Almost 3,000 years ago Solomon, king of Israel, was inspired by God to record for all time vital keys for successful living he had learned. Those lessons were collected in the book of Proverbs, and Solomon addressed that book to you!
From Herbert W. Armstrong to teenagers:
Hi! Kids: I did not have the privilege of growing up in God's Church, as you do. I was brought up from childhood in a Protestant church and in a boys Sunday school class. But we had an older young man as teacher, and instead of following the usual church lessons, we went through the book of Proverbs again and again This continued until I was 18, when I dropped out of church attendance. We boys were so interested in the book of Proverbs that when we finished the book, we began it all over again, as the years went by. I'm sure, now, that God was guiding in this. It helped prepare me to become Christ's apostle, to raise up God's true Church for our time, so you teenagers could be brought up in God's Church. Read this article and keep on studying in the book of Proverbs.
I always thought the Bible was for adults. Until I became one. Then I thought it was for older adults. After all, it contains some pretty heavy reading that isn't always the easiest to understand, much less live by! It only discussed adult behavior, adult problems and adult solutions — or so I thought. So it came as something of a surprise to me when, while preparing a Bible study for a group of teens in an area church, I opened my Bible to Proverbs and saw for the first time Solomon's reason for writing the book. "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion," the book begins (Prov. 1:1-4). The Hebrew word translated "young man," naar, "is frequently used to signify such as are in the state of adolescence" (Clarke's Commentary). Solomon goes on to say that even a wise man will learn from these lessons (verse 5), but he repeats over and over again that the book is aimed at a pre-adult age-group. The phrase "my son" introduces many verses, followed by an exhortation for this or that kind of right conduct (Prov. 1:8, 10,15; 2:1; 3:1,11,21). "Hear, ye children," begins the fourth chapter.
Need for proper teaching
And why is it addressed to young people? Solomon answers that himself in Proverbs 22:6, a verse very familiar to most of you, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." All children learn from their parents either good or bad behavior. If responsible behavior hasn't been taught (although it may not always be exhibited) by the time a child leaves home, chances are it will never be learned. Solomon recognized the need for proper teaching before a child goes out to face the world on his own and recorded these important. lessons for you. God wants us all to profit from the experiences of others, and had many events recorded in the Bible as examples for us (I Cor. 10:11). Experience is the most effective teacher, but not necessarily the best teacher. Once you have tried something and found it harmful, you can't go back and "unexperience" it. Even though God forgives your sin, He doesn't necessarily remove the consequences of your actions. Read about one of David's biggest mistakes in II Samuel 11 and 12. David committed adultery and murder, and although God totally forgave him (12:13), David still had to endure an excruciatingly painful experience as a result. It's obviously better to learn a lesson from David's mistakes than try it yourself and have the same thing happen to you. And Proverbs is a whole book about learning from the experience of others.
Solomon given wisdom by God
But what were Solomon's credentials? What made him such an authority on how young people (and everyone else, for that matter) should conduct their lives? For beginners, he was the wisest man who ever lived — God said so. Let's read about it. After David's death, his son Solomon succeeded him to the throne. God appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked him what he wanted most as king. "I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties," Solomon answered. "Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" God was quite pleased with Solomon's genuine humility. "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked," God replied. "I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, 1 will give you what you have not asked for — both riches and honor — so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings" (I Kings 3:5-13, New International Version used throughout). Not bad, huh? But read on: "God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and the breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore... He was wiser than any other man... Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom" (I Kings 4:29-34). Proverbs is a far-ranging book reflecting Solomon's many interests. It discusses business and economics, nature, agriculture, marital relationships, friends, children and dozens of other aspects of human behavior. For the sake of simplicity, we will look at seven important principles and warnings especially applicable to young people.
The company you keep
The first of these principles as it appears in the book is about keeping the right kind of company. "My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them," Solomon warns. "If they say, 'Come along with us; let's wait for someone's blood, let's waylay some harmless soul... we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse' — my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; for their feet rush to sin, they are swift to shed blood" (Prov. 1:10-16). "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared," he says (Prov. 22:24-25). Not a day passes when the morning paper doesn't give the grisly details of some murder, robbery, rape or beating committed by juveniles and young adults somewhere, exactly as Solomon described. According to statistics released by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, about half of all arrests are of teenagers under age 18, and that group accounts for the majority of arrests for burglary, larceny and auto theft. While this is perhaps the most dramatic manifestation of the fruits of associating with the wrong people, it doesn't even begin to take into account drug and alcohol abuse, vandalism and cheating and dropping out of school, for example. Use some wisdom, as Solomon said, and avoid those who would drag you down to their level. The principle has another side too, as Solomon shows. "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm" (Prov. 13:20). In the same way as a young person can be negatively influenced by the wrong friends, he can also be positively influenced by the right friends, picking up their attitudes and values. These friendships are valuable for both parties, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Prov. 27:17).
Reaping what you sow
The second principle goes hand-in-hand with the first — you will reap what you sow, whether good or bad. Many of the proverbs apply equally well to these first two •principles. "These men lie in wait for their own blood; they waylay only themselves! Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it" (Prov. 1:18-19). And, "A scoundrel and villain... who plots evil with deceit in his heart — he always stirs up dissension. Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed — without remedy" (Prov. 6:12-15). People tend to overlook the time element in their actions and behavior. Crime does pay (Ps. 73:3-5, 12), or there wouldn't be so many people committing it. It's a way to get a lot of wealth with very little effort — but consider the end result. "For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths," Solomon says. "The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly" (Prov. 5:21-23). Not a pleasant way to go, is it? Like the first principle, this too has another side. If you sow good seed, you will reap good fruit. "The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. The wise inherit honor, but fools he holds up to shame" (Prov. 3:33-35). God doesn't reach down and zap you every time you do something wrong, a fact most people take to mean that He doesn't exist or doesn't care even if' He does exist (Eccl. 8:11). They don't realize God is giving them a chance to change before they end up in the condition Solomon described.
