Collegiate Reformed Fellowship is the campus ministry of Christ Church and Trinity Reformed Church in Moscow, Idaho. Our goal is to teach and exhort young men and women to serve, to witness, to stand fast, and to mature in their Christian Faith. We desire to see students get established in a godly lifestyle and a trajectory toward maturity. We also desire to proclaim the Christian worldview to the university population and the surrounding communities. CRF is not an independent ministry. All our activities are supplemental to the teaching and shepherding ministry of CC & TRC. Students involved with CRF are regularly reminded that the most important student ministry takes place at Lord’s Day worship.
Most conservative Christians know the basics of what husbands, wives, parents, and children are supposed to do and what they are not supposed to do. And they generally know that they are supposed to be Christians in it all: forgiving one another and staying in fellowship and the joy of the Lord. And we really must not underes- timate the blessing all of that really is. The value of peace and joy and fellowship is inestimable. But what grows in that soil is a powerhouse of influence, generosity, and blessing.
“… Drink waters out of thin own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dis- persed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets… Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth…” (Prov. 5:1-19)
OVERVIEW OF THE TEXT
Solomon the King and father continues to exhort his son to listen to his instruction (5:1-2). He specifically warns his son about the immoral woman who promises to be sweet but always ends up being bitter and deadly (5:3-6). The father repeats his plea to be heard to stay far away f rom her, explaining that he is not speaking in metaphors: the bitterness and death means losing honor, years of labor, wealth, sadness, sickness, and regret (5:7-14). In place of a reckless and bankrupt sexuality, the father exhorts his son to a joyful and fruitful mo- nogamy, picturing fruitfulness and productivity in terms of wells of water and gushing fountains of life, flowing from a continual delight in his own wife (5:15-19).
DO NOT GIVE THY STRENGTH TO WOMEN
Proverbs 31 was written by a woman, the mother of King Lemuel, and the queen mother exhorts her son not to give his strength to women, nor his ways to that which destroy kings (Prov. 31:3). Given what follows, what she is warning him about is drinking too much and loose women (31:4-10ff ). Gluttony and immorality are a couple of the chief ways men give their strength away to women. Rather than using their strength to build houses and families, businesses and cities, legacies and inheritances, men give everything they work for away (5:9-14). Ironically, Solomon himself is one of the great examples of this contrast: remember how he built the temple and his palace and other cities with the wisdom that God gave him (1 Kings 5-10). But then chapter 11 opens with the ominous words: “But King Solomon loved many strange women…” Instead of being faithful to God and building houses and cities of blessing, his many women turned his heart away from God and he built high places for all of them (1 Kgs. 11:7-8). What a draining, painful, and worthless waste.
In place of draining power and strength, Solomon describes the fruitfulness and power of a faithful marriage and family as fountains and springs (5:15-18). In an arid climate or when it’s baking hot outside, you under- stand the glory of cool, flowing water. A fresh mountain spring or river not only keeps you alive, it allows you to keep working, to keep producing and with joy. And think of all the uses of water: watering crops, keeping animals alive and working, cooking, cleaning, cooling, making paper, building, water wheels, hydroelectric dams, steam power, shipping, travel, not to mention recreation and fun. What Solomon sought to urge his son to understand was not merely the joy of faithfulness to one woman and the children she bears, but the political and economic powerhouse a faithful marriage and family can be. Cities have always been built close to water
for all of the above reasons. A thriving faithful marriage and family are little cities, proto-economies, micro nations. Just think: a thriving faithful marriage and family are a team of people who practice commu- nicating and working together regularly. As they learn to communicate, they learn to anticipate one another. They know the standards; they know what is expected; and they learn to problem solve quickly. Where there is joy and love and loyalty to one another and the mission, there is safety in sacrificing for one another. These bonds are tightened and strengthened through particular experiences, trials, and accomplishments. Under the blessing of Christ, this is where the water of family life flows from, begin- ning as a trickle and growing into a gushing fountain over generations.
