Listen to this invitation:
Throw in your lot with us,
We shall all have one purse (Prov. 1:14).
Now you’re talkin’! These people care about me. They aren’t making demands on me like my family does. They want me for who I am. They share with me. Here is a group where I can belong.
My son, do not walk in the way with them.
Keep your feet from their path. (1:15)
Is Dad a killjoy or what? Here is a group that wants me for who I am and ole dad disses ‘em. He doesn’t want me to be with people who like me. He’s always spoiling my fun.
This was written nearly 3,000 years ago, yet doesn’t it sound a lot like teen life today?
Just as this post started with one verse out of context, this youth is focused on the appeal without taking context into consideration. If he would zoom out he might see the invitation in its broader context and learn that these “friends” are actually selfish troublemakers. They plan to prey upon the innocent for their own gain (1:10-13) and use this boy’s (or girl’s) help toward that end (1:14). They add an appeal to the common desire to get rich quick (“find all kinds of precious wealth,” 1:13).
He doesn’t see that they want him only for their own gain, that “all have one purse” really means “what’s yours is ours,” that sharing from them lasts only as long as he is useful to them. He doesn’t realize that those who use others so cruelly are just as likely to use him the same. He doesn’t see that he will become cruel, too. He doesn’t see the consequences that await down the road, that those in indulge greed and cruelty will eventually fall into a trap of their own making (1:16-19).
Dad sees these things. He also understands that children are undiscerning by nature so that his son may see only the illusion that these “friends” show him. Dad’s counsel, while possibly unwelcome to the son, comes from true love and much greater wisdom than what these “friends” can offer.
These words were Solomon’s counsel to his son, Rehoboam, the crown prince. Did Rehoboam listen? He did not. When he became king, rather than listen to his father’s wise, old counselors, he took the counsel of his foolish young friends and oppressed his people for selfish gain. What result did he get? He lost most of the kingdom (1 Kings 12:1-20). And he thought his counselors were friends?
On the other hand, some sons and daughters listen to their parents; not all rebel in their teens and follow their peers. The fifth commandment promises blessing to them. Contrary to what is commonly taught, teen-aged rebellion is not inevitable, and certainly not necessary. That is why when speaking of the teen years I carefully discriminate between “teens” and “teenagers.” I want to make apparent to young people the option that they can refuse to be what this culture calls a teenager. They can heed parents and receive blessing for it.
Proverbs 1 is a great passage to teach children of any age. Taught while they are young and still attuned closely to parental counsel, it forewarns and gives wisdom about handling peer pressure before the temptation comes. It shows temptation and its consequences, that peers can bring temptation, the appeal to “belong,” and the illusion of wisdom when there is actually much that they don’t see. It shows the importance of heart desires, that if there is no greed or craving to belong in the first place, bait will not tempt (1:13). It shows the need to obey God’s command to honor and obey parents regardless of whether they understand because as they do they will learn wisdom and grow in discernment.