This is the beginning of the collection of the proverbs of Solomon. Whereas the early chapters of Proverbs dealt with themes that lasted for multiple verses or the entire chapter, these will be the pithy statements that most people associate with a proverb. It is only fitting then that the man God used to speak the first 9 chapters that often addresses sons – would begin this part of proverbs with a proverb about the joy and grief a son can bring to his parents.
Two things are contrasted here – a wise son and a foolish son. What is it to be a wise son? The word used for wisdom is “hakam” and it means to be skilled or experienced in something. Since the opening of the book of Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, we know that the skill or experience spoken of is moral and directly associated with living in a way that honors and pleases God. The easiest way to understand wisdom is that it is the Holy Spirit given understanding of how God sees things. Thus the wise man is the one who lives in light of God, Who He is and What He desires. The word for fool is “kesil” and it means to be stupid or a dull person. The fool is stupid because he sets his desires against God and His ways. He is also dull and stupid when it comes to successfully navigating life itself. He doesn’t seem to understand how things work – or doesn’t care. He is unable to discern the good from the bad at all. The fool is the consummate personal autonomy advocate – thinking that his own personal wants and desires are to reign supreme. Thus he has little or no ability to figure out what is good in any greater sense than himself.
The other contrast drawn here has to do with how this young man affects the demeanor of his parents. The wise son is a joy to his father. We’ve seen how proud a dad can be of his son when he is wise. That father will talk endlessly about his boy and the good things he is doing. It is not that the mom does not have joy – but usually her joy becomes something that shines from within. I love when the gospels speak of how Mary “treasured” all the things she heard and knew about her son, Jesus. As a dad, you just want the whole world to know about your godly, wise son. A mom feels the same way – she just expresses it differently.
But the contrast here is the way that the mother’s life is affected when this son becomes foolish in his actions and attitudes. Over the years of watching my own wife respond to our children – it breaks a mother’s heart when her children begin to adopt foolish ways. It’s not that it doesn’t affect me as a dad, but I cannot come within miles of the way my wife grieves when her children begin to turn away from the Lord and wise living. I’ve watched as she is overwhelmed with sadness and begins to turn to prayer on their behalf. She would write out pages of Scripture that she would then use as she prayed for them. Her heart would not rest until she knew that they had returned to the Lord and to His ways.
What should we take away from this first proverb of Solomon? First of all there is a takeaway for parents. We need to be wise in the way we rear our children. If we want them to be wise as they grow up – we will need to teach them this wisdom. That is what the first 9 chapters of Proverbs have already told us. But there is also something for the son as well. He is to realize that his actions affect more than himself. The choices he makes and the directions he takes will have a tremendous affect on his parents. Therefore he should make them carefully – being aware that wisdom has a blessing not only for him, but also for those who gave their lives to rear him as well.