Listen to Father

Proverbs 23:22

“Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.”

Many young people never experience the comfort and security of a strong father who provides and a caring mother who doctors wounded knees. Therefore, I am thankful that God blessed me with a father and mother who loved me and took care of me. However, countless children are blessed with loving parents, but never realize it until it’s too late.

Every new generation of youth complains that parents are stuck in the past, uncool, and not with it. What makes it worse is that today’s culture promotes closing the ear to one’s father and despising one’s mother. Forget what’s own children’s cable networks, even Disney movies promote the individuality and independence of boys and girls over the wise instruction of parents. Heck, the plot lines in most Disney movies are centered around a broken family.

Culturally, parental advice is considered a joke, a hindrance, and is even treated with disdain. How sad for us all.

Why should we listen to our parents? 

Parents aren’t perfect, that is for sure. As a parent with over 20 years of experience, I know for a fact that my advice can be flawed. So, what, then, makes my advice worth “hearkening” unto? Well…

  • I have seen a lot more, done a lot more, hurt a lot more, hurt others a lot more, and regretted a lot more than my children have.
  • I have stepped in pits, taken wrong turns, been bitten by dogs that weren’t supposed to bite, and picked up a snake by the tail.
  • I know what it like to love, what it is like to be loved, and what it is like to throw love away. I can give reason why one should question the old adage, “It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” I mean, really?
  • I have held jobs, lost jobs, created jobs, and fired people from their jobs. I know the value of work, how to get work, and what to do to keep work.
  • I know what boys are thinking.

When we don’t listen to our parents or respect their opinions it is like saying we know that there are mines in the field, but we’ll figure out where they are on our own. Sheer foolishness.

When it comes to our mothers,…

Why shouldn’t we despise them when they get old? Why shouldn’t we get tired of their health problems, their stories, their complaints, and their warnings? Well…

  • For starters, she had you. You weren’t aborted.
  • More than likely she could have told your father, “No!”
  • For all your sleepless nights studying, partying, or hurting, she spent ten times that worrying.
  • You owe her. No amount of money, no matter how nice the nursing home is, can ever repay the pain of child birth.
  • Even though you owe her, she’ll never expect you to pay it back – because you can’t.

Only fools despise wisdom which can be gained without the pain of earning it.

Don’t Follow Your Heart

Proverbs 23:19-21

“Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe [a man] with rags.”

Stay Away from These

The first thing many people will pick and choose out of these verses is a condemnation of drinking alcohol. Like many I have known in my life, the point many will immediately deduce is that drinking will lead to ruin, poverty, rags, etc. The last thing most will conclude is that eating will lead to destruction and ruin. No, the only thing many will see is, “stay away from those social drinkers and drunks.

Why is it that little is ever said about gluttony? Why is it that gluttony is a sin, but eating isn’t? Unfortunately for the legalists among us, this proverb has nothing to say about eating and drinking, but gluttony and drunkenness. Take that for what it’s worth.

What Solomon is really telling us to stay away from are people who will most likely influence us to act like they do. We should stay away from those who eat and drink simply for pleasure because their self-indulgent spirits will lead not only to their own destruction, but also to the ruin of those who follow.

A Heart Issue

Drunkenness, gluttony, and drowsiness are certainly dangerous characteristics, but the initial command in this passage, a warning, is to “guide thine heart in the way.” Much like as in Proverbs 23:12, the idea is that the heart must be forced to do what is in its best interest.

How many times have you heard it said, “Just follow your heart”? Solomon is warning against that advice by cluing us in to what the heart desires. The Prophet Jeremiah said that the heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). The way that the heart wants to go is where the “winbibbers” and  “riotous eaters” are.

Wisdom should guide the heart, not the other way around.

What of the Other?

Alcohol is no different than carbohydrates and fat; both are amoral. In other words, there is no more inherent sin in a bottle of Jack Daniels than there is a Big Mac and a large fry or a banana split. Some people can eat what they need to stay fit without over-indulging, while others will pig out and clog their arteries…all in the name of a church social.

