, are they pursuing a relationship with Christ? I don’t care about their grade point average. Do they have their hearts set upon Christ?
You need godly friends. Because when you surround yourself with godly friends you yourself will become wise. They will rub off on you. They will teach you, by their words and by their actions.
Think about the disciples. How did they become such great men of wisdom? It is because they hung out with Jesus. They were part of the greatest seminary of all time. And basically, all they did was walk with Jesus and hang out with him for three years.
Of course they sat under his teaching, but think about the “down times”—the time when class wasn’t in session. Don’t you think they still would have learned a great deal? In a sense, they were always in the school of Christ merely by hanging around with him. Christ’s everyday conduct would have taught them, perhaps more than his sermons did.
We usually don’t choose our friends with this in mind. We usually just choose to hang out with the people we like to do the same things as us. But that might not necessarily be beneficial for us. That is not the primary way we are to choose our chums. Those we most often associate with are to be critiqued on the basis of their relationship to Christ.
And as you think about those you associate on a daily basis, think too about who you associate with on a weekly basis.
B. With whom do you associate at worship?
This ought to affect your church life too, and how you worship.
I want to apologize to you. People like me, who are leaders in the church, have done a terrible thing to you. We have made you dumb. We have done a terrible thing by separating your from the older people in the church.
Those of you who may have grown up in the church probably went to Sunday school. You might even have gone to youth group. But how much time did you spend with the older and wiser people in your church? Probably not much. We have not let you walk with wise people.
Now there may very well be a place for Sunday school and Youth group. I don’t think that these things are wrong in and of themselves. As a matter of fact, they can be quite useful. That’s because young people need to develop godly relationships with kids their age. But today a lot of churches have gone the route of completely segregating their churches by age. Churches today are too divided today. Not over race, but age. (A lot of churches will even send children out during worship!)
I’m glad this church does not do that. I like that you follow the family integrated model. That’s good because there is that healthy mixture of young people with those who are older and wiser. And know htat your elders have intentionally designed your service this way because they know that if you worship with the wise, you will become wise.
But don’t just think about how this applies to those you hang with on a regular basis or how you worship. Think about what you are doing with your free time.
C. With whom do you associate during your free time?
Who do you hang around with when nobody is around? Are you walking with the characters on the Television? Or are you cultivating your spiritual life with good books? Are you reading the Bible? Are you walking with the apostles and prophets? Are you walking with Jesus?
The home is where we spend a lot of our time, but just because we are at home does not mean that we have to be alone. We can still fellowship with saints who have been blessed with wisdom. We can surround ourselves with Christian literature—devotionals, sermons, books of theology. We can pick up something written by Martin Loyd Jones or Charles Spurgeon. We can walk with these guys. We can gain their wisdom.
You know it is good to read novels. But in the long run they aren’t going to do much for you. Even if it is a “Christian novel.” To some extent it can be like TV-- bubble gum for your brain. It tastes good, but it really doesn’t do much for you. It probably won’t make you that much wiser. But if you walk with people like John Piper or RC Sproul, you are going to benefit from their wisdom.
As a matter of fact I was reading a book by RC Sproul just yesterday. On almost every page I read he was citing someone else, Jonathan Edwards or some other Christian thinker. I thought to myself, “Sproul is just borrowing from everyone else! But I look to him for wisdom!” He had walked with other saints, that’s what makes him so wise.”
Let me make a suggestion to you. Martin Llyod Jones once said that the best thing a Christian can do is read biographies. He said that we ought to saturate ourselves with books about the men that God has raised up throughout history. And biographies are great because they oftentimes read like novels. They have that interest level because of the excitement surrounding their lives. But they also detail the lives and beliefs of these men that can be examples and guidance for us.
I want to encourage you to do this. Pick up a biography of some notable saint and begin to walk with him. Sit at his feet, study his life, consider his doctrine. And as you do you will find that he will begin rub off on you.
If you are going to be wise, that’s the way to do it. It doesn’t matter if it is choosing who your friends are, where you worship, or how you spend your free time. If you want to be wise, you need to surround yourself with people who are filled with godly wisdom themselves.
Now let me just reiterate how important it is to do this. Surrounding yourselves with wise and godly people is of the utmost importance, not just because wise friends will make you wiser, but because but foolish friends will make you suffer.
II. Foolish companions will make you suffer
If you look at the second half of this verse (20) you will see this. It says, “The companion of fools will suffer harm.” If you have a different version it may say something slightly different, but it should still read pretty much the same.
But let me unravel this a bit for you. I want you to notice that last word. The word for harm comes from a word that literally means “to scream.” Doesn’t that bring a new light to the text. “The companion of fools will scream.”
I want you to think about how this applies to your everyday life.
A. Think about how this applies to your everyday life.
Do unbelievers make up your “inner circle” of friends? I want you to understand that if they do, then you will be harmed.
