For a few years as a youth pastor, I took a youth choir on tour, and one stop was a California Youth Authority facility in Ione. By facility, I mean prison, and the teenagers there had committed the most violent crimes, arson, rape, even murder. At the end of a performance, the inmates were given an opportunity to speak to us, and the first rose and said, simply, “Listen to your mother.” Apparently he had not. What he said was a proverb, not unlike what we find in the first chapter of the biblical proverbs, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8).
Proverbs are just that, simple slices of wisdom, often a couple lines long, poetic and easy to remember, and that’s the point. It is the simple, seemingly obvious things in life we neglect to our detriment. The book of Proverbs was written to make common common sense, “to know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth” (Proverbs 1:2-4).
Proverbs present a choice, a choice with consequences, “the wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace” (Proverbs 3:35). Results are not automatic; if you don’t listen to your mom, it doesn’t mean you’ll end up in prison. But you’ve upped the odds. The choice is yours.
My God, Creator of all, I’m going to ask for what Solomon asked for: wisdom. Teach me Your ways. I will stay on the path You put in front of me, I will follow You. As I do, God, may I know You better, may I understand You and the world You created, may I see more clearly the difference between right and wrong, and may my will be strengthened to choose rightly.
God, You have let me stand close to You. I trust You completely with everything, and deep down inside I know it would be foolishness to do anything but that. I know You hold all of life, all of what is good in Your hand. May I choose well, choose life, choose You. Simple choices matter; may I choose wisely.