Part 1 of a 2-part series
Exciting senior trips, inspiring graduation speeches, nostalgic summer vacations, bittersweet goodbyes in high school and so much more. Transitioning to college has all the feelings. In a few short weeks, recent high school graduates will transition to college as freshmen. As the anticipation mounts, how can a believer in Christ make this transition into college well? How can a student transition from high school to college and make informed decisions from the Bible? The book of Proverbs is helpful in any stage of life but is particularly helpful for the heart and mind of a young adult. There are so many truth nuggets that can be found in this book of wisdom.
The book has two distinct sections, chapters 1-9 and 10-31. Chapter 10 serves as a hinge chapter opening to a more spontaneous excerpt with sayings attributed to Solomon. The first nine chapters are held together in units with each chapter containing a theme. Chapter 10 is the first chapter where the information seems to be given at random with interwoven themes connected to the first nine chapters running all the way through until the end of chapter 31. There are 321 principles of wisdom between Proverbs 10 to 22.
Chapter 10 contains 21 bits of advice and is associated with “the path” or the Hebrew word ‘derek.’ Not to read too much into the analogy of the path - but it is an incredible analogy that is developing where the son would now set out on his own path. Does that not have the college journey written all over it?
From this chapter we will outline three of the proverbs in deeper detail and briefly outline the rest in the next part of this two-part series.
1. There is more to our life than it being OUR life. (Proverbs 10:1)
“A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.”
Proverbs 10 begins with maybe the most applicable comment about the specific life stage that college students are in. The son is leaving. He will no longer be under the rule or authority of the father and the mother and the choices that he makes are brought into focus. Another translation says it like this, “Wise son, glad father; stupid son, sad mother.” There is so much that could be said about this particular synedochae (figure of speech where a part is used for the whole). The proverb identifies that the son is a representative of the entire family. Another way of saying it is “you are a part of a whole.” The choices that you make outside of the watchful eye of others is a representation of your family. This passage and the familial metaphor is used in comparison to God. Wisdom is always associated with God. So, when we are seeking wisdom, it is not simply wishing to do better, or to be more efficient, or to make more thoughtful choices. Instead, wisdom is always attached to God. When we intake wisdom from God it impacts the other people in the world that God created.
Associating this specifically with the “path” analogy of the Proverbs, those that would journey down the path wisely would be those following the will of God and the negative “path” would be the way of the foolish which is to reject God’s instruction. You are created by God and reflect the image of God. He, like a parent, is deeply invested in you (So much so that he gave his only Son for you). Why does this matter? It helps to know where growth comes from. Consider if a plant were to be planted improperly and it were to grow sideways or upside down. Think of a flower. If a flower is planted upside down, it would not be ideal growing conditions. However, when a plant is planted and grows properly the flower or plant and like many flowers when it grows properly and absorbs all the proper things to keep it healthy it is a beautiful addition to a wonderful world. Same as us. God designed us to grow in him, and when we do, God uses our unique talents and skills to be useful and to bless those around us. Matthew 5:16 says it like this, “Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father who is in heaven.”
2. Proverbs 10:2-3 – Righteousness is the best security; be satisfied by God.
2 Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value,
but righteousness delivers from death.
3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,
but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
Simply, this verse could be translated, “Treasures that are obtained in dishonest ways have no real lasting value.” I love the way one translator put the second part of verse two, “an honest life is immortal.” The word “righteousness” is often hard to completely wrap our minds around because it is so loaded with meaning. Saying the word righteous brings to mind images of justice that would be found in court, or probably, the confidence that we have when we simply know that something is right. Being kind to others just seems right. Not speaking nasty about another seems right. Another way of thinking about righteousness is saying, “on good terms.” When we have good business with others we are on good terms. When we have good relationships with others we are on good terms. What is highlighted about being on good terms actually has to do with what we crave.
The analogy shifts to eating. What do we hunger for? And what will we do to satisfy our hunger? The proverb would say that hunger can lead us to a life of craving. There are only certain types of food that when we eat, we will never hunger again. In John 6:35 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
My encouragement for college students is to (A) Be on good terms with God and (B) crave knowing more about him. Be on good terms by not creating idols that take the place of God. Do not let the school that you attend, the scholarship that you have (or don’t have), the sacrifices that you will have to make, the jobs you will work, the sports that you are going to play, or the social clubs that you are going to be part of take the place of God. Don’t let them take the place of your God. And second, do not let any of those idols satisfy you. They will only lead you to crave them more — more time spent with the club, or your self-worth is shot if you are not the starter for the sports team or cannot play anymore due to injury or if a class does not go the way you expect. Crave God. Set boundaries. Schedule time with God on the calendar first and let everything else fit in around that.
3. Proverbs 10:9 – Nothing to hide, nothing to fear
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
Back to the “path” analogy. This time focusing on the emotional, responsive, and observable manner in which we travel. The contrast of secure vs. shifty. It is the contrast in someone who is confident and maybe even carefree in what they are doing. Because they walk in integrity (also– not carefree in the sense that they jettison from any type of responsibility. Remember this chapter began by saying we are a part of a whole). A simple illustration may be driving a car. Did you know that if you speed every single time you drive in the car you will eventually get pulled over and be given a ticket for speeding? But isn’t there a great relief in being a carefree careful driver? You follow the rules of the road. Nothing to hide — therefore, nothing to fear.
Bringing this last Proverb into focus are Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:13 when he says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Oftentimes the mental image that we have of the broad path and the narrow road is a split and, in that split, there is the ability to completely go one way or completely go another. But let me tell you, that mental image in many ways breaks down. Maybe a better picture is to think of a six-lane road. All lanes are connected to each other, but the divide is outside of the center two lanes. The picture is that the center two lanes are going one direction and the outer four (two on each side) go the opposite direction. In our lives it is not that we start heading down a path and are never tempted to leave the path and go to the other path. The way of Jesus is that you are constantly going to be walking against the flow of people that aren’t walking in the wisdom or will of God. However, we walk securely. Nothing to hide — nothing to fear.
Principles from Proverbs 10:4-21 will be noted in Part 2.