Taking Instruction from the Wise

September 14, 2017

Proverbs 13:18

Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuses instruction: but he that regards reproof shall be honored. 

One of the most difficult things you will ever do is submit yourself to the instruction or correction of others. This requires great humility, especially if your teachers have their own problems. But life is so filled with traps and snares that if you are unwilling to listen to those who care about your success enough to warn you, disaster will inevitably overcome you. A proud man may enjoy some degree of success and feel immune from correction for a time, but one day he will fall and he will fall hard. Then, his shame will be evident for all to see. 

Once you have achieved a little success in life (either in the spiritual or economic sense), pride will show up with party hats for a little celebration. You will be tempted to think that you are now above correction. Again, this will only set you up for an even more spectacular failure. Do not give in to the temptation of pride at any time in your life. 

Your weak spot is almost always in your blind spot. If you are aware of your weaknesses, you might attempt to correct them. But as long as you are unaware of your shortcomings, they will be the cause of your failure in life, unless somebody takes the time to point them out to you and you are open to their correction.

Proverbs 13:19

The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul: but it is abomination to fools to depart from evil. 

This verse ties in directly with verse twelve. Believers really do achieve their true desires in life, because those desires are good and right. When we set out in life to serve others, to seek God’s glory first, and to rejoice before God in gratefulness, we really can accomplish these things—and the fruit is so sweet to the soul. 

The unbeliever’s heart desires are self-oriented. One popular song expressed these heart sentiments succinctly this way,

“Love me tender, 

 Love me true, 

 All my dreams fulfill.” 

This songwriter placed his deepest desires upon someone else loving him and fulfilling all his dreams. He placed himself at the center of the universe and, of course, his desires were never to be accomplished. The popular singers who express such sentiments usually die in frustration. None of their dreams are fulfilled, because their desires are rooted in self. 

What we desire in life and the values we strive for are critically important. Foolish, shallow men and women want nothing to do with worshiping God, glorifying Him, and keeping His commandments. In fact, they are repulsed by that kind of life. In the words of the Proverbs, they find it abominable to repent of their sins and to walk in God’s ways. Preach a message of repentance, warn others about the judgment of God that hangs over those who refuse to repent, and inevitably you will find people who consider such notions utterly reprehensible. They will hate you for it. It is an abomination to fools to depart from evil.

Proverbs 13:20

He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. 

Over four hundred years ago, a great pastor, Richard Baxter, warned parents about the great danger of Christian children associating with friends who do not fear the living and the true God. Baxter wrote, “Keep your children as much as may be from ill company, especially of ungodly playfellows. It is one of the greatest dangers for the undoing of children in the world; especially when they are sent to common schools: for there is scarce any of those schools so good, but hath many rude and ungodly ill-taught children in it.” 

In a day where 80% of children raised in Christian homes walk away from the faith (according to recent surveys), it would be prudent to ask the question, “What are the routes by which these children exit the righteous highway?” Of course, it is their social associations that take them away. They walk with fools. Once their hearts are bound in relationship to ungodly, unbelieving, rebellious children, it is practically impossible to separate them from that heart-commitment. Could our “common schools” or “public schools” contain these ungodly playfellows that Richard Baxter was so concerned about nearly 400 years ago?

The powerful influence of peers upon a child’s character and culture must never be underestimated. A child might have Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, and ten other atheist teachers lecturing him four hours a day. But the influence of ungodly peers the other four hours a day will, in most cases, yield a more unsavory influence than the boring lectures from the atheists. 

If foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, then the more children walk with other fools, the more they will increase in their foolishness. Put another way, two fools is not twice the foolishness. It is foolishness squared in the exponent. Two fools produce four times the foolishness, and three fools, nine times the foolishness.

The corollary to the warning contains this encouragement to find the wisest men you know, and walk with them. Associate with them. Learn from them, and emulate them. If you want to be righteous, walk with righteous men. If you want to be rich, walk with rich men. If you want to be wise, walk with the wise. 

Just being in the presence of the wise man or merely hearing a wise father speak is not the same thing as walking with him. When you walk with a person, you are following after him. You are interested in where he is going. It is a heart that is interested, engaged, and connected to both the words and the life of the mentor. 

Family Discussion Questions: 

1. Do you desire to depart from evil? Are you reluctant to receive correction? What was your reaction the last time someone corrected you?

2. With whom do you walk? Describe your closest friends. Are these men and women characterized by wisdom?