Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. 24Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. —Proverbs 4:23-24
Fatherly advice is as old as Adam. A blog I read recently asked, “Is fatherly advice still around, or has it become a parenting practice of the past? What’s the best advice you ever got from your dad?” The page was flooded with responses.
One person mentioned advice she got from her grandfather: “Ask yourself, before you do that, if you would want your children to find out about this in the future.” Another writes, “My dad would always say, ‘The sun always rises and sets again tomorrow.’ He would always point me to hope in the new day.” Still another dad gave his son some truly wonderful advice: “Never date someone you couldn’t marry.”
The words of Proverbs 4:23-24 are part of a plea from a father’s heart to his beloved son. Dad has been around the block a few times and has learned some things. He desperately wants to save his son from some of the snares the world holds for young ones finding their way. He pleads with his son to listen attentively to his words of wisdom, to take them to heart, to learn them and act upon them for the sake of his well-being.
The father offers four admonitions to his son in verses 23-27. “Keep your heart with all vigilance,” he writes. “Put away from you crooked speaking;” “Let your eyes look directly forward;” “Ponder the path of your feet.” The father’s emphasis seems to be not so much on what the son might do in a given situation as much as who the son will be as a person in every situation. This dad’s advice to his son? Be a man of cautious affection, honest communication, purposeful resolve, committed to faithfulness and all will go well with you.
But why? Why does love constrain a father to make these exhortations and not others? What is it about the world that moves a father to warn a son to diligently watch over his heart, to forego lies, to avoid the distractions that so easily appeal to the eyes, and to consider both the places and the life choices that lead to the places the feet take us?
I think the answer to “why?” is inherent in each warning. Why keep your heart with all vigilance? Why make the effort to be constantly aware of the attitudes and desires forming in your inmost being? Because the world in which we live, spiritually dark and fallen from grace, is full of pitfalls, dangers, threats, risks, and distractions; some glaringly obvious and others deceitfully subtle, but all pregnant with intent to sabotage faith and faithfulness. If the heart becomes ensnared and fails, everything that depends on the heart, all of life, follows and falters as the heart fails. So keep your heart with vigilance.
Why put away crooked speech, lies, deceit? Because succumbing to the Enemy’s tactics and adopting those tactics as our own, increases enemies, both of ourselves and of faith. A lying tongue breeds lies and invites distrust and rejection. Why let your eyes look directly forward? Because, dear Christian, we are surrounded by distractions that are temptations, that appeal to the eyes before any other of our senses, including common sense. The fruit looked good to Eve, pleasant to the eye, but the goodness faded at the first bite. Why ponder the paths of your feet? Because your feet usually follow your eyes, and if you are thinking about where your feet are going, you’re probably going to be paying attention to where your eyes are looking, and where your heart is leading.
These are all good pieces of advice from a father to the son he loves. Consider carefully:
- Do you guard your heart with vigilance or simply assume that you are not at risk and leave your affections and desires vulnerable to exploitation?
- Do you think the occasional lie or half-truth is sufficient in some situations?
- Do you let your eyes wander where you know your heart should not go?
- Do you find yourself making life decisions that lead you from God rather than to God?
*This blog post first appeared on the Children Desiring God Fighter Verse blog. It appears here with their permission, blessing, and prayer for your encouragement and instruction in the faith.
Children Desiring God (CDG) publishes Fighter Verses and offers products to support you in your Bible memorization efforts. CDG also publishes God-centered Sunday School curriculum for children and youth, parenting booklets to equip parents to spiritually shepherd their children, the My Church Notebook to help children participate in the worship service, and the Making Him Known series of books for family devotions.