Ask any person born in the early 1900s — and there are still quite a few around — and they will tell you that they never thought that they would have lived to see the changes that have taken place. For instance, take a person born in 1910. They witnessed airplanes go from the primitive Wright Brothers-style to the space shuttle. They have watched tape recorders turn to MP3s via eight-tracks, cassettes and CDs. They were born before bubble gum and pre-packaged cake mixes, televisions, credit cards and Monopoly.
As a matter of fact, it is surmised that the generation of the early part of the last century has seen more change than all prior generations combined and perhaps even all present and future generations.
Yet with all these changes, one thing has not changed — parents still worry about their children. From the day Adam and Eve wondered why their sons Cain and Abel were late for supper to the present, moms and dads have been concerned about the well-being of their kids.
One way God responded to this concern was with the writing of the Old Testament book of Proverbs. This timeless book of short quips and illustrations for living in the midst of the everydays is a guide to parents for helping their children live lives within the guidelines of God’s wisdom.
King Solomon, a major contributor to Proverbs, shares with his son a concern that may be at the forefront of every parent’s thoughts. He begins by teaching his son the importance of choosing the right friends (Proverbs 1:8-19).
The king approaches this topic with urgency. He calls on his son to “listen,” which in the Hebrew means to “listen with the intention of obeying.” Solomon was saying to his son that what he had to say was worth hearing. He also urged his son to not willfully turn away (forsake) what his father and mother were trying to teach him. He promised his son that the words had value.
Why was Solomon so adamant about getting his son to listen to him? Could it be for no other reason than a deep love and a father’s desire to see his boy grow into a wise young man?
Back to the topic of interest to Solomon. In Proverbs 1:10-19, the king reminds his son that one of the most important choices he will make is his choice of friends. He warns his son not to hang out with “sinners.” No doubt this is a word that many scoff at in our day. But in its purest form, the word simply describes a person who disregards the ways of God. Solomon, as a man with a deep faith in God, understood that God’s ways are the best ways for living.
In talking to his son about the boy’s choice of friends, Solomon was quite direct. He warned his son not to run with those who had no use for God and His ways. He warned the boy of the empty promises and destructive activities of some folks. The king reminded his son that following along with such friends would bring him to a world of hurt climaxing in his own destruction.
So, what’s a parent to do? What lesson can 21st century parents learn from an ancient king? What relevance can be found in the words of a man who lived in another time and place and culture that seems so different from our own?
Here are four easy instructions King Solomon passes on to parents:
1. When it comes to a child’s friends, parents ought to be proactive in helping them make good choices (Proverbs 1:8,10).
2. Talk directly and clearly to your child concerning those they hang out with (Proverbs 1:10).
3. Warn your child about openly sinful friends and enlighten them to the empty promises that might be made (Proverbs 1:11-14).
4. Warn them about the effects of running with the wrong crowd (Proverbs 1:17-19).
Keep in mind that our children can be pretty defensive about their friends, so kindness must be mixed with concern. Offer to get to know your children’s friends. Remember, if you and your child are believers, you are to be salt and light in this world.
But also remember that your first call in parenting is the call to protect the gift that God has blessed you with — the gift of your child. This may not always make you popular, but it will help them be safe.
Don’t be hesitant. You protect your child’s health with vaccinations. You protect them from the elements with coats. You protect them from getting hurt by teaching them that fire burns. Should you not also teach them how to select friends?
Keep in mind — this lesson taught well is a lesson that will last a lifetime.
Editor’s note: The following column appeared in a previous edition of the Enterprise.
John Ditty can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com