Honor, Not Excess (Proverbs 23:19-25)

Three common American sins are drunkenness, gluttony, and disrespect for parents. Simply put, Americans in general live lives of excess. Americans as a whole drink too much alcohol, eat too much food, and fail to honor those to whom honor is due. This should not be the case for a nation with such a strong Christian history! But all you have to do is watch the commercials during a weekend ball game to see it is true. Next time you watch a football or baseball game this fall, count how many beer and food commercials you see. Look at the ginormous portion sizes of the meals that are advertised and sold at restaurants. Look at the way alcohol is falsely sold as the way to happiness and good times. See how many television sitcoms are plugged during the game, shows where parents, especially fathers, look like fools and children appear to be the smart ones. Drunkenness, gluttony, and disrespect for authority figures is all around us. Shouldn’t Christians be different from this sinful culture?

Of course we should, and today’s passage in Proverbs speaks to these very sins. Apparently these temptations were a problem even in ancient times, or else the Bible would not have warned us against them. We are told to take the path of the wise man, and to let Scripture and not the world guide our passions and desires (Proverbs 23:19). That means not only avoiding drunkenness and gluttony ourselves, but staying away from other people who practice those sins (v. 20). Their lifestyles of excess will only lead us to physical and spiritual poverty (v. 21). How many young people have ruined their lives by adopting an addiction to partying in high school or college and never growing out of it as adults? This is not the path of godliness in Christ! At the same time, Christians should honor and listen to their parents (v. 22). This brings joy to their parents, themselves, and our Father in heaven (vv. 24-25). God invented the concept of family and commanded children to honor and obey their parents.

Are you buying into God’s truth and wisdom (v. 23) for your life? Then decide now to avoid a life of excess and disrespect and instead live a life that honors Christ by honoring your parents and the body that God has given you. As Christians, our parents are given to guide and lead us (Ephesians 6:4) and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Let’s show both our parents and our bodies the respect that they deserve.

The Text (Proverbs 23:19-25)

19 Hear, my son, and be wise; And guide your heart in the way.

20 Do not mix with winebibbers, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;

21 For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.

22 Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old.

23 Buy the truth, and do not sell it, Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.

24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise child will delight in him.

25 Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her who bore you rejoice.

Questions to Think About

  1. Why do you think that so many teenagers get drawn into the party lifestyle? How can you avoid this common sin trap?
  2. Do you eat too much? Explain.
  3. How are you doing with honoring and respecting your parents?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Financial Freedom (Proverbs 22:7,16)

We live in a culture of debt. People borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy houses. They borrow tens of thousands of dollars for cars and college tuition. And then they rack up credit cards debts in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, too. This way of life is almost unquestioned in modern America. But does the Bible say anything about debt?

Yes. Proverbs 22:7 and 22:16 warn us today that debt is actually a form of slavery. Read the verses for yourself below. In ancient Israel and much of history, debtors (people who owe others money) would often become actual slaves to the lenders (the people who loaned them money) if they couldn’t pay off their loans. We don’t do that any more today. But the stress and pressure of owing so much money to banks and credit card companies can be overwhelming. People who can’t pay their debts may end up losing their vehicles and homes and even having to file bankruptcy, or start all over financially. When you have loans, you must work and work hard, for years and even decades, to earn the money to pay off those loans. Your time and energy and worries belong to those creditors until those debts are paid.

At your age, you hopefully do not yet have any debt. But you may feel the pressure of debt on your family. My prayer for all of our NRCA families is that God would provide for our needs as we learn to live within our means. With the rising costs of health insurance and living expenses these days, that may mean living with less stuff so that we can enjoy more financial freedom and peace of mind. If you sense that your parents are burdened greatly about money, you might humbly mention resources like “Financial Peace” from Dave Ramsey, which many churches use in classes to help adults get out of debt. There is even a version for children and teenagers (“Smart Money, Smart Kids”) that Dave co-wrote with his now married daughter, Rachel Cruze. And determine now while you are young that you will not follow our culture’s cycle of debt and slavery, but live with less so that you can be free to serve Christ and others better and enjoy life more.

The Text (Proverbs 22:7,16)

7 The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender.

16 He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches, And he who gives to the rich, will surely come to poverty.

Questions to Think About

  1. What are some ways that you could start working and earning money now as teenager? How might working as a teenager help you in more ways than just making money?
  2. Have you talked with your parents about how you will pay for your first car and for college? Are the choices you can make and things you can do ahead of time that might limit or eliminate entirely the need to borrow money for a car and college?
  3. Did you know that Bible talks money more than any other topic? Why do you think that is the case?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Doing Things God’s Way (Proverbs 21:4-8)

There are always two ways to do things – the easy way, and God’s way. The easy way is the path of the fool. It’s rooted in pride, or the belief that we know better than God and don’t have to follow His commands. The wicked do things their own way, and their work (for most people in ancient times this was farming, which included “plowing”) is sin in God’s sight, not matter how successful they might appear to be by the world’s standards (Proverbs 21:4). God’s way is to work hard because He wants to develop the character trait of diligence in our hearts. Hard work will lead to material and spiritual rewards for the follower of Christ, while lazy attempts to succeed without putting forth effort will one day lead to empty savings accounts and bankrupt souls (v. 5). The wicked lie and act deceitfully whenever they feel it will help them to get ahead in life (v. 6). They have no problem with hurting others, either physically or with their words and decisions, and treating people unjustly to get what they want (v. 7). It’s a totally self-centered, unholy approach to life. And it leads the person further and further down the road to their own spiritual ruin (vv. 6-7). But while their crooked ways make them guilty before a holy God, the honesty of Christians reflects work that is right and pure and pleases the Creator (v. 8).