Sexual Fidelity: the center of this fruitfulness and power is sexual faithfulness and delight. As with all repentance, there is a turning from and a turning to. Fundamentally, this is turning from self and the old man and turning to Christ and the new man (Eph. 4:22-24). And by God’s design, this is how sin is conquered. It is not merely a matter of will-power. You need to replace one way of thinking and liv- ing with a new way.The self-centeredness of lust and immorality needs to be replaced with the selfless- ness of faithfulness to one spouse. And because God made the world heterosexual, this means that a man needs to pursue and continually delight in his wife, and she needs to welcome him. When a man gives his strength this way, it is blessed.
Do you want your fountains blessed? Rejoice with the wife of your youth (Prov. 5:18). The center of this joy is the forgiveness of sins, and therefore, you cannot have this joy if your heart and home are full of the gunk and bitterness of unconfessed sin (1 Jn. 1:4-9). Many professing Christian homes are sad and stressful places because there is so much unconfessed sin, which is like a bunch of debris clogging the fountain. But when you confess your sins, the dam breaks, and the drought is over (Ps. 32). A Christian home should be a happy place, a joyous, raucous place of welcome, delight, and peace. It’s not a sinless place, but it’s a place that is continually applying the blood of Jesus and so it really is clean and full of joy.
WISDOM IS WEALTH
We are not materialists and so we need to think of wealth biblically. Wealth is not just cash or pos- sessions, and some forms of cash and possessions are not nearly as valuable as they may look at first glance (Prov. 23:5). But wisdom really is more valuable than gold or silver or rubies, and durable riches and honor really are with wisdom (Prov. 8:18). By wisdom kings reign and princes rule (Prov. 8:15-16). Wisdom has great strength, and by wisdom, God built the universe (Prov. 8:14, 22-29). And God has this strength by daily delighting and rejoicing in wisdom (Prov. 8:30). Delighting in stupid sitcoms, braindead music, and mindless movies is a great way to not get wisdom. And while the Bible should be the center of our wisdom, knowledge of creation (biology, technology, art, music, etc.) is wealth. And in a healthy marriage and family, that wealth builds houses, businesses, and legacies for generations that influence cities and nations and provide life to the world.
Some sins are out in the open, and everybody in the church knows that they are sins. I am thinking about theft, drunkenness, adultery, and the like. But there are other sins that are harder to identify, and because of this they can even function openly in Christian circles. I am thinking here about things like desire, envy, competition, and ambition. Now there are some situations where some of these are perfectly fine, but they are still dangerous. For example, consider desire—the quarry from which many sins are hewn. This is a word which, thankfully for the writers of rock ballads, rhymes with fire. Perhaps we would be better occupied with that which gives desire that sinful crackle. This is what our spirits’ desires naturally run to, and so what we are investigating is the sin of envy (Jas. 4:1-3, 5-6).
“A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but the fool’s wrath is heavier than them both. Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?” (Prov. 27:3-4).
Summary of the Text
The writer of Proverbs begins with an illustration. A heavy stone is hard to pick up (v. 3), and the same thing is true of sand (v. 3). And when a fool gets angry, that is heavier than both or either of them. You should rather have your pick-up truck filled with wet sand than to encounter an angry fool. Then, building on that first thought, since we are now at the next level, wrath is cruel (v. 4). The synonym anger is outrageous (v. 4), but envy carries everything before it. Envy is therefore a formidable sin. It is the full bloom of folly’s rose.
Jealousy is to be possessive of what is lawfully your own. Because we are sinners, we sometimes give way to jealousy for wrong causes, or in a wrong manner, but Scripture is clear that jealousy is not inherently sinful. Our God is a jealous God; His name is Jealous (Ex. 20:5; 34:14). Simple greed or covetousness wants what it does not have, and wants to have it without reference to God’s conditions for having it. The thing that it wants may have been seen in a store, a catalog, or a neighbor’s driveway. This sin is tantamount to idolatry (Eph. 5:5), putting a created thing in place of the Creator.
But envy is more than excessive jealousy, and is far more than simply a lazy or idolatrous desire. Envy is a formidable sin, as our text shows, because it combines its own desires for the object (status, money, women, whatever) with a malicious insistence that the other person lose his possession of it. In two places Paul puts malice and envy cheek by jowl (Rom. 1:28-29; Tit. 3:3), and this is no accident. In the Bible, when envy moves, violence and coercion are not far off (Acts. 7:9; 13:45; 17:5; Matt. 27:18). Envy sharpens its teeth every night. We may therefore define envy as a particular kind of willingness to use coercion to deprive someone of what is lawfully his. Of course an envious man may be a coward as well, and so fall under Pope’s condemnation—“willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike.”