Some people can consume alcohol without becoming drunkards, too. However, many who consume are proven to be fools.

Simply put, an unguided heart will go in the way that numbs pain, fills voids, and distracts from reality. The wise son will guide his heart down a different, disciplined path which leads to provision, not poverty; robes, not rags.

The Meaning of Life

Proverbs 23:17-18.

“Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long. For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.” (KJV). 

I often say that Proverbs is God’s wisdom for daily living. But lest we think that the book is limited only to the here and now, Solomon reminds us to look towards the future as well. The NKJV version of that verse says, “For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.” Translation = this life is not all there is! There is life after death, and after we live our lives on planet Earth, we have the hope of everlasting life in Heaven.

I’ll never forget the fall after I graduated from high school. I was at an all-nighter drive-in with some friends and sat down with one of them and said, “You know, there’s got to be more to life than just partying, getting drunk, and dating girls.” Less than a month later, I had a life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus that was the beginning of my Christian walk.

Another book that Solomon wrote is Ecclesiastes, where he takes his readers on a search to find the meaning of life. He writes:

“I said to myself, “Come now, let’s give pleasure a try. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless… After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. While still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I hoped to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world. I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves… I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire! So I became greater than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. And with it all, I remained clear-eyed so that I could evaluate all these things… I did not restrain myself from any joy. I even found great pleasure in hard work, an additional reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless. It was like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).

Solomon looked for meaning and satisfaction in pleasure, drinking, possessions, money and hard work, but didn’t find it there. After twelve chapters searching for the meaning of life, he writes: “Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Parental Responsibility

Proverbs 23:15-16 

My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine. Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.
My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad indeed; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right. (NIV)

My experience of being a parent is that it is a great privilege, although my father may have different opinions on the subject! It is also a huge responsibility. I do not believe that God expects us to parent alone and throughout the lives of our children I have prayed for His help and guidance in parenting. I truly believe that God has shared the responsibility, and I have seen clear evidence of His touch on the lives of the children He has placed in our care

Unfortunately children do not always make wise choices. I remember the day that my father had to collect me from the Police Station when I was fifteen years old. Dad didn’t need to say a word when he walked into the room. Disappointment was written all over his face and it completely destroyed me. Compare that with his pride a year later when he dropped me at the airport in my brand new uniform to fly to Göteborg to join my first ship. It was five months before he saw me again but I knew from the letters he and my mother wrote that they were proud of my career choice.

My wife and I have also known times of disappointment as well as times of great joy in raising our five children. There have been many times when our hearts have been warmed by things our children have said, done, or achieved. Just this last weekend we visited James, our middle child, and stayed in the home he and his fiancée have made. They get married in October. We were impressed by many aspects of their home-making, but even more so by the fact that have chosen to honor God and each other, and not share a bed until after they are married. That, in our opinion and experience, is an excellent basis for a married life built on trust. To me it also underlines the responsibility of example.

It is a parental responsibility to teach wisdom through example. Results may not be guaranteed, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. If we hope to see wisdom shown in the lives and words of our offspring, then we need to make sure that it is evident in ours.

Not Sparing the Rod

Proverbs 23:13-14

13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Anti-biblical Ideas

For the past few decades, many parenting “experts” have said it is bad to discipline your children. Usually they say simply that you should not spank your child, but some go as far as to say you should never discipline a child.

There are families in which this idea can work, however, looking around at our western society today, it seems pretty clear that it has not worked well.

One of the dangers of this anti-biblical teaching is that there is an entire generation of egotistical and entitled brats preparing to take over running the world.

The other major danger is theological.

God would never …

A good parent reprimands their children when they do something wrong or dangerous. It teaches them to be safe as they progress through life.

When we are not disciplined but taught that we can do nothing wrong, we begin to believe that we can do nothing wrong.

Besides becoming a society of ignorant jerks, we also risk our souls.

