A child’s first voice of authority and coach for life is the parent (whether biological or otherwise). From the time a child first exits the womb and well into his/her first few years, input and instruction is received and lasting imprints are made by those who care for them most. No one escapes this influence in their initial years. Parents repeatedly appeal to their children to “listen,” “pay attention,” “heed” their words (Prov 4:1, 10, 20). While every parent errs, most parents do not err all the time. They do have some things right and it takes only a few years into a child’s young adult years (hopefully sooner!) when they recognize that “father [and/or mother] knows best.” Foolishness (impetuous thought and behavior) is indeed bound up in the heart of every child and it is the primary task of the parent to drive it out by imparting wisdom (Prov 4:1-6).
Every goal achieved, every task completed begins at the starting line. The place to start in the game of life is the focused pursuit of wisdom (Prov 4:7). All of life depends upon it (Prov 4:13, 22). Without wisdom we bring harm to others (Prov 4:14-17), lose the ability to discern our own way (Prov 4:19), and spew perversities (Prov 4:24). With wisdom we gain protection and safety, honor, and unencumbered success (Prov 4:6, 8-9, 12-18). What strikes me most in reading these first four Proverbs is that wisdom is not merely abstract reasoning or theoretical musing. Wisdom looks like something. It is profoundly practical, earthy, material, and tangible. It may begin with the theoretical, but it never remains there. Wisdom reaches its climax in the real world of experience. Given the ROI (return on investment), wisdom indeed is the asset to pursue and the place to start.
I’ve said before that we live from the inside out. How we think and feel matters. Nowhere in Scripture is this clearer than in Prov 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Our most cherished values live in the heart, that core of mental and emotional activity, and are expressed in our choices and behavior. Every action is grounded in a belief and motivated by a feeling. Sure we have moments when we act before we think, but predominantly our thought life and emotional state dictates the course of action that we take. The human heart is the command center of our life. From it comes wicked plans (Prov 6:18), pride (Prov 21:4), stubbornness (Jer 13:10), and idolatry (Ez 14:3, 7). The heart also issues forth faithfulness (Neh 9:8), righteousness (Ps 64:10), and purity (Ps 51:10; Mt 5:8). The heart, therefore, must be guarded above all else.