Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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Listen, my son, to the words of Lemuel, my wise friend. He described the kind of woman you want for your wife:
“The value of a prudent, godly wife can hardly be described,” he said. “Who can find such a rare jewel? She watches carefully over the goods and money her husband entrusts to her. She will do him good and not evil as long as she lives. His heart safely trusts in her diligence and judgment and is at peace.”
“She purchases what she needs, and she willingly works with her hands. She minds her own business and is not ashamed to humble herself to any necessary task. Her diligence provides her family with blessings they do not anticipate, and she is prepared to meet the needs of her household on any given day. She always has enough money to give to the poor and enough time to do good deeds for them.”
“The purchases she makes are wise purchases, and by them she increases her husband’s wealth. She uses her time to do things that produce more income for the family, and she uses any profit from her business dealings to bless the family rather than to squander it on self-indulgent frivolities. Shopping for the sake of shopping holds no attraction for her. Her heart is set upon the welfare of her family. She does not eat the bread of idleness.”
“The prudent wife’s business is the welfare of her family, and she takes good care of herself so that she may better serve them. She provides good clothes for herself as well as for her family. And because she never neglects her duties, the peace of the home is not disturbed by unnecessary and unexpected problems. She is not afraid of emergencies or any future needs because she has fully prepared her family to be able to deal with them.”
“Her husband is honored in the community and serves it well, but were it not for her faithfulness, he would have no time to serve the community at all. Had he a contentious, self-indulgent, self-willed woman at home, his time would be consumed with making enough money to please her.”
“The prudent woman is clothed with honor and strength from God. She is on the road to eternal happiness. When she opens her mouth, she does so wisely; the law of kindness is in her tongue. When her children are grown, they hold her in great reverence, and her husband adds to their reverence his praise for her virtues. There are many young women who have conducted themselves with integrity and moral virtue, but such a woman as this excels even them.”
“A shapely body is deceitful; it says nothing about the heart. And a lovely face endures for just a little while; it is nothing to love. Neither of those things is worth much at all. But a woman who fears the Lord will be praised by both God and men. Let her reap what she has sown, and she will be happy. Let what she has done be brought to judgment, and she will be praised by the Judge.”
My son, a wise woman blesses everyone and everything she touches; her house increases with every good thing. But a foolish woman is a curse to herself and everyone around her; without even trying, she brings her home to ruin. A woman who walks in the grace of God never surrenders her integrity, and a man with real strength never lowers his guard against the corruption of his soul. A virtuous, prudent woman is an excellent adornment to her husband’s life. Whoever has such a wife has been shown great favor by God; he has found a good thing from the Lord.
A beautiful woman with a wicked heart is like a golden ring in a pig’s slimy nose. Regardless of how beautiful a wife is, if she is faithless and ill-tempered, she drains her husband of his self-respect and lessens the respect that others have for him; she is like a cancer in his bones. There are few calamities more taxing to a man’s spirit than a belligerent wife who will not restrain her tongue. It is better to live in the corner of a drafty attic than to share a mansion with a loud-mouthed, contentious woman. Living alone in the middle of a desert is more pleasant than living with a bad-tempered woman when she is angry. Living with a contentious woman is like having to listen to rain drip from your ceiling. The man who makes excuses for such a woman is trying to hide a hurricane. He is trying to convince others that they do not smell the perfume he just splashed on his face.
A home worth having is one that is established upon understanding, and genuine security for a home is obtained through wisdom. By the knowledge of God, its rooms are filled with true, enduring riches. There are good, desirable things in the house of the wise, and care is given to have the necessities, but the foolish cannot save a thing; they spend every penny they have, and then some. A fool wastes all that comes into his hand; he has nothing with which to bless his guests and nothing to leave his children as an inheritance.
The father who does not whip his children when they need it hates them, but the father who loves his children whips them while they are young, while a good whipping can still do them some good. If you correct your children while they are young enough for correction to do them some good, they later will delight your heart and give rest to your soul. There is not much hope in trying to eradicate foolishness from children when they are nearly grown; it must be dealt with early. Ignore your children’s pleas for you to stop when you are chastening them, and drive that destructive foolishness out of their hearts! Judge your children (and everyone else for that matter) by what they do, not by what they say. Otherwise, you may fail to provide them with the guidance they desperately need.
