A foolish son


[Proverbs 19:10, 13-14, 18, 26-27]


Have you ever read the Korean traditional fairy tale ‘A foolish salt merchant’s son’?  The story goes like this: ‘Long time ago, there was a salt merchant who live in a town.  He had a son.  He was always worried about his son because he is foolish and dull.  Although his son was grown up, he couldn’t do calculation and couldn’t distinguish between rice and barley.  Worrying about his son was a matter of course.  He was always worried about his son.  When his son said that he wanted to be salt merchant too, he let his son to carry an Korean A-frame on his back and told him to go and sell the salt.  The foolish son went to the place where the miners gathered and shout to them to buy the salt.  But he wasn’t able to sell any salt to the miners who were busy working.  Rather, he was reviled by them.  Then the father, who heard what happened, told his son to go and help them to dig the earth and then sell the salt while they are resting.  The next day, the son went to a wedding party this time and went to the bride and bridegroom and started digging the earth very hard because he thought about what his father said to him.  The people were surprised and tried to get rid of him with the sticks.  So the son ran to the house because he was shock.  When the father heard this, he told his son to say ‘Happy, happy occasion’ and to dance and sell the salt.  The next day, his son went out to sell salt and ran to the place where people gathered.  And as his father told him, he said ‘Happy, happy occasion’ and danced.  And the son told the people to buy the salt.  But the place was the yard of burned house.  So the son got beat up and returned his home.  The father told his son that if that kind of situation, he had to throw water and turn off the first and then sell the salt.  But the next day, the foolish son rushed to the people who were fighting and he threw water on them and told them to buy the salt.  So the people rushed to the son and got angry.  After all, the son said that he wouldn’t sell the salt anymore and blamed on his father because even though he obeyed his father he wasn’t’ able to sell the salt but got beat up (Internet).  What do you think of this fairytale story?  Don’t you think that a foolish son is a cause of his parent’s worry?  Although the foolish son acted upon what he heard from his father, he didn’t have wisdom to apply what his father told him in the appropriate situations.


In Proverbs 19:13, King Solomon said, “A foolish son is his father's ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.”  Here, the foolish son refers to the son who doesn’t fear God, disobey his parents and always does evil (Park Yun-sun).  Based on this passage, I would like to meditate on two things under the title of "A foolish son": (1) What kind of person is the foolish son, and (2) What should his parents do to their foolish son.


 First, what kind of person is the foolish son?

There are three things we can think of:


(1)   The foolish son is an extravagant.


Look at Proverbs 19:10 – “It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury-- how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!”  I remember reading the news article about Korea (formal) president Park Geun Hae, what kind of bag she was carrying.  People were saying that her bag was a brand-name bag that was made by an ostrich skin and it might cost around $1,000.  But it was actually hand made by a small domestic company.  The idea that I went through while I was reading that news at that time was ‘Many people may buy that bag.’  The reason was that since the president was carrying such bag, I thought that many people would like to buy it and carry it too.  My personal thought is that a lot of people seem to want to buy luxury stuffs.  Actually, in Korea, the lineup of expensive luxury goods is becoming widespread, and some popular items are not available because so many people are buying them (Internet).  What do you think about "luxury"?  One of the websites I read talked about ‘Who is a luxurious woman?’  Let me ask a question.  What are the criteria of "luxury"?  Which of the five lists do you think is the right answer?  (1) There are two Louis Vuitton bags that cost $2,000 each.  (2) Louis Vuitton is not luxury but Chanel is.  (3) Eating lunch lightly and drink coffee in Starbucks is a luxury.  (4) It is good to use money that you earned but it is luxury when you use your parent money.  (5) If you travel overseas once a year, it is a luxury.  The answer is not in the above five.  The man who wrote the article says that the criterion for a woman who is extravagant is the question of whether or not she can afford her consumption pattern at the income level he is currently earning or he will be able to afford.  I think this is an interesting answer.  Although this is a man’s standard of the extravagant woman, but I think it is a reasonable view.  When I look at another website, there was an article titled ‘Emotionally luxurious age  ...  So solitude and despair got deeper.’  So I read that article.  It was an interview with a literary critic, who commented, ‘The frustration of the younger generation is a big problem.’  And this is what he said that I sympathize with: ‘This is a generation which is luxury emotionally and sentimentally.  Although this generation is richer and more convenient economically and free than the past, but young people feel loneliness, despair and frustration more than before’ (Internet).  What do you think of these words?


