Sound Guidance for Today’s Youth
“Hear, my son, and accept my sayings. . . . I will instruct you even in the way of wisdom.”—Proverbs 4:10, 11.
1, 2. (a) What questions are addressed to young people? (b) Where can reliable answers be found?
AS A young person, are you concerned about your future? Does the world sometimes seem frightening? Would you like to know how to deal with life’s problems and where to find reliable guidance and sound wisdom?
2 You can find such help in an ancient book that offers to give “to a young man knowledge and thinking ability.” What is that book? It is the book of PROVERBS, in the Bible. If you are a young person, you should read that Bible book, for it can help you to be happy and successful. If you are an adult, especially a parent, that book can aid you in seeing how you can best help your children or young friends. The first nine chapters Pr 1-9 of Proverbs provide counsel as from a loving father to his son. He says: “Hear, my son, and accept my sayings. . . . I will instruct you even in the way of wisdom.”—Proverbs 1:1-4; 4:10, 11.
3. What information, of value to youths, does the book of Proverbs provide?
3 Of course, not everyone wants such help. Some people prefer to do things their way. They do not want advice—not even from God. But Proverbs says: “A wise person will listen and take in more instruction.” (Proverbs 1:5) This book shows how to have a happier life. It deals with moral law. It shows the happy results of right living. It can help you make wise decisions. It shows that wisdom and knowledge will give pleasure and that staying away from troublemakers can save your life. The book of Proverbs provides skillful direction, both for you young people and for your elders.
Wisdom and Knowledge
4, 5. (a) How available is wisdom? (b) Why will many persons not listen? (c) What do you think is the wise course? Why?
4 God who created all things is also the source of wisdom. He wants his wise way known. He has it proclaimed “in the very street” so everyone can hear. But most persons do not want to listen. Many do not like the source from which it comes. Proverbs says: “The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom.” And: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge. Wisdom and discipline are what mere fools have despised.”—Proverbs 1:20; 9:10; 1:7.
5 Many persons do not want to obey God. They like things the way they are, whereas “the fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad.” (Proverbs 8:13) Fearing Jehovah would keep them from doing things that displease him. The wise course is to learn his ways and principles and obey him above all others. This will keep you from doing things that would cause you shame, injury, heartaches, or that could even cost you your life.
6. What do you have to do to gain wisdom?
6 While wisdom is available for all, you have to reach out to gain it. You have to want it, work for it and treasure it. This requires time and effort. It would be good to ask yourself: ‘What am I really doing with my life? What are my goals? Am I spending a great deal of time on useless things, or am I using the time I have available during my youth to dig for knowledge and wisdom?’ Wisdom is worth more than jewels, and “all other delights themselves cannot be made equal to it.” (Proverbs 8:1, 5, 6, 11) Do you dig for it as you would for silver, or for hidden treasure? Proverbs says: “If you keep seeking for it as for silver and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God. For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.” Do you put that kind of effort into learning about God’s Word?—Proverbs 2:4-6.
7. (a) What can you do to make study and learning easier? (b) Why is this worth the effort?
7 You may be thinking: ‘But I don’t like to study—reading is such a bore!’ Yet the more you read, the easier reading becomes. The more you learn, the easier learning is. You connect new information with things you already know, and you understand them better. As you make the effort, God blesses you. As your knowledge and understanding grow, you will find great joy in learning, and things you learn from God’s Word will protect you in today’s world. These are not just nice-sounding words or wishes. It is fact, truth, as Proverbs says: “When wisdom enters into your heart and knowledge itself becomes pleasant to your very soul, thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, to deliver you from the bad way, from the man speaking perverse things, from those leaving the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness.”—Proverbs 2:10-13.
Crime Does Not Pay
8, 9. What problems, common in today’s cities, does Proverbs discuss, and what important advice does it give in this regard?
8 This book (Proverbs) deals with problems and temptations common to youth not only in Bible times but also today. In today’s cities there are crime, violence, youth gangs and people who prey on the young. What warnings does this ancient book give that will help protect you from such problems?
9 It warns against becoming involved with the wrong kind of people. It says: “My son, if sinners try to seduce you, do not consent. If they keep saying: ‘Do go with us. . . . Let us find all sorts of precious valuables. Let us fill our houses with spoil. Your lot you ought to cast in among us. Let there come to be just one bag belonging to all of us’—my son, do not go in the way with them. Hold back your foot from their roadway. For their feet are those that run to sheer badness, and they keep hastening to shed blood.”—Proverbs 1:10-16.
