If the heart remains pure, the rest of the body will stay on course.
My son, pay attention to what I am saying; incline your ear to my words. Don’t let them out of your sight, keep them deep in your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to their whole being. (Proverbs 4:2-22 CJB)
In the third appeal to his son, the father calls once more for close attention to his important words. The message coming in the next few verses is crucial, so you should keep it central in your thoughts. Don’t let them out of your sight, keep them deep in your heart, in the center of your soul.
Solomon promised life in verses 4, 10, and 13, and he returns to the theme here. If you want life, pay attention to wisdom. And he promises that you will not only enjoy life, but you will flourish in your physical health. Like many other promises in Proverbs, this does not guarantee total immunity from illness, but it does reflect the fact that many maladies stem from foolish choices.
Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life’s consequences. (Proverbs 4:23 CJB)
This verse contains the important concept of this section. Above everything else, literally, “with all vigilance,” guard your heart. The heart in the Old Testament includes more than just the emotions; it can refer to the whole personality, the inner life of a person. And as such, it is the source of life’s consequences.
As Jesus explained, the heart is the source of words and actions (Luke 6:45), so it is the key to controlling behavior. This verse may be the background for Christ’s statement in John 7:38 about rivers of water flowing from one’s innermost being. Solomon has been teaching on life, and the heart is the source from which life flows to all other parts of a person’s being.
Keep crooked speech out of your mouth, banish deceit from your lips. (Proverbs 4:24 CJB)
Once the heart is guarded, we can turn out attention to outward behavior. The remaining verses mention various parts of the body, beginning with the mouth. We must avoid speech that is distorted with falsehood or tainted with deviousness.
Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze on what lies in front of you. (Proverbs 4:25 CJB)
Returning to the imagery of walking down a path, the father implores his son to keep his eyes straight ahead. Do not allow your gaze to wander off to the side where temptations might lead you astray.
Level the path for your feet, let all your ways be properly prepared; then deviate neither right nor left, and keep your foot far from evil. (Proverbs 4:26-27 CJB)
If we are careful to think about the path of holiness, all our ways will be properly prepared and safe.
All along the road, to the right and the left, there are side streets and alleys, which lead to the haunts of sin. “Let’s be faithful to Jesus, though a thousand voices from the world may call.”
When tempted to go to a mysterious place, ask yourself, “Would I like to be found there when Jesus comes back?” Keep your foot far from evil. Nothing good lies there!
A father can give no greater gift than to pass on a thirst for wisdom, so his children can stay on the right path in life.
It Won’t Be Different With You!
Someone has said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You don’t have time to make them all yourself.” That is the point Solomon is making in this chapter. “Listen to me, son. Take my advice. I’ve been around the block, and I can save you from a good deal of hardship if you let me.”
The problem is, of course, that young people don’t believe it. They think they know better themselves.
A young girl found a baby raccoon and was raising it as a pet. A veterinarian warned her that when the raccoon became an adult, it would become unpredictable and potentially violent. Her response was that her raccoon wouldn’t do anything violent. Other raccoons might, but it would be different with her.
Shortly afterward, the raccoon suddenly and viciously attacked her for no reason, leaving scars on her face that required plastic surgery.
We are foolish to ignore the warning of those who have gone before us, who have more experience, more knowledge, and more wisdom than we. When we ignore history, we are condemned to repeat it.
So, if we are on the teaching end, we must warn others and implore them to live a life of wisdom. If we are on the receiving end, we must heed the warning. It will not be different with us! Foolishness always extracts a severe price from those who court her.
- Life comes with cause-and-effect consequences. Certain actions will bring about certain consequences.
- By observing others, we can learn wisdom. We don’t have to experience everything ourselves.
- Wisdom is not automatic. It comes to those who commit to it and seeks it.
How To Apply Wisdom To Your Life
- Don’t be a fool. Learn from the experience of others.
- Make the decision now to pursue wisdom.
- Guard what you allow into your mind. From this vigilance comes your ability to live a wise life.