He was 8 years old; so young and already a criminal.
He had been hanging around with another 8-year-old, a neighborhood thug, and was not only telling lies but getting good at it.
Overreacting like any good parent should I said, “Ryan you shouldn’t lie.”
“Why Dad?” he replied, with the look of someone who just wants to know.
I’m thinking and a good answer just isn’t coming. I know this is a teachable moment.
“Well, you just shouldn’t that’s all.” That helps.
Then I remembered Solomon. I had read them as kid, after my grandmother had bought me a gift Bible with a handwritten note to read a chapter every day. So I used to read a chapter before I went to bed. I hadn’t even liked his book of Proverbs, because I just couldn’t make it make sense. However, it did talk about telling the truth.
So a few nights later, Ryan and I sat down with chapter ten and verse one. The passages in chapters one through nine are just too long and often too adult-ish so we did them later. But from chapter ten on, it has these short, one or two liners.
Pro 10:1 A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. (BBE)
And then something very good happened. It was like a prolonged happy ending to a short story. Night after night, every bedtime we took another verse, just following the order as they are numbered in the book. He and I talked about love, money, telling the truth, setting goals, having friends, being happy, being stupid, being smart, and all the good things a parent should tell their kid. Truth is, we were both learning things. The odd part was that we tried several of the more modern versions sometimes, but the good ‘ol King James Version seemed best. This was the version that made us think, and talk. It seemed to present its ideas as more like puzzles that forced us to scratch our heads a bit.
Some of the things we talked about went like this:
13:16. “Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly.
Meaning? Get the facts straight. Fools tell all those who listen to them just how dumb they are by just talking about things they don’t know about. Don’t be one of them. Word gets around quick when we say something is true when it isn’t.
14:4. “Where no oxen are the crib is clean. But much increase is by the strength of the ox.”
Yes, there are reasons for leaving a mess. Be careful of being so neat that nothing gets done. Living in the mess afterwards is not so good.
14:20 “The poor is hated even of his neighbors, but the rich hath many friends.”
Life is unfair. It is unfair to you, to me and to many people. See it like it is.
“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”
Hear people out. Don’t cut them off when they are talking. Don’t jump in with an answer before they are done. We can look dumb in the process.
Please note the tone. I hear nothing like “you are a slob” or “you need to pick up your things” or “why can’t you be more like your sister?” in any of what Solomon wrote. Rather, it assumes good things about us; that we want to be smart, that we want to do what’s best and that we want to know how to do it. I like that. So did my kids.
Rabbi Rami Shappiro made the comment on Solomon: “Solomon eliminates the grays of life in favor of a black-and-white dualism that makes morality and right action appear self-righteous and prudish. The more I worked with Proverbs, however, and the more I sought to apply them to my own life, the more I realized that much of what it took for legitimate gray was in fact clearly black and white. I preferred to think in terms of grays to rationalize away questionable actions, or to confuse things so that I could avoid doing the right thing.
“The fact is, life is fairly simple. There is birth and death; good and evil; right and wrong; justice and injustice; honesty and dishonesty. We complicate life by refusing to respond to reality as it is. Most of the time it is not difficult to identify the right path. What is difficult is actually walking it.”
Reader’s Comments: Please send your articles of faith to firstname.lastname@example.org (500 to 800 words).