It sobered my heart when my 9 year old daughter asked me, "How will I really know if the man I marry is a Christian. What if he says he is, and then I marry him, but find out later that he's not?"
She didn't ask this question because she watches TV or reads magazines. She didn't ask because of school kid's parents. She asked this question because she is heavily involved in the church. She asks because we, her parents, have had friend after friend desert the faith. My kids have watched dads walk out on their playgroup buddies. My kids have experienced the reality of divorce, not from a screen or a school or their own parents, but from our shared meals with friends, acquaintances, and church-goers.
As parents, we teach the Bible to help understand the issues of life. Our 7 year old son knows the stories of David, Solomon, and Abraham. Our son recalled the great faith and folly of these men, and so he asked: "how do I know if I'm going to follow God when I'm old? What if I mess up like they did? It's easy to do the right thing when you're a kid." My son didn't need the screen or the school to teach him the deprivation of the human heart--he figured it out just by reading Scripture.
There is a lot of wisdom in those kids' questions. The truth is, no one turns into a crappy spouse or person overnight. No one has impecable character for years, and then suddenly commits a moral catastrophe mid-life. There are often warning signs. If left un-checked and never repented of, the blunders of child-hood, the little white lies, the secret sins of the teenager will become the famous follies of the adult.
Jesus, His Gospel and salvation, is the critical foundation for this life and the next. But just because someone claims to know Jesus, can articulate the Gospel, and may be genuinely saved, doesn't mean he or she is a wise person. Foolish people reak havoc on themselves and the people they are around.
One hope or goal for my children is that by the time they leave our house, they will have mastered the Proverbs. I want them to learn how to be wise, what character looks like, how to find friends and spouses who are wise, and how to identify a fool.
Proverbs is a critical book of the Bible for wise living and in my opinion, the best book about relationships. The writer spends most of his time comparing and contrasting the wise and the foolish, so that we ourselves can become wise and knowledgable people. The writer also concentrates much of his time teaching his children who to be friends with. (Prov 1:10-19,12:26, 13:20, 14:7, 18:24, 23:20, 24:1, 24:21, 27:9-10, 27:17, 28:7, 29:3) Contrary to popular belief, the caliber of one's own friends reveals (not determines) what kind of person one is. Bad friends don't corrupt good kids. Bad kids find bad friends. Immature kids find immature friends. Wise people have wise friends. The company one keeps reveals a lot about the character of one's heart, and what is important to him. Therefore, it is important to guard your inner circle. You should be friendly to many, but be careful who you befriend. You can (and probably should) have many acquaintances and many dinner conversations, but the friends you allow to influence you should be focused and carefully selected.
Here's a list of the kinds of people the Proverbs talk about. These are the character qualities all of us need to be mindful of. The following "people" are who you want to be, and who you want your friends/spouse to be:
(Proverbs 10:18, 16:32, 19:2, 19:11, 20:21,20:25, 21:5, 22:26-27, 23:4, 25:8, 27:15-16, 29:20)
Impatient people will make horrible life decisions and rack up debt quickly. They will be quick to do the wrong thing to satisfy their own timing. Their impulsiveness can lead them to bad business deals, affairs, and horrible parenting styles.
Benevolant Benny and Generous Gwen
Prov. 11:24-26, 14:21,15:21, 17:5,19:17, 21:13, 22:9, 22:16, 22:22-23, 28:27, 28:25, 29:7, 31:20
The proverbs are adamant about being kind toward the poor and generous with belongings. A love for the poor is a sign of deeper character qualities. It is by no means a sin to be rich, but one should be generous with his riches. The greedy person, or one who holds too tightly to his money, will eventually do unimaginable things for his own selfish gain. (Remember Judas.)
Proverbs 11:14, 17:10, 19:20, 20:18, 24:6
Stay away from the stubborn person! A teachable spirit is of high value. A person who continually seeks godly advice about life decisions will not make many stupid ones.
