Are you wise? Do you pay attention and make adjustments when others warn you or offer good advice on how to structure your life so things go better for you? Or, do you stubbornly cling to your own opinions and later suffer for it?
“Wisdom shouts in the streets…’You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered. So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you–‘” (Proverbs 1:20, 25-26 NLT)
Human nature hates interference. Even when we suspect the advice is good, we tend to resist it. We want to do it “my way.” Yet, because others have lived longer than we have, done research we haven’t, or simply have had experience in situations we have yet to encounter, they are frequently positioned to provide advice that can spare us quite a bit of grief later on down the road–if we but accept it and make adjustments to our pattern of living.
This is why the fifth commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16) One of the ways God uses to bless us–to make things go well with us–is through the wise teaching of our parents and others who know and love us. And while this does not mean that parents should dictate our every breath, it does mean we should give serious consideration to what they say, because that is the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “honor.” So, how might our parents and other wise sources of information warn us and help our lives be longer and better?
Clearly, the first is through their admonition to fear God and cling to Him throughout life. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) Without a proper reverence for God and fear of doing wrong, the remainder of the life we attempt to build is on a very shaky and uncertain foundation. Life has its ups and downs, and some of the downs–abuse, financial ruin, serious accidents, war, even death–can be quite low. With God, no matter what calamity strikes we know that we have Christ and will come through it; without Him, many give up and are destroyed.
Another way the advice of parents and others who care can safeguard us is financially. While some families have better skills in this area than others, even those who have made mistakes can warn their children so that they need not suffer the same way they have. Remember that life offers two types of first-hand experience–positive, where you have been wise and benefitted, and negative, where you haven’t and have suffered for it. Both are useful learning vehicles; it’s just less painful to learn the first way!
So, when you family tells you to put aside a sizable chunk of your first earnings exclusively for the inevitable rainy day, put the money away and don’t touch it. When they council you to decline credit cards and gain credit through home ownership or perhaps the purchase of a car, do it. When they advise you to finish your education and set yourself up in your life work before becoming too set on a future spouse, take it to heart. The advice may constrain you now, but its intent is to empower you for a better life later. But how else might the advice of our parents help our lives be fuller, richer, and longer?
Yet one more way our parents try to set us up for success is in terms of our health, because without that it is difficult to accomplish our full potential. My mother was thirty-six when I was born, so when I was a teen she was already beginning to suffer various ailments. As a consequence she was very interested in healthy eating and incessantly, it seemed, lectured me on what I should and should not be eating, and I abhorred it. The minute she would start talking about it I was already subconsciously checking out of the conversation and trying to figure out how to cut it short without upsetting her. Yet today I recognize her wisdom, and am probably just as aggravatingly trying to pass it on to my own children.
So, the next time your parents or other individuals who truly love you and wish you well advise you–especially if they also know and follow God–resist the temptation to shrug it off and walk away. Instead, recognize it not just as a way for them to try to show that love and bless you, but also that they may be right, that doing what they say might make your life richer, better, or longer–and actually do it!
Help me not ignore wisdom or the correction it offers, that disaster not overtake me! Amen.