Do not allow your children to play on your compassion and weaken your resolve to do the right thing for them; children are foolish and do not know what they need. Despite how they act when they are being whipped, you are not killing them; however, you may well be putting to death their association with spirits that can take them into hell: arrogance, stubbornness, and lack of self-control. The spirit of foolishness is stubborn, and it is an inborn element of human nature. If foolishness is not driven out of children by their parents, it will mold them into immoral, stubborn adults, and such a generation is a curse to the whole earth. Foolishness never voluntarily departs from the hearts of children, but it can and must be driven out of them. When a child is justly scolded or given a deserved whipping, it makes him wiser; but a child who is left alone to find the way to happiness by himself will always take the wrong path and disgrace his mother.
The father who fears God and humbles himself to rear his children in the way of right is blessed by God and has confidence that God will guide his children’s lives. By submitting himself and his children to the authority of God, a wise father provides for his little ones a refuge from the world. Children who have been nurtured by a righteous man will not be forgotten by God; even when they are old, God will stir up in their hearts remembrances of the right way. When a man conducts himself with integrity, God both rewards him and watches over and blesses his children after him. Begin now, while you are young, to live the kind of life that will cause your offspring, if God ever blesses you with any, to feel honored to have you as their father. Children, in time, can sense whether or not their father has conducted himself with integrity.
Start out in life keeping first things first. Make certain you have a steady, dependable income before you purchase such things as a house. A wise son works when it is time to work so that he is prepared for the future; a son who plays games when he ought to be laying the foundation for the rest of his life brings disgrace and poverty upon his parents and himself. He wastes his father’s money, fails to take good care of his father’s possessions, and is a constant drain on his resources. As God grieved in the days of Noah that He had created man, even so a father and a mother can be made to bitterly regret that they produced a son if he turns out to be a fool. The days of a man who begets a fool are full of continual sorrow; there is no joy in his life. The father of a wise son, however, is a very happy man.
A wise son is one who walks in the way of God’s law. He loves wisdom, and he makes his father’s heart rejoice. When his father is accused of being an evil or foolish man, he can point to the prudent conduct of his son as testimony that he is not – and the accuser is proved to be the fool! Here is wisdom that will reveal much to you throughout your life, my son: a false accusation is a confession. If you are falsely accused, and if you truly are completely innocent of the charge, the one who has accused you is himself guilty of that same evil. Only liars accuse an honest man of lying; only adulterers accuse the pure in heart of adultery; and only false teachers persecute God’s servants as being deceivers.
My son, you can hardly know how happy you will make your mother and me if you prove to be a wise man. It will rejoice our hearts to hear sober and righteous judgments coming from your mouth. When you learn to love righteousness, you will be a source of continual joy to us.
Though sinners can often seem to be blessed, they are despised and utterly miserable. Learn to see them as God sees them. Do not envy them, my son, nor strive to be like them, but always remember the coming Day of God’s Judgment and fear Him. That is the way to happiness.
There is a legitimate reason for my giving you this counsel; there is a point in warning you to stay on the right path. The message of eternal happiness and of eternal damnation is not a fable. Buy the truth, and never surrender it for any price, for it is your life. Wisdom and understanding are purchased with fear and obedience; instruction is purchased with humility. Watch me, and live as I live.
Give your heart to me, my son, and not to loud, lazy young fools who will pressure you to spend your money and your time partying with them. Give your heart to me and not to the whorish woman who weaves webs around young hearts. Such a woman is a deep ditch. A woman who has neither the knowledge nor the fear of God is a narrow pit, out of which a young man cannot climb once he has fallen into it. She ambushes innocent young men like you with her experienced charm, and many young men have fallen into her sweet smelling snare and found their hearts enslaved to her desire – until they have no money left to buy so much as a used shirt.
Many who did not heed my wise counsel became addicted to drunkenness, though none of them thought they would. They brought needless sorrows upon themselves; they became embroiled in fights that should never have occurred; they injured themselves doing simple tasks; they babbled endlessly to people who wished they would just be quiet; they suffered many painful after-effects of their revelry.
The drinks that revelers offer are made to appear delicious and appealing; you must refuse them and get away. Wine is like the whorish woman who knows how to cover the stench of her soul with sweet perfumes. It is like a venomous serpent as it swirls slowly and rhythmically in the glass. It is full of deadly poison and can kill and maim.
Getting high with young fools will confuse you as it has confused them, and then wretched women will begin to seem attractive to you. You will hear words coming out of your mouth that you thought you would never say. You will awake, surprised to find that you fell asleep in a mud puddle or in some other strange or dangerous place. You will have bloody wounds, but you will not remember receiving them. “Somebody must have beaten me up!” you will say, “and I don’t even remember being hit. But, I’m doing just fine.”
