• Proverbs 23:22–24:4
This week’s lesson is indeed fitting for Father’s Day weekend, as your learners most likely will be thinking about family life. While no home or family is invulnerable to the storms of life, the principles from this week’s lesson will help fathers, mothers and children to build a home more resistant to life’s storms. Some of those storms are external to the home and some are internal, but both kinds can disrupt and destroy a family’s stability. This week’s look at Proverbs 23:22-22:4 will provide strength for shelter from the storms.
Stay true (Proverbs 23:22-25)
In this opening passage, the son is being advised to listen to and treasure the upbringing his parents provided him. Parents always rejoice when their children turn out well in life, and parents do the best they can to raise children well. The greatest credit a child can pay to his or her parents is to hold onto the truth, wisdom, instruction and understanding passed on to them and to build on those great gifts.
This passage is part of a collection of 30 sayings known as “Words of the Wise.” These are practical pieces of advice that would have been part of a Jewish child’s instruction. This is the wisdom of a father to his son.
Ask your learners to consider the advantages of life they experience because of such gifts from their parents. Values acquired in childhood make all the difference in later life. A strong work ethic, a love for education and knowledge, an appreciation of the fine arts are all examples of values we receive as children. Much of secular society endorses the transmission of these values, but the Christian home that passes along godly wisdom and faith add more. This home provides a spiritual worldview that pursues justice, lives faithfully and, in the long run, a happier, more peaceful life.
Christians, then, are called to be true to the godly teachings of their childhood, to honor their parents with right-living, as well as with deeds of respect and kindness.
You also may want to acknowledge that not everyone has experienced a Christian upbringing. This is something to be lamented, but also provides a framework for contrast of adult living to the childhood ways that should be left behind.
• We show wisdom and demonstrate we are committed to live right when we respect our parents throughout their lives and stay true to the godly heritage they passed on to us. Ask your learners to identify values they gained from their home life as a child. Ask them to consider what values they have passed on to their children/grandchildren, and how they can continue to pass along these values.
• We not only please God but also delight our Christian parents when they see us living in accordance with God’s wisdom, instruction and understanding. Ask your learners to consider what values they learned but have lost or failed to live out. A good cultural reference is the country song “Where’d You Learn to Talk Like That?” by Rodney Atkins. Consider this: Obtain a recording of this song and play it for your learners as they gather. Here's the lyrics.
Stay pure (Proverbs 23:26-28)
In this section of Scripture, the son is urged to follow his father’s example and to avoid being lured into sexual impurity. There is hardly a more culturally relevant passage of Scripture for today than this one. We know sexual temptation is available virtually everywhere we turn, and the proliferation of pornography via the Internet has pushed things to an extreme level. The Internet is not the only vehicle, however. Just a few weeks ago, I had to explain the purpose of Viagra to my 10-year-old son after he’d been watching television at seven in the evening.
The effects of media on human sexuality can be corrosive and ultimately damaging. Media supplants the home and church in providing good sexual shaping of young people, and pathetic is the church or home that doesn’t address these matters openly and from a biblically based perspective.
The adulterous woman of this passage of Scripture provides a lure and a trap for the abuse of the God-given gift of sexuality. Unless men and women are equipped by the teachings of Scripture on how to properly celebrate their sexuality, sexual impurity will diminish lives and steal something precious from family relationships.
So then, storm proofing your home with Godly wisdom will include many things. Here are a few practical ideas to offer your learners.
• We can better resist sexual temptation in today’s immoral climate by discovering and emulating role models of sexual purity and marital faithfulness. Ask your learners to make a commitment to model sexual purity and marital faithfulness in their own lives.
• Christian parents should never underestimate the influence they have on their children’s futures by being role models of sexual purity and marital faithfulness. Ask your learners to think about how their home and church life can be more open to discuss human sexuality in meaningful ways that will provide young adults, teens and children with answer to their natural questions, as well as the consequences of wrong sexual activity.
• Both men and women can be lured into sexual temptation—note to your learners that the old-school notions about a woman’s disinterest in sex are false ones. Discussion about sexually temptation cannot be simply limited to a “boys will be boys” framework.
Stay clear (Proverbs 23:29-35)
Scripture warns of the seductive yet devastating effects of beverage alcohol—effects that include a variety of sorrows and troubles as well as one’s loss of control resulting from drunkenness and the potential of one’s becoming tragically addicted. Seemingly everyone has been touched by the troubles of alcoholism or drug addiction. We can avoid many personal troubles and damage to our family by simply refusing to drink alcohol. This is not a condemnation of all drinking, but it is a good way to avoid problems of addiction in your family.
While one may argue the Bible’s view on the use of alcohol, the dangers of its abuse are clear—addiction of all types can be damaging to families.
Ask your learners to discuss their experiences with alcoholism or drug addiction. Ask whether they would say these experiences have had positive or negative outcomes.
Stay wise (Proverbs 24:1-4)
This passage of Scripture takes a turn to talk now about envy. This passage teaches God’s people never to envy those who do evil; instead God’s people are to build their homes with godly wisdom, understanding and knowledge. This is a difficult challenge when we see families that seem more prosperous or have more “toys” and possessions.
By outward standards, homes that gain material goods but live lives of evil may seem to be happy. But the writer of Proverbs reminds the opposite actually is true. What they do is wrong and hurtful to others and to God.
• We are wise to build our lives and homes not on things acquired by evil means but on enduring qualities we gain from knowing and understanding God’s ways. Ask your learners to consider the parable of the houses built on shifting sand versus the stone. A good song to go with this point is Gordon Lightfoot’s “The House You Live In” (sung recently by Kate Campbell, well worth a listen). Here's the lyrics.