If we never do anything wrong, we see everyone else at fault (which can cost us jobs, relationships, our health, and safety). We also see no need for a savior. With no need for a savior, we see no need for the cross of Christ nor discipline.

We then hear statements such as “God would never cause someone pain or discomfort!”

However, the writer of Hebrews reminds us:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
Hebrews 12:5-7, NIV

Discipline is good, because it helps us mature and be capable of living responsible and well-balanced lives. Discipline keeps us out of trouble.

Discipline shows love.

Heavenly Father, help us understand the value of discipline, when and how to enact it, and that You use our circumstances to help us, that You may get all the glory!

Get Ready to Learn

Proverbs 23:12

“Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.”

Pause to Prepare

This proverb echos 22:17-21 and asks us to get ready for what we are about to read/hear. In other words, what is about to be said is very important, so we should prepare our hearts and tune our ears.

I can almost imagine Solomon looking at his son the way I sometimes look at my daughters. I call their name, get eye contact, and then ask, “Are you listening to what I am about to say?” Sometimes I even take two of my fingers, point at their eyes, then mine, just to make sure I have their attention.

Solomon is trying to get our attention, but he is warning us that what we are about to hear might not be pleasant.


It is interesting to note that the majority of Bible translations use the same word in this proverb: “apply.” This should tell us that there is something special about this word – something worth examining.

The Hebrew word for “apply” is an expression that simply means to go in and come out. But when we use it in connection with one’s heart, the idea is that we must decide where the heart goes – it can’t be allowed to go where it wants.

Obviously, the heart is our seat of emotions, but too often the heart is in the seat driving. Solomon wants us to prepare our hearts for something that might not be pleasant, something that might cause our emotions to take over.


What is it that Solomon asks us to apply our hearts to? He says, “Apply thine heart unto instruction.” But here again, should be mindful of words. “Instruction” is a word we typically associate with being told what to do. However, the Hebrew word muwcar (mü·sär’) lends itself more to the idea of discipline and chastisement.

So what is the point?

Solomon is about to instruct us with knowledge that may be hard to handle, so he is telling us in advance to do what is necessary, even if it is difficult.

You see, we need to make our heart go to a place from where it would normally run. We need to force our ears to hear what we don’t want to hear. We need to take our emotions by the hand and willfully walk them through disciplined paces. Otherwise, what we are about to read next will cause us to flee with our emotions leading the way.

Don’t Move the Stones

Proverbs 23:10-11

Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless: For their redeemer [is] mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.


stone pillarUnlike what we have today, people in Bible days didn’t have GPS systems to determine property lines. In ancient days about the only way to mark off one’s property was with stones. Sometimes, instead of just an engraved stone or two, stone pillars might be erected to designate the boundary to one’s property.

The problem with stone landmarks is that they can be moved. All one had to do in order to expand one’s territory would be to move his neighbor’s landmark, but that was a dangerous thing to do. A person could be put to death for moving stones.

The Fatherless

When orphans and widows inherited property, especially if there were no other men in the family, it was common for neighbors to move the landmarks. Many times the only way to keep one’s property was to daily walk the borders, and for many widows, especially orphaned children, that was impossible.

Many people today treat the fatherless in the same way. Greedy crooks find ways to take advantage of the helpless in order to have access to their inheritances. Unless someone can come alongside to guide and protect, many orphans lose what is left to them. Fortunately, their is a legal system in place, but the fatherless still needs a good lawyer to plead their case.


The message of this proverb should be taken seriously. It is a warning to stay away from the boundaries of the fatherless; don’t even enter into their fields.

Many laugh at how easy it is to skirt the law. It is not uncommon, even, for lawmakers to change boundaries in order to get what they want. They claim “immanent domain” and take away widows’ and orphans’ homes and farms. They enter into the fields and remove the landmarks.

But God is not pleased. As a matter of fact, He is not only an attorney that has never lost a case, but He is the Judge who will decide the guilty’s fate. Those who take advantage of the helpless won’t laugh forever.