Humility, hard work, and honesty – these are the qualities that God looks for in our lives. As students, God cares way more about how you do your class work, homework, and studying than what kind of grades you make. As God told the Old Testament judge Samuel, “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). In your sports, God cares much more about how you behave and conduct yourself and whose glory you do things for than about the final scores and wins and losses. In your homes, God wants to see you obey and honor your parents from your heart, not just doing what you need to do to avoid punishments.

So what will it be this school year? Will you do things the easy way, or God’s way?

The Text (Proverbs 21:4-8)

4 A haughty look, a proud heart, And the plowing of the wicked are sin.

5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.

6 Getting treasures by a lying tongue Is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.

7 The violence of the wicked will destroy them, Because they refuse to do justice.

8 The way of a guilty man is perverse; But as for the pure, his work is right.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do your efforts at school show humility, hard work, and honesty or pride, laziness, and deceit? How about in your sport? What about in your home?
  2. Why do you think that God cares so much more about how and why we do things than about what we accomplish?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Our Strong Tower (Proverbs 18:9-12)

People like to feel safe. Much of life on this earth seems like an endless effort to bring ourselves comfort, pleasure, and security. We must work and work hard to avoid poverty. Those who are “slothful” or lazy bring destruction to themselves and others (Proverbs 18:9). We don’t want to wind up poor, so we work hard at school so that we can get a good job afterwards. After we get our jobs, if we have the right mix of talent, training, and opportunities, then we may find ourselves with plenty of money to enjoy nice lifestyles. Our wealth can become a cushion or shield against suffering (v. 11a). We may even begin to believe that we are like the high-walled cities of ancient times, unable to be defeated by life’s hard knocks (v. 11b). This is the American dream. Watch any HGTV show. You will see people desiring to find comfort, pleasure, and safety in a home and lifestyle.

Hard work is biblical, and there is nothing wrong with earning and carefully managing wealth. And as my wife continually reminds me, there is nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy your house. But the danger of success and riches is that they may cause us to put our trust in temporary accomplishments and possessions rather than our eternal Creator. So the Bible reminds in places like v. 12a that we must not become proud of our strength because pride that is never checked will eventually lead to our destruction, either now or in eternity. Remember the rich man and Lazarus? Or the rich young ruler? They thought they had it all, but Jesus said that they really had nothing in the end. What we want to do instead is to stay humble and give God all of the credit for our ability to work and all of the stuff that He has given us (v. 12b). For the godly, the Lord Himself is our forever “strong tower” who alone can give us real security (v. 10).

As students, today’s passage tells you to work hard but remember that God is in control. He has blessed you with talents, so use them for His glory. Give it your best at school, in your sport or fine art activity, and in your chores at home. Learn now not to be lazy but diligent. But don’t get proud of what you can do or how much money your parents have. Don’t grow proud and choke on God’s blessings. Rather, look to Jesus as your source of strength, hope, and safety. Let Him be your fortress today and every day.

The Text (Proverbs 18:9-12)

9 He who is slothful in his work Is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.

10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.

11 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own esteem.

12 Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, And before honor is humility.

Questions to Think About

  1. Are you known as a hard worker? In what ways?
  2. Does your family trust in God as their “strong tower”? How can you tell?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Work of the Refiner (Proverbs 17:2-3)

Many times when students think about Christian schools, churches, and even Christianity in general, they see only rules. They somehow get the false idea that following Christ is just about dressing appropriately, sitting quietly when you’re supposed to, and overall making the adults in your life happy. If you play this game well, then you think you are a “good Christian kid” and can go on with your life as you like as long as you keep following the rules. But this is not biblical faith! If you’ve been paying attention to what we’ve been teaching in chapel and the blog and Bible class, my prayer is that God has shown you that Christianity is about a heartfelt, growing relationship with Christ. Real wisdom, says God in Proverbs, is only found in “the fear of the Lord.” We obey rules because we love Jesus because He first loved us. He loved us and died for us and rose from the dead for us so that we could find life everlasting in Him. What He asks from us in return is that we submit to His Lordship over our lives. He says we must allow Him to do His work of redemption and transformation in us, His work of changing our hearts and lives to become like His.

Today Proverbs tells us that this heartfelt relationship with God is more important than who are parents are or how much money they have. True faith will lead to wisdom, or doing God’s will, and will raise up students from the most humble backgrounds to an inheritance in God’s kingdom, while those who live foolishly for sin and self will find only shame (Proverbs 17:2). God is not very concerned with where you come from, but He cares very much about where you are going. The God of the Bible will use trials and tough circumstances to purify us, to refine our souls the way that super hot furnaces burn off the junk to produce silver and gold (Proverbs 17:3). My prayer is that we would all submit to the work of the Refiner’s fire in our lives, knowing that God has a plan and purpose for our temporary suffering and struggles.

The Text (Proverbs 17:2-3)

2 A wise servant will rule over a son who causes shame, And will share an inheritance among the brothers.

3 The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the Lord tests the hearts.

Questions to Think About

  1. Before you accepted Christ, did you think of Christianity as a bunch of rules to be followed? Why or why not?
  2. What trials or challenges is God using to refine your heart right now? How are you responding to the work of the Refiner?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel