‘Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.’ (Proverbs 1:8-9)
Last week we looked at verse 8 and what it meant (effectively to listen to the instruction and experience of those who are more experienced), and this week we see the reason why we ought to do that.
Find out what it’s there for
A cheesy phrase which someone told me when I first became a Christian, and which has stuck with me ever since, related to understanding the Bible. A guy called Jonty said, ‘If you see a therefore, find out what it’s there for.’ The same is true about any linking word, and this verse begins with ‘for’ – to truly understand this passage, we need to understand how verse 8 relates to verse 9, and on this occasion it’s pretty straightforward: verse 9 gives the reason why we should follow the instructions of verse 8.
Solomon’s basically saying here that following your parents’ teaching is like wearing beautiful jewellery. It’s perhaps not the easiest analogy for men to understand, but I do think that he is highlighting that listening to those wiser than us has the same effects that jewellery does – let’s look at some key characteristics of jewellery.
The two items of jewellery mentioned here are a garland for your head, and a pendant for your neck. Note that these would provide a frame for your face. One of jewellery’s primary characteristics is that it highlights key features. So, if you have beautiful slender fingers, wearing a nice ring would highlight that to anyone who looked at them. One feature that wisdom has is that it highlights to others your characteristics which are already strong. So, if you are a great evangelist, becoming wiser will actually enhance that gift. The same is true of you if you are a preacher, or serve tea and coffee, or whatever it is. Wisdom enhances the gifts we already have.
To stand out
But jewellery doesn’t sit there only to highlight your natural features, it is intended to be beautiful in its own right. Nothing beats natural beauty, but wearing nice jewellery can make some appear even more beautiful because it can be nice and twinkly. Similarly, wisdom is a good addition to anyone’s personality. Even if you are gifted in all sorts of different things, adding wisdom is a guaranteed way to become more ‘attractive’ in your personality, and more effective in your ministry, whatever shape that may take.
To display wealth
One of the biggest reasons to wear jewellery is to publicly display how wealthy you are. Whenever a rich man proposes, it is now expected that the ring will cost more than most of us earn in a year. By wearing jewellery, the fiancée is declaring how much her lover is willing to spend on her. And perhaps this is the most important truth about wisdom. Wisdom speaks to other people about the generosity of our God. It is expected that if you are wearing a beautiful piece of jewellery, a friend will say, ‘that is just gorgeous, where did you get it?’ opening up an opportunity for you to say, ‘my husband bought it for me!’ Wisdom should do the same for us; by enhancing our other gifts, and by being attractive on its own, others should ask us, ‘how did you become so wise?’ opening up the opportunity for us to say, ‘God gave it all to me.’