If, Then (Proverbs 2:1-11)

Life is a nexus of cause and effect. Proverbs 2:1-11 is a guide to this nexus. It teaches us the relationship between living wisely and living well.
Proverbs 2:1-11 begins with a personal address:
My son…
Parents—both fathers and mothers—are responsible to God for teaching their children how to live. They show their children, through words and deeds, the nature of wisdom.
But this wisdom must be caught as well as taught. Children, especially as they grow older, have a responsibility to learn from their parents. Verses 1-4 clarify the nature of that responsibility:
…if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure…
Notice the verbs: accept, store up, turn, apply, call out, cry aloud, look, and search. These are not passive verbs. They require children to take an active role in the learning process.
Too often, parents think that teaching their children means making their children’s decisions for them. When children are young, that’s necessary to a certain degree. But as children get older, decision-making becomes a zero-sum game. The more parents make decisions for their children, the less those children learn how to make decisions for themselves. I think that’s why church kids so often go wild in college. They’ve never been given the opportunity to make decisions for themselves, so their newfound liberty quickly turns into license. The trick of parenting, it turns out, is creating an environment where children actively seek out your advice.
When children themselves seek wisdom, they personally experience the blessings of God. According to verses 5-8:
…then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom,
and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds victory in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
In these verses, the best advice a parent can give a child is to begin a relationship with God. That relationship is the key to living well, for God himself watches over his children. He is their victory, shield, and guard. Notice, however, that this protection is premised on deepening levels of intellectual maturity in his children. It is based on him giving them wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.
Finally, according to verses 9-11, a relationship with God results in increased moral character in his children:
Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair — every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.
Intelligence and virtue, which must be taught by parents and learned by children, is the path of God to the good life.

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