Then, you will stagger to your feet, with blurred vision and a crushing headache, to search for somewhere decent to lie down and rest a little, before going out in the evening to find another party and to party even more wildly than the night before.
The young man who chases after silly women wastes his father’s money, and his riotous behavior makes it difficult for his father to hold his head up in public. He is arrogant toward his mother and brings the family name into disgrace. And the son or daughter who has so little fear of God that he not only embarrasses but curses his father or his mother will be cast away like trash into outer darkness in the coming Judgment.
A brother is born to help during times of trouble. If your brother loses all that he has, do not be among those who take advantage of his misfortune. He will always remember it, and once a brother’s heart has been alienated, for whatever reason, just or unjust, his affection is most difficult to regain. When love turns to hate, there is no forgiveness. It is all but impossible to resist an offended brother’s arguments because he knows your weaknesses and past errors and will use them to make his case against you strong as steel. Happily, there is such a thing as a friend who is less demanding and more faithful than any brother.
Grandchildren are a grandparent’s grandest earthly blessing. They are a blessing that God affectionately bestows upon the elderly, whether or not they have done good in their lifetimes. If an old man has walked with God, the gray hair of his head is like a glorious crown. It is a beautiful sight, both to God and to those who know Him. Eternal happiness awaits him on the other side of his last breath. If, on the other hand, he has lived an ungodly life, his gray hair is a grievous testimony against him. It declares to everyone that God blessed him with long life, yet he despised the precious opportunity to go the right way.
A servant is like a child; mere words will not drive laziness and foolishness out of him. He may understand what to do, but without fear of swift punishment he will not respect your commands. The slave who finds favor with his master is meticulously cared for by him and in time is loved and adopted into the family. The servant who faithfully tends the fields shares in the harvest, and the servant who assiduously does his master’s bidding shares in the honor he brings to his master.
It is a joy to a just man to do what is right. Like God, he impartially rewards those around him according to their deeds. When a wise servant enriches a master who is just, he will share the inheritance with his master’s sons because that is his due. A just man will even promote a prudent and diligent slave above his own son if his son has been foolish and slothful. Therefore, be faithful to God, my son. And do not fear men. You will be blessed by God for your prudence, if you do not fear a reputation among fools for being prudish. Diligence in righteousness leads to lasting happiness.
A friend is faithful in every circumstance. He does not become friendlier if you become wealthy or popular, and he is not less friendly if you become poor and despised. This does not imply that a friend will never criticize you. A true friend will correct you every time you stray from the right path, even if doing so causes you pain. He will never tire of doing what he can to help you find the path to eternal happiness. The wounds he gives are better than the flattery and kisses of the friend who will go with you down a wrong road. To be openly reproved may be embarrassing and hard to swallow at the time, but open rebuke is better than secret love. An opponent you can see is better than an invisible friend who wishes you happiness but never does anything to help you obtain it. Rebuke can be beneficial; well-wishing is worthless.
If you want faithful friends, you must first prove yourself to be one. Such riches as true friendships are always earned; they are never merely stumbled upon. Never forsake either your own friend or someone who has been a faithful friend to your father.
When your heart is willing to receive guidance in the ways of God, the counsel of a friend will be as pleasant to you as the fragrance of a young bride. Your counsel, too, will be received, and the two of you will sharpen each other’s wit as years go by. Sharing fellowship in the light, you will learn to trust each other, and you will know in your heart that the picture of yourself that your friend paints for you is true, because he is. For a friend to point out your good traits is sweet to the soul, especially when you feel low. But the flattery you will receive from some who will appear to be friends is nothing more than a disguised effort to turn your heart from the right path onto another way. Always remember, my son, that the hottest trials of your life will not come through criticisms you receive from enemies but through praise you will receive from the lips of false friends.
A righteous man induces his neighbors to strive to be better and wiser than they are, but an evil man entices them to wander away from integrity and explore dark pathways. Be a paragon of virtue and goodness to those around you. Be temperate in all things. Too much of a good thing is not good. It is, for example, good to spend time with your friend, but you can wear out your welcome if you never give him a break from you. Be sensible; respect your neighbor’s privacy. Do not wear him out with your company and make him dread seeing you approach his door.
You will feel strong and robust at times, and you understandably will want to revel in your youthful vigor, but restrain yourself and do not overwhelm your friend with your exuberance. No matter how cheerfully you greet him early in the morning, if your friend does not awake as early or as happily as you do, he will welcome your loud salutation about as eagerly as he would a sprained ankle, and he might even pray that you lose your voice!