Above all else, do this
Throughout the introduction to his Proverbs, Solomon encourages his son to grab ahold of his teachings. Take a look at some of the words he uses to drive home the importance of his message:
My son, pay attention to my words; listen closely to my sayings.
Don’t lose sight of them; keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them, and health to one’s whole body.
We can plainly hear Solomon’s desire to impart what he has learned on to his son. The phrases he uses communicate a strong urgency for his son to internalize his father’s wisdom:
Pay attention…listen closely…don’t lose sight…keep them within your heart
Solomon says phrases like these over and over, to drive home the importance of wisdom and its application. However, with so many ways wisdom can be studied, considered, and applied…Solomon paused here a moment to tell his son what his number one priority should be.
Solomon uses a speaking technique that immediately draws a student’s focus in. He stops the lesson long enough to state “If you forget to do everything else I say, do this:”. Solomon flags this direction with the phrase above all else. This is the only time in the book of Proverbs he says this phrase, so we know he means it above all else.
If you could only pass one idea about wisdom to a protégé, what would it be?
Would you tell him that wisdom will keep him safe from evil?
Would you tell her to avoid foolish people?
Would you say that wisdom must be pursued, that it doesn’t come easy?
Solomon says all these things, but that’s not what he says his son should consider above all else. Solomon’s top wisdom priority is at a much deeper level.
Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.
The Israelites used the word for heart – leb – to refer to much more than just the organ beating inside your chest. Similar to how we use heart in English, the Hebrew word referred to the inner self. They considered the heart to be the seat of thought and emotion, including one’s conscience, courage, mind, and understanding.
This is the one thing that Solomon wants his son to protect and guard and keep safe…because if he loses his heart then he has ultimately lost himself. If his son were negligent in protecting his heart or reckless with whom he allows to instruct his heart, then he would be easily corrupted.
A quick heart-check can go a long way, too. Ask the person you are mentoring “How’s your heart?” Then help them understand the importance of using God’s wisdom to guard their heart, to protect their identity and their source of life.