Let me share one of my father’s favorite Proverbs. He quotes it regularly:
"... when he sits in his house, when he walks by the way, when he lies down and when he rises up."
I am the fortunate son of a father who repeated and followed these instructions. That is one reason I love Proverbs 24 -- a chapter that is of tremendous value to fathers. It lists and explains some of the most important priorities and techniques of a wise father, and warns him of pitfalls to avoid. For good or for ill, all fathers are builders. With each invested moment, a father builds something. Thus, building is the subject of Proverbs 24.
"Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; For their heart devises violence, And their lips talk of troublemaking. Through wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches. A wise man is strong, Yes, a man of knowledge increases strength; For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, And in a multitude of counselors there is safety. Wisdom is too lofty for a fool; He does not open his mouth in the gate."
Proverbs 24 is the last chapter of Proverbs that Solomon wrote (the remaining chapters were penned by the men of Hezekiah). In this chapter, Solomon confronts two issues. First, he deals with the problems of envy and a man’s desire to fit in with other men. And second, he challenges men to build their families with wisdom and knowledge.
Solomon shows us six techniques of the wise father:
Let’s take some time to consider each of these principles.
THE FIRST TECHNIQUE
"Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; For their heart devises violence, And their lips talk of troublemaking." (Proverbs 24:1-2)
Here we find the first technique of a wise father.
These two commands are directed straight at the heart of a man. Solomon’s first command (“do not be envious of evil men”) confronts the sin of discontentment. Envy is the opposite of contentment. It is like battery acid in the home; it discolors and corrodes everything it comes in contact with. But note that Solomon specifically addresses the problem of envying what evil men have. Being too knowledgeable of evil men and what they have is the first step toward envying them. This is one reason why Paul states:
"I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil" (Romans 16:19).
We can become too knowledgeable of evil men when we watch and read about them. In a way, we study them. We see wicked men displayed in magazines, websites, and movies. Sometimes we put posters of them on our walls. I am often taken back when I see posters of ungodly media personalities on the walls of children’s rooms. Once we see them and contemplate their lives, we become familiar with them. Then we become comfortable with them, sympathize with them, and make excuses for them. They become our friends. At that point, it is natural that we compare ourselves to them, and end up wanting to be like them. And if we are going to be like them, then we must have what they have.
Perhaps this problem of envy reveals one aspect of Paul’s warning to the Philippian church:
"…so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15).
Our contemplation of unseemly characters can easily lead to covetousness. Therefore, let us heed the exhortation of the Lord Jesus:
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16).
Contemplation of people who are “wolves” often incites the green monster of envy; our envy is further inflamed when we continue to focus our attention on them. We always become interested in the things that we give our attention to. If we are to obey Jesus’ command, we must protect ourselves from too much viewing, reading, or research on evil men. If we do not, our knowledge of them may incite a desire to be like them.
This is all a part of living a life of biblical “innocence”.
The second command (
“do not desire to be with them”) also addresses the heart. It emphasizes our innermost desires. Solomon begins with the heart, where all holiness begins, and very often ends. If we desire to be with evil men, we will turn on media sources where we can find them.
We live in a world where we can be with evil people at the click of a button or the flip of a switch. When we connect with these people in these ways, we bring them into our minds, hearts, and perhaps even our homes. Our desire “to be with them” through the means of modern technology brings them first into our lives and then into our children’s lives.
It is plain from this passage of Scripture that Christians should not “be with” evil celebrities. They are not worthy of our gaze or contemplation. The message? Do not make heroes out of the evil, spiritually weak, morally decadent, hell-bound, un-heroic men and women of this age. Do not desire to be with them. Do not seek their company through the television or computer screen. Do not desire to be entertained by them. Do not show appreciation for them. The godly man does want to be with the wicked or like the wicked. He has different role models. He does not watch them, clap for them, or laugh with them. The Godly man wants nothing of wickedness.
So is there hope for us if we have failed? What if we have been with the ungodly of this world? What if we have sung their songs? What if we memorized their statistics, known their images, appreciated their styles, and studied their activities? What do we do if we have been with evil men and women?
First, we must confess to ourselves and to God the reality of the situation. The word “confess” means “to say the same thing”. Thus, Christian confession means that we say the same thing that God says about an action or a situation. If we say something is not sin when it really is sin, we contradict God. Instead, we must embrace what God says about things; we must “confess” His perspective.
Second, we must renounce our sin, and flee from its influence.
Third, we must transform our minds and sanctify our desires. It is our desires that need to change. At the core of our being is the driving force of our affections. These affections are the root of our desires, and it is the ruling power of these desires that get us into trouble.
For this reason, the fight will be won or lost on the battleground of our affections. If we desire to be with the wicked, we will lose the battle. Our battle with ruling desires is where we will win or lose our wisdom.
Instead of desiring to be with wicked personalities, the godly father must nurture a different desire – a desire for God. When he cultivates that desire, his soul and body will seek the satisfaction of Godly relationships. He will desire relationships with pure men.