Think about what it says in 2 Corinthians. In chapter 6 Paul explicitly says that we are not to be yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). A yoke is something you put on cattle to guide them. Two cattle are strapped together with a special harness so that they can pull a plow. But if one of those cattle is dead, then which way is the plow going to be pulled? It will be pulled in the direction of the dead one.
That is how it is when you become intimately involved with someone who is spiritually dead. They don’t help your walk with the Lord. They will hinder it and pull it in the wrong direction.
I’ve known Christians who have gone of to college and started hanging out with people who weren’t Christians. Perhaps they even joined a fraternity or sorority. As a result their faith was harmed.
I never joined such a group, but I did choose to live with people who were not Christians during my college days. I look back on those days with a great amount of disdain. I had the opportunity to link up with a lot of Christian guys. I could have lived on a hall where my spiritual life would have been valued, rather than disdained. But instead I chose to spend my days with guys whose lifestyle was no wise favorable to my faith.
Now I didn’t go out drinking with them. I didn’t join in with any of their pleasures or crudeness. As a matter of fact I looked on it with a great deal of contempt. But, looking back, I wonder where I would be today if I had chosen the alternative route. They might not have made me a hellion, but they didn’t stir me on in my walk with Christ either. Though they did not harm my walk with Christ, they did not help it either. If I had chosen to make my companions Christians, I could be a lot farther ahead in my sanctification today. I might have been able to conquer some different sins a lot easier or a lot earlier. I can’t say where I’d be, but I know that I would be a lot farther along that I am right now. And I look at that now and it really irks me. Sometimes it makes me want to scream.
I don’t want to make myself out to be a saint either. There were times where I joined in their sins. I laughed at their jokes. I enjoyed it when they made fun of other people. There were all sorts of things that I got caught up in because they were my friends. And I have to say that my soul was hurt because of it—and it still hurts as I look back and reflect on it.
Now, I don’t want you to think that we jump ship and break off all contact with the unbelieving. You know me better than that. There’s no possible way to do that. We mix with the unbelieving all the time. And it is important that we do because that’s the way the gospel advances in the world.
However, I do want to warn you. I want you to make sure your closest buddies are not those who don’t share your faith. You will be harmed if you do.
But don’t just think about how this applies to your everyday life…
B. Think about how this applies to your wedding day.
If this applies to your bosom buddies, of course it is going to apply to who you marry. That’s because marriage is nothing more than the most intimate of friendships.
I have met some quite a number of ladies who I would classify as “spiritual widows” (Christian ladies with unbelieving husbands). Most of them became Christians after their marriage. But I can’t even begin to think about the pain they must experience. They have talked with me and you can just tell they hurt. I wouldn’t doubt that there have been times in their lives where they have just screamed. On the one hand they hurt because the one they cherish the most is not living in God’s grace.
But at the same time, think about how their spiritual lives suffer too. They don’t have a man who will read the scriptures with them. They don’t have a man with whom they can pour out their soul and have pray for them. I can’t imagine the loneliness they feel because they can’t share much of their life—how they are growing in Christ, what treasures they have found in the Scriptures. It’s so sad.
Young people, don’t ever let yourself suffer in such a way. As you grow up, make sure you don’t get caught warming up to a boy or a girl who is not a solid Christian. If you do, you will find that your life will be filled tears and sorrows—and perhaps even some screams. .
But don’t just think about how this applies to your everyday life and your wedding day…
C. Think about how this applies to Judgment Day
If you are a companion of fools, most likely, you are a fool yourself.
Typically, people associate with people who are of the same mind. People who join the country club join it because they have similar interests. People who join a sorority do so because they are of the same mindset as that group. People who join the church do so because they are one with Christ.
So if you like companionship of unbelieving people more than the companionship of the church, most likely you are of the same heart. And the Bible says, if your heart is set against Christ, you will suffer—you will scream.
The story goes that one spring some crows began to pull up some of the farmer’s young corn. The farmer loaded up his gun and made out to frighten them away. The farmer had a pet parrot whom he loved. But when they got out to the field the parrot left the farmer and flew over to the crows in the corn. Bang! The farmer shot and then went to inspect what came of it. He found that he had hit three crows and his parrot.
He took the parrot home and the farmer’s children asked, “What hurt him?” The farmer responded “Bad company.”
That’s how the day of judgment will be for some people. They might have grown up in the church, but they come to enjoy the company of sinners more. When Christ comes, they are severely hurt.
St. Augustine is quoted as once having said, “I would rather have speeches that are true than those which contain merely nice distinctions. Just as I would rather have friends who are wise [more] than merely those who are handsome.”
Augustine knew what he was talking about. He once had some close chums who were not wise. The only way they helped him was to sin. As a result he ended up suffering a lot of pain. Wise friends—wise companions—are to be much more preferred.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
to the preaching and teaching ministry of
Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.