10. What does Proverbs say about the path of the wicked ones, and why is this important?
10 Should you come in contact with people who commit crimes, you should flee. Solomon wrote: “Do not be envious of bad men, and do not show yourself craving to get in with them. For despoiling is what their heart keeps meditating, and trouble is what their own lips keep speaking.” (Proverbs 24:1, 2) Remember: Crime does not pay. Even if man does not catch you, God sees. How foolish to lose your everlasting life for a few ill-gotten gains! Proverbs advises youth, as well as older persons: “Into the path of the wicked ones do not enter, and do not walk straight on into the way of the bad ones. Shun it, do not pass along by it; turn aside from it, and pass along. . . . Remove your foot from what is bad.”—Proverbs 4:14, 15, 27.
Put Jehovah First
11. What blessings will you receive by walking in integrity and doing things Jehovah’s way?
11 The course of wickedness is in strong contrast with the course of wisdom. Proverbs says that Jehovah is a “shield” for those walking in integrity and that he will “guard the very way of his loyal ones.” (Proverbs 2:7, 8) He sets the prospect of everlasting life before those who do right. “For the upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it.” (Proverbs 2:21) By putting Jehovah first, you will be richly blessed. “Honor Jehovah with your valuable things and with the firstfruits of all your produce. Then your stores of supply will be filled with plenty; and with new wine your own press vats will overflow.”—Proverbs 3:9, 10.
12. What examples do we have of young people who put Jehovah first, and what rewards do they enjoy?
12 Many young persons today really do this. They put Jehovah first in their life. They spend their youth in full-time service, working as pioneer ministers or serving in Bethel homes where they produce Bibles and books that help others to learn about God. Ask them if Jehovah has blessed them. From their heart they will tell you that he has done so abundantly and that they have far more in the way of spiritual riches than do their young peers who have made material wealth their goal.—Proverbs 10:9; 15:16.
13, 14. (a) What other desire has Satan used? (b) Is this problem serious in your community today?
13 Advertisers use sex to sell their products. Satan has used illicit sex to tempt God’s servants. For example, thousands of Israelites, who had spent long years in the wilderness and finally arrived near the Promised Land, fell into fornication and lost their lives.—Numbers 25:1-9.
14 People who do not want youth warned about this danger close their eyes to the conditions of today’s world. Filthy magazines, dirty films, sex shops, pornography and prostitution are seen along our public streets. The first few chapters of Proverbs contain strong warning against such immoral temptations.
15. What warning does Proverbs give regarding immorality?
15 They tell of an immoral woman who tempts inexperienced youths. We read: “For as a honeycomb the lips of a strange woman keep dripping, and her palate is smoother than oil. But the aftereffect from her is as bitter as wormwood; it is as sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet are descending to death. . . . Keep your way far off from alongside her, and do not get near to the entrance of her house, that you may not give to others your dignity, nor your years to what is cruel.”—Proverbs 5:3-14; 2:16-19; 6:27-29, 32.
16. What can happen to a person who does not immediately flee from immoral suggestions?
16 They also tell of an “inexperienced” young man, “in want of heart,” who listens to cunning and suggestive ideas and shamelessly loses all control. “By the smoothness of her lips she seduces him. All of a sudden he is going after her, like a bull that comes even to the slaughter, . . . and he has not known that it involves his very soul.” He is not the only one led out of Jehovah’s favor and down to death, for “those being killed by her are numerous.”—Proverbs 7:6-27.
17. As Jehovah views it, how serious is fornication?
17 While these warnings are addressed to young men, they apply equally to young women. Whatever humans think of the outcome of fornication, Jehovah’s view is clear. It is a way of death. It can keep you out of the earthly paradise that God will restore. “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men . . . will inherit God’s kingdom.”—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Ephesians 5:5.
18. (a) Is the Bible’s counsel regarding sexual immorality a burden? Why do you so answer? (b) What good advice does Proverbs give in this matter?