All desires are either fed or starved. When a man starves his desire to be with wicked men, his desire for holiness will abound.
THE SECOND TECHNIQUE
Now we move on to the second technique of a wise father: he builds with Wisdom’s materials.
"Through wisdom a house is built…"
God has designed men to be builders. This is evidenced by the fact that wherever man resides he builds. We men are always building something. Obviously, it matters how we build and what materials and tools we use. We always build best when we use the right tools and materials. If the Christian father is going to build his household well, he must use the tools that God has given to him for that task. Of these tools, wisdom is the supreme tool for building all aspects of our households. Proverbs 9:1 says:
"[W]isdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars."
As we build our households, we can be thankful that we God Himself as a role model. He is the Master Builder.
Godly wisdom has moral content and is not simply head knowledge. Wisdom is the application of holy principles to life. The Lord is the Master Builder. He made the universe, and His wisdom is the basis for all of His creative works -- the heavens, the earth, and all things on the earth.
"By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, By understanding He set the heavens in place, By His knowledge, the deeps were divided and the clouds let drop the dew." (Proverbs 3:19-20)
Proverbs 8 expands upon this with an extended exposé of the role of wisdom in creation:
"The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. I have been established from everlasting, From the beginning, before there was ever an earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills, I was brought forth; While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields, Or the primeval dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there, When He drew a circle on the face of the deep, When He established the clouds above, When He strengthened the fountains of the deep, When He assigned to the sea its limit, So that the waters would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth, Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men.
"Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, And do not disdain it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the Lord; But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death."
Wisdom is the most important tool for home building. But wisdom is not just intellectual knowledge. It has feet, and rises up to do practical things.
Where will we find the wisdom we need to build our houses? There are thousands of books on family life. Should we look for wisdom there? There are many people on the street. Should we randomly interview people on the street, hoping that they can impart some wisdom to us? Should we go to the NEA, the AMA, or the APA for advice? Should we go to our parents for words of wisdom? Where can we go to find true wisdom that will not pass away with the next popular movement?
The answer? We must go to the Holy Scripture and trust It completely. Though It might contradict the thinking or the practices of those around us, we believe that Scripture is infallible in all things and sufficient for all things. This idea stems from Reformation doctrine: “Sola Scriptura” – Scripture alone.
This means that Scripture should capture the mind and direct the steps of a family. We ought to constantly meditate, memorize, and nourish ourselves and our entire families with Scripture.
The Puritans were famous for exhorting fathers to give themselves to the study of the Word of God in “family worship”. Many Puritan ministers called on fathers to read Scripture, pray, and sing with their families, once in the morning and once in the evening. Some pastors, like Richard Baxter, would even exercise church discipline on men who were not catechizing their children.
We need the truth of Scripture to fortify our hearts. If we carry the Word of Truth deep within our consciousness, we will be kept safe from the emotional gyrations and worldly deceptions that so many are susceptible to.
When we have this kind of internal fortification, we will be better equipped to lead our children on the narrow path. How will we help our children handle their disappointments unless we use the Word to guide them? How will we help them learn how to love the people around them unless we teach them the biblical principles of love? How will we show them how to think biblically unless we fill their minds with the Word of God? Without wisdom from the pure and perfect Word of God, how will we prepare our children to perform their duties as husbands and wives and workers?
When we have God’s wisdom dwelling richly in our hearts, we will have the resources necessary to be the good shepherds we are called to be. Scripture gives us all we need to disciple our families. 2 Timothy 3:16 explains this clearly:
"All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for doctrine reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness."
THE THIRD TECHNIQUE
A wise father establishes his house with understanding:
"And by understanding it is established" (Proverbs 24:3).
Understanding is different than wisdom. Understanding means “careful and thoughtful conduct”. The skillful application of wisdom is what produces a man of understanding.
The man of understanding makes judgments and distinctions; he does not simply accept everything as “wise” or “good”. Wisdom guides his way, because he knows that understanding is wisdom applied.
THE FOURTH TECHNIQUE
Next, a wise father fills the rooms of his household with precious and pleasant riches:
“By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Proverbs 24:4).
Here, Solomon could be referring to the things that competent knowledge brings. Thus, a knowledge of business workings (or life in general) may be in view. More likely, however, Solomon is speaking of the spiritual treasures that biblically-minded fathers bring into their homes. A home can be full of worldly treasure and still be cold and empty. But if a home is filled with heaven’s precious and pleasant riches, it will be warm, and full of true life.
In his commentary on Proverbs, John Gill affirms the interpretation that these riches can be understood as spiritual riches:
"This may be understood spiritually, of the fulness which the church has from Christ, and of those unsearchable riches of his she receives from him; and of those treasures of wisdom and knowledge, which the chambers of the soul of a believer are filled with by him; and of all the riches put into them, which are both precious and pleasant; such as precious promises, pleasant doctrines, the valuable truths of the Gospel, and blessings of grace."