Proverbs 20:20, 23:22, 30:17
You think it's okay to badmouth your parents? Think again. Remember that "Honor thy Father and Mother" is the only one of the 10 Commandments with a promise. It's just true--life generally goes well for the respectful kid, no matter what his age. A man or woman who continually disrespects his parents is headed for trouble, and you don't want to be with them with God lets them have the fruit of their ways.
FRIENDS/SPOUSES THAT YOU DON'T WANT and WHO YOU DON'T WANT TO BE:
Angry Adam and the Quarrelsome Queen
Proverbs 17:1, 17:19, 19:13,19:19, 20:3, 21:19, 22:24, 25:24, 29:11, 29:22
Living with a hot-tempered man is hell on earth. A person prone to anger has all kinds of "hidden" idols, and you'll soon find they love to control, manipulate, and dominate.
Likewise, Solomon found no kind of woman more troubling than one who argues all the time. Solomon compares the quarrelsome queen to that annoying, constant drip out of the sink; he would rather be poor, have yucky dry dinners, live in a corner of a roof, or a desert than be in the house with a girl who argues.
Gabby Gossip and Chattering Charlie
Proverbs 10:8, 10:19, 11:9,11:12, 13 , 12:16, 13:3, 16:26-27, 17:9, 17:27, 20:19, 21:9, 21:23, 25:9-10
If one can not control her tongue, she has not trained her heart. She will tear people down to make herself look better. She will reveal information about you that is meant to be private. She has no discretion and it will rip you apart if you stay in her company for long.
Lazy Larry and Sally Sluggard
Prov 10:4,5, 10:26, 12:11, 12:24,12:27, 18:9, 19:15, 19:24, 20:13, 21:25-26, 22:13, 24:30-34, 26:13-16, 28:19, 31:13-19
Look at these verses about the value of working hard! Work was the first thing he told Adam and Eve to do in the garden. People are meant to work. Lazy people will hold up progress and frustrate everyone they're around. The sluggard is paranoid someone is always out to devour him; he won't be confident in his own ability to get the job done. Lazy people chase fantasies instead of working plans. Be careful of the dreamers who are never do-ers!
Flattering Floyd and Charla Charmer
Proverbs 10:10a,16:30, 26:24-26, 28:23, 29:5, 31:30
Have you ever met those people who are constant flatterers? That's a sign that they are deceptive. If they over-compliment you, beware, because they are hiding something.
Debbie Downer and Depressing Dan
Proverbs 17:22, 18:14
It's a well-known fact that "Debbie-downers" will suck the life right out of the people they are around. Most people get depressed here or there, but constant whining and lack of joy are not the subtle qualities you want creeping into your life. The mopers spend too much of their time watching the news and other people, and too little time looking to Jesus for their hope. They'll grow bitter, and nothing you ever do will be good enough for them.
There are other qualities mentioned in Proverbs that are signs of a person who is growing in wisdom. You want to find and be a person who is self-controlled, (25:28) friendly, ( 18:1) kind, (11:16,17) knowledgable, (19:2) seeks understanding, (17;27, 18:22) fears the Lord, (19:23)takes responsibility for own sin,(19:3, 28:13) takes action when warned, (22:3, 27:12) and who is concerned with doing the right thing just because it is the right thing to do (20:11, 21:3). The Proverbs also warn against the people who only see things his or her way ( 26:12, 28:26, 30:12). There are people in life who have their own view of reality and their stubborness will confuse and cripple others. Prov 27:4 warns that jealousy can be more burdensome to live with than anger. The jealous person will try to control everything in your life. Also be careful of those who are constantly seeking new experiences (21:17)--they will eventually outspend your budget.
You may have found qualities in this list that get you in trouble. If you had a little "ouch" moment, take heart: that's a sign that you are teachable. Let the Word of God convict you. Let these qualities challenge you, Christ change you, and may these sins not characterize you.