Sermon: Proverbs 10:1-3

People of God, the book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom; it is a book of contrasts, and a book of success. Wisdom in that it teaches how God wants you to live in this world; contrasts because it teaches you how God does not want you to live in this world, and success, because it establishes the good life in the way God intends it to be. Wisdom, contrasts, and success are three key ideas in the book of Proverbs. Indeed this is God’s plan for His world through His people. It is a pity that the idea that the Bible applies to all areas of life is so neglected today. In fact, it is neglected even by Christians. The fundamental reason for claiming the Bible does not speak to all areas of life is that for some life is ghostly. The center of the Christian life is the spiritual center. The physical stuff is irrelevant. They only exist to distract us from the life to come. After all, if the ship is sinking, why polish the brass?[1] The book of Proverbs corrects this mindset. In fact, in the Hebrew Scriptures it is very difficult to find a distinction between the spiritual and physical. The soul is not a ghost-like figure wondering around divorced from your body. When the Bible addresses the soul/spirit, it is also addressing your bodies and when the Bible addresses the body it is also addressing your spirit. The implications of this thinking is revolutionary for how we think about the Scriptures, and for our purposes, at the very least, the affirmation that God is concerned about both spiritual and physical teaches us that the Bible is also interested in teaching us about life, stuff, wealth, poverty, food, wine, water, trees, and everything else under the sun. When God said that creation was very good, He meant it and we should not be shocked when he speaks to us about a variety of issues and when He demands that we conform into His image. Our goal as image-bearers is to mimic the life of God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.

In these next few Sundays I would like to explore a little bit of this vast depository of wisdom found in Proverbs 10. The book of Proverbs is made up of seven collections. The longest of these collections begins in chapter 10-22. These are labeled the Proverbs of Solomon. As we read these proverbs the first thing we realize is that it does not seem to be very organized, but the organization is present. You will find the themes of creation and you will find in the end the theme of marriage and weddings. There is a purpose we are working toward;[2] there is a culmination we are seeking.

Another point to observe is that Jesus says in Luke 24 that all of the Old Covenant Scriptures speak of Him. We need to bear this is in mind when we read the Old Testament Scriptures. Of course, Proverbs will teach us how to be successful and mature, and how to live ethically, but Proverbs also points us to Jesus Christ. For instance, Proverbs 10:1 says that “a wise Son makes a glad father.” The one and only Son who never failed His Father and who pleased Him from His first breath to His last was Jesus. The ultimate and truly wise Son was not Solomon, but Jesus. Jesus is the greater Solomon; in fact, Jesus is the wisdom of God incarnate; wisdom made flesh. This teaches us that doing wisdom; possessing wisdom is following the One who is true wisdom. You cannot be wise, while denouncing or rejecting Jesus. The wisdom of the world is put on display for everyone to see its foolishness and as the academicians put on their masks of wisdom, God unmasks them and shows them their utter incompetency and foolishness.

The wisdom of Proverbs is not merely intellect, but also practical. The wise man knows the truth of God, but He actually does those things. He lives in light of it. He may never have graduated from college, but He is wise.  Wisdom is always manifested by righteousness.[3]

With that in mind, what does Proverbs 10 teach us? Verse one says: “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.” These are what we call antithetic lines. The second line will offer the opposite picture of the first line. The text says that a wise son, and by implication, a wise daughter, makes a father glad. The word “glad” signifies an intense joy; the height of joy. What is it that brings this intense joy to fathers? athletic children, academic children, artistic children? No, wise children. If children are everything, but not wise, it brings grief and despair to the mother. Notice how the book of Proverbs is not merely a father/son dialogue, but a mother/son dialogue, and by implication a mother/daughter and father/daughter conversation. Children, this is your fifth commandment duty: to honor father and mother. Your goal is to make your mom and dad so proud that every time they think of you they want to throw a party in your honor; they want to say my son is wise, my daughter is wise. If the greatest joy of parents is wise children, then the greatest duty of parents is to train them up to be wise. In fact, you will know that you are doing well in training your children to be wise when it comes to a point in life when your children are teaching you wisdom, when you are learning from their example what wisdom looks like. Parents, you need to think generationally. You should expect that your sons and daughters will exceed you in wisdom and our children should expect that their children will exceed them in wisdom. Wisdom is an issue of maturity and we are building on the wisdom of our fathers and mothers. So, when you hear words of biblical wisdom coming from the mouths of your children know that your training is bearing fruit. Let me also say that though there is an immense privilege and blessing from God to begin this training when our little ones are born into a covenant family, that is, from their earliest days, we should realize that training is never too late. Some parents may be tempted to think that since I did not begin to think seriously about passing wisdom to my children until they were older, this is then a lost cause. The Bible never determines when it is or isn’t a lost cause, the Bible demands that we train our children in wisdom no matter if they are 12 months or 12 years old. Let me also observe that while Proverbs is very familial in nature, that is, speaking to relationships in the family, Proverbs is not intended to be seen only in that context. In fact, the fifth commandment is not to be applied only to the individual household, but to other relationships including authority. The Bible speaks of honor to the king, civil rulers, masters, and church leaders. The Westminster Larger Catechism puts it this way in question #124:

Question 124: Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?

Answer: By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.[4]

This is an application to all of us. We are all sons and daughters of the great Father who is always glad to see His children grow up into wisdom and maturity. And this is clearly seen in how we respond to authority in our lives.