It is a father’s calling to bring rare and beautiful spiritual treasures into his house, making it a treasure trove of the goodness of God.
Solomon is claiming here that the treasures of godly wisdom are rare. In other words, the precious things of the kingdom of God may not be the most common things. Everyone may not be used to seeing these “riches” in other people or families. If you have these spiritual riches, you might be seen as an oddball. You might not have “a normal home”. But don’t be afraid of this, if you are firmly grounded in the wisdom of God. Whether your household is “rare” or “common” should be judged by Holy Scripture, not popular opinion.
When first established, every home is empty. It must be filled with something. We fill it with whatever we value and allow inside. It is the father’s responsibility to ensure that what fills his home is the true treasure of Proverbs 24. Without much effort, you can fill your home with the common, shallow fare that the culture serves us. But with prayer and labor, your home can be a place of rare and beautiful treasures that are not shallow and will not pass away.
What is filling your home? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Solomon describes a godly home, one that is like a “house built on the rock”. This home is one of beauty and reality. In every aspect, this home is crafted by wisdom. It is a place full of precious and pleasant riches.
What, specifically, are these rare and pleasant treasures that Solomon speaks of? I believe that they are the products of godly wisdom as summarized by the fruits of the Spirit:
"Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22).
James tells us how to detect true wisdom:
"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:17).
THE FOURTH TECHNIQUE
A wise father seeks the best counsel and is strong:
"A wise man is strong, Yes, a man of knowledge increases strength; For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, And in a multitude of counselors there is safety." (Proverbs 24:5-6)
It is God’s desire to build men who are strong -- men who are forged by the sound instruction of many counselors. God gives men counsel through at least three primary means.
First, we find a multitude of counselors in Scripture itself. God delivers counsel to us through hundreds of personalities, in many different historical periods, and by various genres of writing (such as poetry, parable, narrative, songs, and didactic texts). In 1 Corinthians 10:11, we are told that the events and personages recorded in the Old Testament are written about for our wisdom. Scripture provides us with examples:
"Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."
God provides us with role models who can instruct us. What should we pursue? What should we avoid? The Scripture lays out case studies and principles that are easy for us to understand. Everything in Scripture is written for our instruction. God delivers His wisdom and counsel to us in multifaceted ways through the whole testimony of Scripture.
Second, God gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. In Matthew 10:19-20, Jesus tells us:
"The Holy Spirit shall teach you in that very hour what ye ought to say… settle it, therefore in your hearts, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand or to gainsay."
As a Counselor (Isaiah 40:13), the Holy Spirit is fully qualified to instruct us. And He will never instruct us contrary to His revealed Word. He bears the qualities of love (2 Timothy 1:7) and life (Romans 8:2). He is omniscient (I Corinthians 2:10-11), omnipresent (Psalms 139:7), and omnipotent (Zechariah 4:6). He is ready to provide help and direction in the most difficult situations.
Third, God puts wise men and women in our lives, throughout our lives. How blessed we are that Almighty God gives us counselors for our benefit! When we become a part of Christ’s body, He multiplies wisdom for us through the people in the church. We are not on our own. Not only do we have the rich testimony of Scripture and the Holy Spirit, but we also have an abundance of Scripture-filled counselors who know us personally and know our situations. God does not subject us to armchair psychologists who know nothing of our real circumstances. Consider the comfort and encouragement that God brings to us through His people.
In 2 Corinthians 7:6 and 7:13, Paul records an example of this kind of counsel:
"Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus ... Therefore we have been comforted in your comfort. And we rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all."
Notice the strength that wisdom provides. A man who wishes to live his own way (apart from God’s wisdom) will feel the consequences of such folly. However, by acquiring wisdom through godly counselors, he will be made strong. He will be mighty in the land.
THE SIXTH TECHNIQUE
"Wisdom is too lofty for a fool; He does not open his mouth in the gate."
This statement brings us to a disappointing acknowledgment: the life of wisdom is too high for many men – they would prefer to stay the way they are. When men choose to build with unwise materials and tools, they will be subject to the destiny of fools. When in the public square, they will have nothing important to say. They do not open their mouths because they have no wisdom to draw from. All that they have to give is silence. If they did say anything, it would be dismissed as the chatter of fools. They do not know the answers to the questions people are asking. What a tragedy! Not only for those now in the public square, but also for the children who will walk there in coming generations!
In short, Proverbs 24 reveals to us the techniques and building materials of wise fathers who make a difference.
Let’s quickly review the techniques that we covered:
And here are the four best tools for fathers:
When practiced, all of these principles accomplish a beautiful result: a house is filled with precious and pleasant riches. A man must seek the best counsel and escape the career track of fools. These are a father’s critical responsibilities.
Fathers must be discerning in order to build wisely. The world does not have many wise building techniques or materials. If your legacy is built by worldly techniques, it will burn like “wood, hay, and stubble”. Unbelievers will lead you to build your house on the sand. But through the wisdom of heaven, we are rescued from this by the goodness of God.