Day 12: Folly
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
Your child is a fool. I hate to break it to you, but your child is a wisdom-rejecting, common sense-shirking, God-denying fool. One night, my sons devised a new game called America’s Greatest Talent which required training in their bedroom when they should have been asleep. Course challenges involved scuttling the bookshelf and scaling the bunk bed (without the ladder, of course). The greatest talent was to leap from the top bunk and land on a pillow the size of a postage stamp just inches from the wall (all this in the dark). I walked in on them and found it mildly amusing, but my wife was appalled. Like most parents, we cannot count the number of times we have spoken with shock: “What in the world were you thinking?” Dads, teach your children wisdom, for they are foolish by nature: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). Young fools, unless instructed wisely, will soon become older fools who remain blind in their sin.
Solomon mourns such naïveté: “I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house. . . . And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart” (7:7-8, 10). This woman is dressed to kill, creeping out into the street like a spider from her web. Literally, “she guards her heart” to conceal her intentions. “She is loud” (v. 11a) and boisterous, calling attention to herself. She’s the life of the party, out on the town, seeking a good time while her husband is abroad (vv. 19-20). This wayward wife rebels against her husband: “Her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait” (vv. 11b-12). She prowls everywhere looking for trouble, yet finds a fool delivered to her very doorstep. Quickly she pounces: “She seizes him and kisses him” (v. 13a). With shocking boldness, she pulls him close and plants a wet one on his lips. Unabashed, this brazen hussy breaks her marriage vows in public. Her mouth drips with temptation (vv. 13b-18), yet this is just one of many enticements your foolish child will face.
Dads, “train up a child in the way he should go” (22:6a) implies that you are to train your child in godliness. Yet this is not a promise, but rather a warning against child-centered parenting. The Hebrew text does not specify whose way your child must follow: “The way of the Lord,” “the way that is right,” or, “the way according to Scripture.” It simply states, “Start out a child according to his way,” and in Proverbs, “his way,” always means, “the way that the person chooses.” In other words, “Don’t let your child choose his own stubborn way or when he grows up he will still be foolish.” The wise father does not counsel his son to do whatever he feels, but instead warns him of what will happen if he does.
Young children especially need your instruction, for they are born foolish. Their own way is full of folly and dangerous to the soul. If you let them rule the house like little kings and queens, their sinful hearts will choose the wrong way every time. So spare your children with loving, godly discipline (v. 15b). Instruct them according to God’s Word, expose the dangers of sin, and warn against the consequences. Discipline appropriately when they disobey, then trust the Lord to remove the folly in their hearts.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I am parenting fools who do not always follow the way of wisdom. Teach me to be wise according to your Word as I show them your path (Ps. 119:105). Change my heart as you employ me to help change theirs. Make me a father who lovingly and appropriately applies the tool of discipline to lead my children into a relationship with you. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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