This picture would be incomplete if I did not mention that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all true wisdom.[5] In the biblical context to fear God is to submit to Him; to please Him; to make Him glad. The context of wisdom is the context in which God is seen for who He is, not for Who He may be, not for Who He would be if He existed. The fear of God, which brings wisdom, only comes in a context where biblical wisdom can be cultivated. We educate, so we can produce worshipers…an environment and a context where education is not producing better worshipers is an environment that is working contrary to the words of Proverbs.

Notice how wisdom is gained in verse 2: “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.” Wisdom is gained through righteousness. What does it profit if you gain the whole world, but lose the New Heavens and Earth? In other words, what does it profit if you gain a life of absolute comfort while your children cause you grief and despair? These ideas are all connected:  economics, parenting and wisdom. We go from the fifth commandment to the eighth commandment: “You shall not steal.” How are you rescued through wicked and unethical profiting? You are rescued by being righteous. What kind of righteousness? We are talking about the treasures that come with service. The opposite of stealing is service. The one who serves has no desire to steal. He is content with service. What does the wicked do? They use and manipulate people; they take advantage of the weak, but the righteous, those united to Jesus Christ, the righteous ones serve, as Jesus served. Service comes before exaltation; cross comes before crown. This is the contrast of verse two. The wicked thinks that no matter how he accumulates wealth, the end justifies the means. Are there wealthy wicked people in our society? Yes. But what is the pay-off of such unethical conduct? They have “made an entrepreneurial error by thinking that the pay-off was worth the corruption necessary to obtain it. The wicked man’s efforts produce a personal loss.”[6] The Bible differentiates between different types of wealth. Wealth in the hands of wicked and ungodly people is a picture of autonomy and rebellion. It will only be used to cause their destruction. The Bible, on the other hand, advocates what I call servanthood wealth; wealth for the sake of others. When we sing the psalms and pray for the destruction of our enemies in many ways we are praying that their wealth empires will collapse and be passed on to the hands of those who can use it with biblical wisdom. This also provides parents a great opportunity to teach children about giving. Son, here is $10 for your labor; $1 belongs to Jesus’ bride. Righteousness delivers you from death? Does this mean that living and doing wisdom will deliver me from the torment of a hopeless death? Yes. St. Paul says we are His workmanship created unto good works. Wisdom produces works. This is the life of wisdom. You have probably heard that the renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens has esophagus cancer.[7] Many evangelical pastors have begun to pray for Christopher that he would turn to wisdom and thus turn to Yahweh. Here is a man who has dedicated his journalistic career to mocking the wisdom of God and now is faced with the reality of death. You see, righteousness brings life. One philosopher said that the unexamined life is not worth living, the book of Proverbs says that even the examined life that does not pursue wisdom is not worth living because it leads to death.

Finally, in verse three we read: “The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.”

“The tenth chapter of Proverbs begins with a series of contrasts: wise sons vs. foolish sons (v. 1), ill-gotten wealth vs. righteousness (v. 2), righteous people vs. wicked people (v. 3), lazy people vs. industrious people (v. 4). These are not contrasts between people’s capacities for work, or obtaining capital, or their basic intelligence. These contrasts are ethical.”[8]

The contrasts continue in this verse. The Christian lives a righteous life amidst an unrighteous people and it shows. The dominion mandate has both a positive and negative aspect to it. The positive is that we win and the negative is that they lose. The covenantal promises of God unto you and your children are based on the victory of Christ over death. Because Christ has won, we will also. Since we are programmed for victory we need to adopt a long-term strategy and when we do so, it means that our victories may wait to be seen in the long-term. Let’s say the wicked apply the Protestant Work Ethic. Will he reap the benefit of working hard? Of course. But Proverbs teaches us that these benefits are temporal.

But these virtues are not sufficient to produce the results hoped for by the wicked…the Protestant ethic is “necessary but not sufficient” for long-term economic growth. This ethic must be sustained by the theology that created it. It is not an autonomous ethic that can be effectively adopted, long term, by any and all cultures, because covenant-breaking cultures cannot sustain this ethic indefinitely. They will either abandon it or else adopt the confession of faith that undergirds it.[9]

Unless a view of profit and labor is undergirded with a view of God’s wisdom, it is all in vain. It is predestined for doom and failure. And this is precisely what we see in our world today. Wealth in the hands of the wicked is the equivalent of giving a child the steering wheel in the interstate. The more the wicked craves and desires, the greater the hole he is digging for himself. But the righteous, those who seek wisdom and are trained to love wisdom, they make their heavenly Father glad and the Father who knows all provides daily bread for His own. The Bible does not operate under the assumption that righteous living brings about immediate gratification; the Bible says that faithful generational living, living grounded in wisdom will lead to restoration and success.

This is how we are called to live. As one early Church Father said:

“…the complete Word of God is not a multitude of words but a single word of truth.”[10]

This truth is that the way to wisdom is through Jesus Christ. All of the Scriptures speak to this one fact. The wisdom that Jesus offers is a wisdom that is carried out into life. It is a wisdom that leads to service and causes our Father to look upon us with favor and delight. In The Name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


[1] This quote is perhaps first attributed to J. Vernon McGee.

[2] Steve Wilkins, series on Proverbs. See Auburn Avenue Media. Steve’s insights were very helpful in developing this sermon.

[3] Steve Wilkins.

[4]http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/larger1.html

[5] Psalm 111:110; Proverbs 1:7.

[6] Gary North, An Economic Commentary on Proverbs.

[7] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/193621.php

[8] Gary North, An Economic Commentary on Proverbs.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Origen. Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures.

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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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