The value of correction
The third principle, one mentioned perhaps in more places in the book than any other, is the value of correction and discipline. Solomon sums it up pretty well: "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid" (Prov. 12:1). Ouch! That one kinda hurt. One of a parent's main responsibilities is disciplining his children. Solomon says, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him" (Prov. 13:24). Also, "Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul" (Prov. 29:17). Do you take parental correction? If you don' t, Solomon said you are stupid. Argue with him if you don't like it — but you're only arguing with the wisest man who ever lived. On the contrary, you might as well admit that there are people who know more than you, and your parents are two of them. "A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke" (Prov. 13:1). But correction doesn't stop with parents. God will have His hand in your life, too. "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in" (Prov. 2:11-12). Correction is a lifelong process: "Rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach' a righteous man and he will add to his learning" (Prov. 9:8-9).
The value of wisdom
Four: You have your very own gold mine, and so far we have only scratched the surface of it. That gold mine is the book of Proverbs and the rest of God's Word with it. It is wisdom — written for you and me that we might learn how to live. And that knowledge is more valuable than material possessions, Solomon tells us. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding," he writes (Prov. 9:10). Knowledge of itself is useless without that proper fear and respect of God to put it all in perspective. Man lacks the spiritual knowledge and wisdom to know how to solve the problems that now threaten to destroy him. "Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold," Solomon counsels, "for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her" (Prov. 8:10-11). "How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!" (Prov. 16:16). Few people have ever had both wisdom and riches. Solomon did, and he knew wisdom was his most valuable possession. Educate yourself. Develop your mind — it's one of the most valuable and precious gifts God has given you. Use the educational opportunities available to you, do not neglect study and meditation on God's Word. It's one of the best investments you'll ever make. Some people think education is too expensive, whether in money or time. But if you think education is, expensive, try ignorance! "For whoever finds me [wisdom] finds life and receives favor from the Lord," Solomon says. " But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death" (Prov. 8:35-36).
Be a hard worker
Have you ever wondered why your money doesn't go quite as far as it used to, why the price of everything you buy keeps creeping upward? There are many factors and causes, but what it boils down to is this: Many workers just don't produce as much as they used to. They are paid more for producing less proportionately, and the result is more dollars floating around to purchase a smaller number of manufactured items. And more dollars for fewer items is called inflation. Many of our economic problems could be avoided if people learned the fifth principle, a simple lesson Solomon wrote for us: "I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man" (Prov. 24:30-34). Hard work has its rewards the same as poor work has its rewards. "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings, he will not serve before obscure men". (Prov. 22:29). The best guarantee against layoffs or firings is to make yourself a valuable worker, indispensable to your employer. If you prove yourself to him in that manner, problems like getting' off work for the Sabbath and Holy Days often melt away. He will know that you are too valuable to lose. However, if you are not willing to put forth the effort first, you cannot expect to get anywhere. "The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied" (Prov. 13:4). "All hard work brings a profit; but mere talk leads only to poverty" (Prov. 14:23).
Immorality: A dead-end street
Would God have written His laws and commanded us to keep them if it was entirely natural for us to obey them? God knows man's nature. Just as the temptation to lie, steal and murder became a little too great for the superangel Lucifer, whom God created with freedom of choice, God knew that temptation would be too strong for man when He created him. And the temptation coming at young people from every side is a small word with big consequences — sex. You have the choice of how you learn this sixth lesson, but God and Solomon warn of the results: "Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her' eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread [you're just a way to make a living to her] and the adulteress preys upon your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man's wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished... a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away" (Prov. 6:25-33). Solomon says to watch out for the smooth-talking bombshells and he-men. "The lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not" (Prov. 5:3-6). Those consequences may not seem like much when you're parked in a car on a dark deserted road but remember these warnings and the reap-what-you-sow principle.
The seventh major lesson
The last major lesson is not to be found in studying the book of Proverbs, but rather in studying the life of, its author.. Solomon was one of the great scholars of the ages. He was the wisest man who ever lived. He was one of the wealthiest and most powerful rulers in history. He was renowned as a poet. His name, Solomon, means "the peaceable," and as an infant God named him Jedediah, "beloved of the Lord" (II Sam. 12:24-25). He had everything going for him. But for all he had, he lacked one little ingredient that proved to be his downfall. Let's read about it in I Kings 11: "King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women... Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from the nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, 'You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.' Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. "He had seven hundred wives of royal birth [through political alliances with neighboring nations] and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been" (verses 1-4). The chapter goes on to describe how Solomon began to worship the false gods of his foreign wives in direct disobedience to God's warnings and commands (verses 11-12). Solomon, once called the "beloved of the Lord," apparently never repented, even after this last warning, and ended his life cut off from the God who had given him so much. Solomon's character had one fatal flaw. He knew better; we have just covered that. But he lacked the firm commitment and will to do what he knew was right. God can't give you character. Your parents can't. Only one person can, and that's you. Solomon lacked it. Only you can make that commitment, and with God's help and strength you can carry it through. Study the proverbs and learn from the mistakes of others. Read them in your Bible, and you'll find additional proverbs on these subjects. You'll learn many more vitally important principles and lessons to help you have a successful, rich, rewarding — and eternal — life.