- Dr. Stieglitz
Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 29:3
"A man who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but he who keeps company with harlots wastes his wealth"
There are a number of things to notice here: the contrast between the two different objects of love; the results of the two different paths; the implied results of the two different loves which are not stated; the implications of harlotry; the contrast between two different objects of love.
Solomon is contrasting the results and the affection or pursuit of a young man's fancy. He can pursue the selfish impulses that inhabit every young man and spend time with harlots – women who will meet his sexual needs and turn him into more of a fool – a man unable to resist his selfish impulses. Or he can choose to love wisdom and thereby the application of knowledge and interpersonal skill to build strong and healthy relationships. The one builds selfish impulses and unhealthy relationships. The other builds a reservoir of information and healthy relationships. The selfish impulse looks like it is getting ahead at the beginning, but it falls behind to wisdom over the long haul. When deep, caring, and vibrant relationships are needed, wisdom is clearly the winner.
Solomon surprises us with the contrasts between the results of the various pathways. On the one hand there are parents who are glad and on the other is wasted wealth. These would not seem to be opposites. There is here a typical orientation to pleasing authority and demonstrating wisdom to those who have been down the road. In our present culture there is an orientation to peer pressure and peer approval that is destructive to young people. God wants to help us understand that the rewards in life – especially for young people – come from pleasing those who are older, not appearing cool to our peers. Consistently we have reinforced, as a culture, that which is destructive to young people. We have, in effect, praised people for orienting themselves to the fool’s way. “Do the people who are your peers agree?” rather than “Are your parents pleased?”
One of the most consistent truths, very rarely violated, is that our parents want the best for us and want us to succeed. They have been down the road of life and know many of its potholes. They do not want us to make the same mistakes that they made. They truly want their children to succeed; even many times more than they want success for themselves. Our culture is teaching young people to ignore this source of wisdom and help and try and please their peers. This is a fool’s errand.
Notice that Solomon is saying that when a young man lines up with the pursuit of wisdom, he will be pleasing to his parents. One could almost say the opposite also. If you want to take the fool’s path or the one that will almost assuredly end in destruction and great damage to your life, then do things that displease your parents.
One of the things that I try and consistently impress upon my daughters is if you glance over your shoulder as you are about to make a decision and you see the glint of approval in my eye, this is almost always a wise decision. If you make a decision like I would make, then good things will happen to you. If, however, you make choices that you know I would not approve of or that I think are a waste of time or money, then you will be adding troubles to your life that don't need to be there.
I have watched young people consistently choose the rebel path from their parents’ wisdom because they need to express their independence or they don't like their parents for some reason. This kind of thinking just destroys the potential and joy in the young person's life. Then they wonder how they got such a difficult life. Don't make this mistake. Would the decisions that you are about to make be consistent with a wise decision your parents would make? Yes, teens, it is possible for your parents to make foolish decisions also; you don't need to emulate those.
Notice the other result – the fool’s pathway. It is a waste of wealth. This is so unexpected as a statement. We might expect Solomon to say that it will result in great emotional pain; that it will bring diseases; that it will produce a shallowness in your life; that it will drive a wedge with your parents; that it will cause you to miss God's best in your life; that it will bring God's punishment; and a thousand other things that are true.
Solomon rightly picks a negative consequence that will capture the attention of the young person who is being tempted by the lure of selfish impulses. He motivates the young person to avoid the fool’s pathway with a fool’s reasoning: don't waste your wealth. In other words, it pays to stay away from this impulse. He uses selfish impulses to motivate the person who is under the power of the fool’s temptation. This may be a part of the answer to the statements that Solomon makes in 26:4,5: answer a fool according to his folly. If a person is following the lure of selfish impulses, they will not be motivated to change by altruistic reasons. They will be motivated by selfish consequences of the righteous way.
I am usually amused and saddened by the ways that people try and motivate others to give up their selfish ways. Don't do that, it will hurt me! How could you do that to us? Don't you know that you will offend God? If you do that you will be hurting lots of people! This type of reasoning makes no sense to the selfish person.
Solomon says you will be wasting your wealth. “REALLY?” replies the selfish person, “I better look into this.” The selfish person understands selfish reasons.
The implied results of the two different loves are not stated. Because of what Solomon uses as the motivation to move in the direction of wisdom, it is possible to realize that there were things he could have said; things that we would have expected him to say that He did not that we can also learn from.
After Solomon says that the person who loves wisdom makes his father glad, we would expect him to say that the person who spends time with harlots makes his father and mother disheartened and grieving. This is a true statement that the selfish person does not understand.
Deep grief comes to the parents of those who choose the lascivious life. This is a warning to parents to parent the selfishness out of their children before they get old enough to make these kinds of choices. Yes, it is hard to parent constantly and consistently enough to cause your child to personally restrict their selfishness, but it must be done so that you can enjoy your family.
Unfortunately we live in a culture where parents do not like to live with the consequences of their parenting decisions. Parents can release their children to the schools, to the coaches, to the after-school programs, to the society at large and hope those people will train selfishness out of their children's lives; but it will not happen. The parents of selfish children receive emotional punches to the stomach year after year until the child repents of their selfishness. It is no fun to be the parent of a fool, so don't raise one. Raise children who do not always put themselves first. Raise children who can say no to themselves. Make sure that it is not just external forces that make your children stop. A high level of your parenting is to bring about a level of self-denial in your children. Just because they want it doesn't mean they should do it, say it, or get it. Can they say, "No, I don't really need it." "If I am going to achieve that, then I can't do this."
The implications of harlotry.
There needs to be a long discussion and understanding of harlotry. Solomon introduces the idea that harlots or women who sell or use their bodies to satisfy the desires of selfish men outside of marriage are promoting selfishness. They are a virus in the society because they encourage and fulfill the selfish pathway. While it may not be possible to completely eradicate this form of vice from any society, one should make it as inconvenient as possible. It is not helpful to the women, the man, or the whole of society.
Young ladies must be told that when they give into the selfish pressure of men, they do not help themselves but instead push themselves and this man further down the road of destruction. It is true that there will always be these types of people, but it doesn't have to be them. They can choose to get away from this lifestyle; they can choose to never go down that path. No matter what a man tells you, sexual relations outside of marriage is a destructive force for you and for him and for society.