The Natural Condition of Man
We see in the letter of James that the spirit within us “lusteth to envy” (Jas. 4:5-6). This is our natural tendency; it is a universal problem. We should see also that a recognition of our complicity in the sin is the way of escape. That recognition is called repentance, and can only be found in Christ. This is because outside of Christ, envy is the natural condition of all mankind. Before we were converted, what were we like? “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Tit. 3:3). That is what we are like. “Being filled with all unrighteousness . . . covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder . . .” (Rom. 1:29).
When we are brought into Christ, this does not grant us automatic immunity to this sin—we must still guard ourselves. We have to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, and that includes death to this sin. For example, the godly have to be told not to envy sinners (Prov. 3:29-32; 23:17-18). And we have to guard ourselves against sanctimonious envy, the kind Judas tried to display in his false concern for the poor (Mark 14:5,10; John 12:3-6).
The Invisible Vice
In striking contrast to many other sins, nobody readily admits to being envious. Envy is petty and malicious. Envy is unattractive to just about everybody, and in order to operate openly in the world, it has to sail under false colors. Envy is clandestine; envy is sneaky. To admit to envy is to admit self-consciously to being tiny-souled, beef jerky-hearted, petty, and mean-spirited, and to admit this is dangerously close to repentance. To be out-and-out envious is to be clearly in the wrong.
And so envy often decks itself out with the feathers of admiration, and tends to praise too loudly or too much. One writer said to “watch the eyes of those who bow lowest.” The praise can come from someone who does not yet know his own heart, or it can come from someone who is trying to position himself to get within striking distance. Guard your heart; don’t allow yourself to become an unctuous or oily flatterer.
Envy occupies itself much with matters of justice, and becomes a collector of injustices, both real and imagined. Since envy cannot speak its own name, the closest virtue capable of camouflaging the sin is zeal for justice. And since true Christians should be very much concerned with genuine justice, be sure to run diagnostics on your heart as you do so. This is because our modern political tangles are a veritable festival of envy, everywhere you look. Trying to find envy in our political disputes is like trying to find some beads at the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade.
And envy gets worse as a person’s gifts get greater—when dealing with talent, artistic temperaments, and great intellectual achievements. We sometimes assume that we can “cultivate” our way out of the temptation, which is the reverse of the truth.
Heading It Off
Because we are all a bit naive about this sin, in ourselves and in others, we glibly assume that if God only blesses us a little bit more, that will make it clear to everyone that we are nice people and that there is no reason to envy us. But of course, this only makes everything worse. Should the “neighbor” in the tenth commandment assume that if God only gave him a bigger house and faster car that this would somehow resolve the problems of his green-eyed neighbor next door? Is he serious?
Many of you are at the beginning of your lives, your careers, your accomplishments. And you need to know that when marked success comes to some of you, the poison will start to flow. Even in the church? Yes, even here, but if we take note of our hearts now, if we internalize these truths now, we are laboring for the peace and purity of our congregation—one of the things we are covenanted to in our membership vows. When James takes aim at conflict in the church, he takes aim at envy. So remember that the love of Christ is forever, and envy is transient. Speaking of the earthbound, Solomon says, “Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun” (Ecc. 9:5-6).
Gore Vidal once said, “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.” In stark contrast, the apostle Paul said, “Love does not envy” (1 Cor. 13: 4).
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One of the great mistakes of parenting is to get the stages of parenting backwards. When children are young, they need significant guidance and discipline and a very narrow, black and white path. But as children grow older, they need to internalize and love the standards and exercising them for themselves. Another name for this process is discipleship in Christ.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
WHAT IS THE WAY?
The “way” a child should go is the way of obedience to Christ. When he is old, when he goes to college or gets married that is the path we want our children to remain on. How must we obey Christ? We must obey Him right away, all the way, and cheerfully all our days because He loved us first (1 Jn. 4:19, 5:2-3). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph. 6:1). “In the Lord” means to obey your parents because of what the Lord has done and in the same way you would obey Jesus. This is similar to the command given to servants, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ” (Eph. 6:5). Slow obedience is not obedience. Fussing and complaining obedience is not obedience. Arguing and eye rolling are not compatible with obedience. Partial obedience is not obedience. Having to be told more than once is not obedience. Obedience coerced from counting to various numbers is not obedience. Obedience resulting from threats of discipline is not obedience. This is because obedience is love. Cheerful, prompt, and thorough obedience is not only possible but makes for a very pleasant home.