18 No one should feel that applying the Bible’s wise counsel about sexual morality is a burden. It means fewer divorces, fewer broken homes, fewer delinquent children, less prostitution, fewer fits of jealousy, happier families and more joyful lives. In beautiful poetic language Proverbs recommends this wise course. It says not to seek pleasure in the street, neither from an immoral person nor from various persons, thus scattering your springs out-of-doors. It recommends that, when you are married, you rejoice with your own mate, rather than immorally ensnaring yourself with others. Any weakling can give in to the sex urge, but the course of a true Christian is to refrain from sexual relations until marriage and then to enjoy them only with your own marriage mate.—Proverbs 5:15-23.
Work and Pride
19. What advice does Proverbs give regarding work?
19 Proverbs helps in other ways too. It recommends something that does not enthuse many young people—becoming a hard worker. This applies in school, on a job, or in full-time Christian service. “Go to the ant,” it advises. “See its ways and become wise.” Like a busy ant, the Christian will give an honest day’s work without a boss’ having to watch him.—Proverbs 6:6-11; Ephesians 6:5; Titus 2:9, 10; Hebrews 6:10-12.
20. (a) What else does Jehovah hate? (b) How would you apply this counsel in your own life?
20 Also, it is important to be neither haughty nor a troublemaker. “There are six things that Jehovah does hate; yes, seven are things detestable to his soul: lofty eyes, a false tongue, and hands that are shedding innocent blood, a heart fabricating hurtful schemes, feet that are in a hurry to run to badness, a false witness that launches forth lies, and anyone sending forth contentions among brothers.”—Proverbs 6:16-19.
21. What counsel does Proverbs give you regarding parents, and why is this important?
21 Do not overlook the help you get from your family. Proverbs says: “Observe, O my son, the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother. . . . When you walk about, it will lead you; when you lie down, it will stand guard over you; and when you have waked up, it itself will make you its concern.” (Proverbs 6:20-22) This is especially true if your parents are servants of God. But even if they are not believers they have seen many things you have not yet seen, and their guidance can keep you out of a great deal of trouble.
22 By all means do not let adolescence—the period between being a child and becoming an adult—cause you to pull away from your parents, as so many young people have done. You may think your parents are old-fashioned, or “not with it.” But they can help you keep your balance during this period of change. Talk with them. Try to get them to listen to your problems. They do not want to hobble or cramp you on life’s highway, but they want to help make your course easier. It is true that young people want to do things their way and often resent counsel; yet their being humble will take most of the sting out of it. The humble person knows he makes mistakes, and he appreciates others’ efforts to help. Proverbs says: “Give a reproof [correction] to a wise person and he will love you.”—Proverbs 9:8, 9; Hebrews 12:11; Proverbs 4:10-13.
23. As far as you are concerned, what are the main points of this lesson?
23 So, godly wisdom is available for young persons today. Even if you are inexperienced you can learn and understand. Wisdom calls out to you. It speaks about “the foremost things” and “all other delights themselves cannot be made equal to it.” (Proverbs 8:6, 11) To gain knowledge and develop wisdom, you must study and dig, as you would for an exceptional treasure. “The one finding [wisdom] will certainly find life, and gets goodwill from Jehovah.”—Proverbs 8:35.
Having read this article, you may also wish to read Proverbs, chapters 1 through 9, on which it is based.
Do You Remember These Points?
□ What help does the book of Proverbs offer today’s youth?
□ Why do so many persons refuse that help?
□ What effect should the availability of wisdom have on your life?
□ Against what temptation, common in today’s cities, does Proverbs warn?
□ Why is the Bible’s counsel regarding sexual morality no burden?
□ What help can young people get from their families?
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KNOWLEDGE, WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING
The book of Proverbs has much to say about these three words. How do they differ?
KNOWLEDGE is familiarity with facts, which you may have learned through study, observation or personal experience. The wise person ‘treasures up knowledge’ and has a fund of it to draw upon.—Proverbs 10:14.
WISDOM combines knowledge with sound judgment. It is the ability to use knowledge in a successful way, to solve problems and avoid dangers. It implies a breadth of knowledge and a depth of understanding that give soundness and clarity of judgment. If you had knowledge but did not know how to use it, you would lack wisdom. “Wisdom is the prime thing,” for without it knowledge is of little value.—Proverbs 4:7.
UNDERSTANDING You now have an understanding of the difference between knowledge and wisdom—you can distinguish or judge between them. You may follow a course because God commanded it, but if you understand the reason for it, the good purpose it serves and the benefits it brings, your determination becomes far stronger. Proverbs has practical information to help you understand not only what course is right or wrong but also why this is true.