The wisdom of God here is that the world needs more honor and respect. Let us, then, promote these virtues in our own families.
If you are, or have ever been, a parent of teenagers going off to college, or out into the world on their own, you have probably heard yourself saying something like this to them. As you spoke to them, trying to pass on a bit of wisdom from your own experience, you may have seen them roll their eyes, as if they had heard it a hundred times. We may even remember our own reaction to our parents attempts to warn us about the hazards that lie in wait for us out there in the world beyond the comfort of our homes. We may have sighed and thought, “Oh, there he/she goes again with all that old stuff. What do they know anyway?”
Well, that is what this proverb is about. It is a parental warning to a young person about to leave home, to go his or her own way. The parent, because of his or her own experiences in life, knows the many temptations that lie in wait for us out there in the world. It is the parent’s desire, then, to warn their children of these things. In particular here in this opening proverb in the Book of Proverbs, the parent is warning the young person about avoiding the company of the greedy and the violent. These are ancient problems. They are as old as humanity.
Greed and violence are profoundly present around us in our own day. But the proverb is not warning us about the obvious fact that the vices of greed and violence exist. Everyone, even the young, have seen the reality and the consequences of greed and violence all about them. The purpose of the warning here is to get us to learn how to recognize those who are greedy and violent and to avoid their company. This may not be as easy as one would think, because greed and violence often wear the disguises of virtues. Greed, more often than not in our economic culture, is promoted as a necessary instrument for economic success. Its trappings, its “bling,” look very attractive to the naive. The violent, too, have their followers. Violence, for example, often attempts to paint revenge as a righteous form of “justice.” The proverb is warning us to beware of those who promote such behaviors, to recognize and to avoid them for the sake of our souls.
The proverb is related directly to the fifth commandment of the Decalogue, “Honor thy father and thy mother that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” In the continual practice of honoring and respecting our father’s and our mother’s instructions in the home, we will develop the virtuous habits of honor and respect, which we can then take into all of our other relationships in the world. The wisdom of God here is that the world needs more honor and respect. Let us, then, promote these virtues in our own families. Children who are honored and respected by their parents will be earnest listeners to the good and righteous instructions and teachings of their parents. And they will pass such instructions on to their children.
Lord, it is in listening to and heeding your wisdom that we find true freedom and lasting peace. Help us to listen to your instructions with willing hearts and minds. In obeying your commands we are saved from the temptations of greed and violence. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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