Training is primarily a matter of practice. When a pile of third graders show up for their first football practice in the history of ever, the coaches do not expect the boys to know how to play football. Likewise, parents need to remember that these little people just arrived on this planet, and that is why they act the way they do. They really do need to be taught and reminded a lot, especially when they’re very young. The fact that they need to be taught about everything is a design feature, not a bug. And parents must be obedient to that command – prompt, cheerful, and thorough – in teaching their children: “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Dt. 6:7). Parenting is a full-time job, and it happens all day long, everywhere you go (and sometimes throughout the night, “when thou liest down”). This element of training includes lots of talking and lots of practice. To return to the sports analogy, you do not merely talk about the game and then go to your first game. You talk about it, and then you practice, then correct and talk more, then practice more. So too parents must talk a lot and prepare their kids for the game of life. What will they face today, tomorrow, or next week? What temptations will they face in the grocery store, when friends or cousins come over, at dinner time or bed time or at the birthday party or school? Teach and practice for them all. This is love. Love prepares. Role play lots. If you suddenly require your 3 year old to say hello or thank you to the strange dinner guest, have you prepared them to run that play? Same thing goes for church. Practice obedience regularly, and do everything you can to make practice a joy. Lavish high praise, high fives, and candy.
WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG
When children are young, they do not know the way. There is a sense in which they do not know the difference between good and evil, how to go out or how to come in (e.g. Is. 7:16, 1 Kgs. 3:7). And therefore, they must be taught. While you wouldn’t know it from most Disney movies, the hearts of children are not repositories of wisdom and knowledge. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). Therefore, the opinions, wishes, and feelings of young children need to be formed and informed, and not really given the time of day. How they feel about bed time, nap time, what’s for dinner, what to wear, who their friends are — are all opinions which need to be given to them. For the first ten or so years of a child’s life, he or she needs to live in a benevolent totalitarian dictatorship. It should be full of love and joy and laughter and hugs and a very a small, well-defined world, full of black and white. Do not ask a five year old how they think that makes you feel. The justly administered spanking is teaching him exactly how he should feel, and besides, your feelings are not the standard.
LEARNING TO RIDE A BIKE
Many parents will probably have the opportunity to help one or more of their kids learn how to ride their first bike. Lessons begin with lots of hovering and holding the bike upright, and you can feel the bike wavering back and forth. But as your child begins to learn how to peddle and balance, you begin loosening your grip, and you need to do that so that they can begin to feel the sensation of the bike’s motion and begin controlling the balance for themselves. Finally, at some point, you begin letting go. Maybe for only a few seconds at a time, but eventually you let go completely. That’s what Christian parenting should be like: lots of hovering in the beginning, then slowly loosening your grip with slight corrections, and by sometime in high school, you really should let go. Another way to describe this same process is internalizing the standard. What you were providing (balance/momentum) in the beginning is what they have to internalize for themselves in order to remain on the path of obedience. The Bible describes this process of internalizing God’s standards as coming to love them. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart” (Dt. 6:5-6). Far too often parents get this backwards: they give far too much freedom in the early years and then when things start looking wobbly in middle school, they begin trying to clamp down, often resulting in collisions.
The Bible teaches that the law of God is sweet (Ps. 19:10). Obedience is like chocolate cake, like milk and cookies, like frosted donuts, like candy. When God gave the Ten Commandments, He prefaced them with, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt…” (Ex. 20:1). God’s standards are the standards of freedom. We get to worship God alone, keep Sabbath, honor authorities, defend marriage, etc. We love because He loved us first. Loving little ones means lots of training when they are young, so that when they are old they do not depart from that love.
A worthless person, a wicked man,
goes about with crooked speech,
13 winks with his eyes, signals with his feet,
points with his finger,
14 with perverted heart devises evil,
continually sowing discord;
15 therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly;
in a moment he will be broken beyond healing (Prov. 6:12-15).