Today’s reading is Proverbs 23:1-18.
When reading the Proverbs, it is helpful to remember that these were recorded as lessons from a father to his son. Using short, memorable statements of truth, Solomon gave guidance to his son to show him the wise path forward, the path that avoided many of the traps of sin and foolishness.
Although the issues addressed in Proverbs are applicable widely to humanity, some of the temptations addressed in these verses are uniquely attractive to young people. One tendency that young people have is to see only the good time that sinners are having. Young people have not lived long enough to see what happens to person who lives a sinful lifestyle over many years and decades. So, when they see other young people living in sexual abandon or materialism (vv. 4-5) or intoxication or gluttony (vv. 1-3) or dishonesty (vv. 10-11) or whatever, they see only the pleasures and advantages that sin gives to a person. Our sin natures within are primed already to believe the lies that temptation tells us. Add to that danger the inability to see the damage sin does to a person over the long-term and you have a very difficult trap for a young person to avoid.
Here in Proverbs 23 verse 17a, we are commanded, “Do not let your heart envy sinners.” That is a temptation for any of us, but especially for the young. Instead of envying sinners, however, the path of wisdom is to “always be zealous for the fear of the Lord” (v. 17b). The reason for this is stated in verse 18, “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” The point of that verse is that those who fear the Lord instead of envying sinners will be glad for the choice they made... someday. Someday sinners will reap the destruction they sowed when they sinned and the righteous will reap the blessings they sowed when they lived in obedience to God’s commands. When the harvest comes in, those who feared the Lord will have hope and those who sinned will receive God’s judgment.
To experience the promise of verse 18, you have to accept by faith the commands of verse 17. Before you can know how things will turn out for you and your young friends, you have to believe that God’s word and his promises will prove to be true. That’s what makes it hard to follow Christ; the sacrifices associated with following him happen today but the payoff doesn’t come until the “future” (v. 18a). God’s promise, though is, “your hope will not be cut off” (v. 18b).
If you are young, trust me--and more importantly, trust God’s word on this. Those who sin bigly today and seem to be having such a good time will regret (bigly!) in the future the price tag of their sins. The older one gets, the more one sees the truth of this. So accept the wisdom of God’s word, receive the grace of Christ, and obey God’s ways. You will be grateful that you did when you get older.