What should matter most to us when we think of our sons? I know for a period of my life what mattered most to me was seeing my sons excel at sports. I could have sadly rewritten these two verses with the following foolish edits.
"My son, if you do well at football and soccer, my own heart also will be glad; and my flesh will rejoice when I can cheer at your games for your goals and touchdowns." (Dopey Father 23:15-16)
First of all I want to state that I am not against sports or competitive activities. When God graciously broke me he still allowed my sons to compete in sports - and I continued to cheer for them on the sidelines. Oh, but how I grieved for the years that I had lost - and for the way I had skewed their minds on what was a priority in their lives. During that time period we set everything aside for their sports careers. We spent tremendous amounts of money following them all over the mid-south (which, by the way, put us into debt). I had my sweet wife miss church along with my sons, so that we could go wherever the coach told us to go. We basically had a very clear idol in our lives - and it is was the dream I had that maybe one day my sons could play college ball - or even make a pro team. But the most devastating problem that was growing all the time was the misplaced priorities that I was putting before my sons. My own lack of submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in my life - carried over into my son's lives. This story ends well - because of two things. First and foremost because of God's mercy and grace. But secondly, because of some serious repentance on my part - repentance and brokenness that led me back to a proper life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ - and with proper biblical priorities. Let me get back, though, to the proverb at hand.
The father here is speaking of what makes his heart glad. The father here was glad, and later even rejoiced that his son had a wise heart. Wisdom was what this father valued most in his son. And it is a wisdom that sees life as God sees it. The father here lived to see his son one day with a very wise and discerning heart. He labored to see that one day his boy would be a man who longed to do the will of God above anything else in his life. This places before us a very important question. Are we as fathers seeing our most important job as laboring to see our sons become wise, godly young men?
Wisdom comes from God. We learned this back in Proverbs 2. If we are going to have wise sons, it will be because we have taught them the things of God. Wise sons come from wise fathers who both know the Word and apply it in our everyday lives. The passion that often drives a "sports-dad" will be re-directed into being a "godly-dad." If the Christian fathers who spend hours trying to hone their son into the next Peyton Manning or the next Landon Donovan, would devote that much time to honing their sons into the next Paul - we'd watch a revolution in the church - and in our society in general. Instead of working on passing and catching skills alone - we'd find ourselves spending time also reading the Word with our child. We'd be working on wisdom skills - on memorizing Scripture - and on being able to take the Word of God an use it to properly discern good and evil as they walked through their lives.
I know I may be laboring the point a little bit, but think about this for a moment. How many sons are actually going to be playing sports at the college level? How many truly have a shot at the NFL or MLB or the MLS? And how many who make it to those levels of sport will have a wise and discerning heart there to keep them out of the trouble that seems to be following sportsmen in these sports? The truth is very few will make it to these teams, but everyone single one of those young men will need to be able to live a life of wisdom. All of them - even those who do make it - will need "wisdom skills" to walk through life worthy of their calling in Jesus Christ. If you think your son will make it to a college or pro level - have at it. But Dad, make sure that the most important goal you have for your son is to live a life of wisdom an godliness! Make sure HE knows that this is the true goal - and that which would most delight your heart and soul!
The father her also states that his inmost being will rejoice when he hears his son speaking what is right. The inmost being spoken of here is literally kidneys in the Hebrew. Dads, your kidneys need to rejoice over your son! Now there is a phrase you don't hear much anymore. "Hey Bob, man my kidneys just rejoice over how Bob Jr. is growing into a godly young man!"
The kidneys were thought, along with the heart, to be the deepest seat of emotion and joy in a person. It referred to the innermost and most private part of a person's life. When you are moved to rejoice at that level, you are rejoicing at the deepest level possible. You rejoice because your heart is blessed at the core level of your beliefs and principles. This leaves me with another loaded question. What is your deepest rejoicing about in life? If you find yourself rejoicing deeply at the touchdowns and sports achievements of others - but yawning at the things of God - the exhibition of godly character and true manhood - you are rejoicing about the wrong things. Let me say, I love a good touchdown like most guys - but God has worked to where I get more excited when I watch my sons make godly decisions.
The reason this father was rejoicing in his kidneys was because his son was speaking what is right. This is not that his son was parroting some phrase or some rote speech he knew would make dad happy, but that his son was speaking normally - and was saying what was right. This is an important step for our sons maturity wise. Jesus taught us that it was out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth spoke. So when we hear our sons speaking what is right in their normal conversation - it tells us that God has worked in their hearts. It is easy to get a son to say what YOU want him too when he is around you - but it is far more difficult to rear him to say the right thing (the godly thing) as a matter of normal living. This requires God working in his heart. That is why the father was dancing in his kidneys when he knew his son was speaking this way.
Fathers, this proverb is vital for us to grasp. We are called to take boys given to us by God, and rear them to be men. This requires doing far more than just bringing home the bacon - and re-living our desires for sports grandeur through them. Taking a boy and making him a man requires that we put wisdom and godliness at the top of our own priority list, and helping our sons to do the same. It means laboring to see a heart-change in our boys by the working of the gospel and the Spirit of God. It means training our sons to love a woman properly - and to have a vision of what God desires for their lives to be. But I will tell you by the mercies of God that when you watch your sons begin to make godly decisions - no sports achievement in the world can come close to the sensation you will get in your kidneys! Live therefore for the glory of God and the blessing of your kidneys as you labor to take boys - and give the world men of God.