What do you think is the standard of luxury in the Bible?  Look at Isaiah 47:8 – “Now, then, hear this, you sensual one, Who dwells securely, Who says in your heart, 'I am, and there is no one besides me I will not sit as a widow, Nor know loss of children.”  This word tells us what the minds of the luxurious ones are.  In other words, even though there are neighbors who are suffering, they just live however they want to without concerning about their neighbors because they are not suffering.  It’s like we are boasting about our husband in front of a widow without considering the widow’s heart.  It’s like we are boasting about our children to the parents who lost their child.  It is luxury to live however you want to without mindful of other people’s situations and their difficulties.  It is not to say how much money you spend that is luxury but not being mindful about other people’s matters and situation at all, it is the act of covering the love of God.  In that sense, the Bible doesn’t want us to be extravagant.  If we don’t care about our neighbors, then we won’t be willing to share with them, and we will live a life that will miss all opportunities to show God's love to our neighbors.  God's reproach for luxury is to reproach a life that doesn’t show God's love (Internet).  In other words, luxury in the Bible refers to unmindful of the poor and ignoring them and using our possession however we want to, thinking that the possession is ours (Internet).  In Proverbs 19:10, King Solomon says, “It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury.”  In other words, it is unworthy for the fool to enjoy and rejoice in this world (Park).  But the fool not only finds pleasure in evil conduct (10:23) but enjoys the pleasures of this world (19:10).  Especially in the home, the foolish son inherits his parent’s house and their wealth (v. 14), and enjoys the pleasures of this world while living a prodigal life.  A good example is the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15.  The second son asked the father for his share of estate (Lk. 15:12), set off for a distant country and there he squandered his wealth in wild living (v. 13).  Likewise, the foolish son inherits his parent’s wealth and lives a luxuries life.  The Bible Proverbs 19:10 says it is not fitting for the fool to live in luxury.  Then what is fitting in God's sight?  When I think of this question, I recall Hebrews 2:10 – “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”  What is fitting in God's sight is to perfect Jesus, the author of our salvation, through sufferings for the glory of our salvation.  If we apply this word to us, we can say that it is fitting for God to perfect us through sufferings.  Why?  The reason is because Jesus learned obedience from the things which He suffered even though He was a Son (5:8).  Therefore, we as the children of God also must learn obedience through suffering as Jesus did.  This is fitting in God's sight.


(2)   The foolish son is destruction to his father.


Look at Proverbs 19:13 – “A foolish son is his father's ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.”  Translation of this Word in Hebrew is as follows: ‘A foolish son is destruction to his father, and the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping’ (Park).  The Bible says that the foolish son is a grief to his parent (10:1, 17:21, 25).  There is no joy for the father of the fool (17:21).  Then, in today's passage Proverbs 19:13, the Bible says that the foolish son is destruction to his father.  Why is foolish son destruction to his father?


(a)     The foolish son is destruction to his father because the parent is suffering because of his son and the father cannot do anything about it.  Don’t you agree?  Have you not already experienced that you suffer because of your child and you can’t do anything about it?  How many parents are suffering because of their children?  The foolish children are pain and destruction to their parents.

(b)     The reason why the foolish son is destruction to his father is because the father suffers damage of his honor or his property.  We actually see some parents around us who lose their wealth and honor because of their children.  So many foolish children bring reproach to their parents.  And how many prodigal children are there who squandered their parents’ wealth with their wild living?  The foolish children are loss and destruction.


(c)     The reason why the foolish son is destruction to his father is because such troublesome things also come to the good people.  In other words, we know that even though the parents are good and have strong faith, that doesn’t mean their children will grow well.  This is a phenomenon that we cannot understand.  What would you think if you planted the apple seeds, gave water and fertilizer, but the fruit is not apple but it is different fruit?  How many parents are doing their best in nurturing their children, but their children are foolish?  It is a painful thing.


In Proverbs 19:13, the Bible says that the foolish son is destruction of his father, and we can see this in the Bible.  For example, in Genesis, we know that Adam’s first son Cain killed his younger brother Abel in the home of Adam, the first human being.  And as we know, the Bible tells the story of ten sons of Jacob trying to kill their own younger brother Joseph.  Is that it?  In the house of David, David’s son Amnon raped Tamar, his half-sister, and her older brother Absalom killed Amnon.  In all of these stories, we cannot deny that the foolish sons have brought sorrow and misery to their fathers.  Such people like us, we became Heavenly Father God’s children through the death of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross.  Can we understand this?  This is what Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  The Bible says that God takes great delight in us.  Do you understand?  How did we become such great joy to our Heavenly Father?  This is because the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, was crucified.  It was because Jesus died on the cross for all our sins, receiving all God’s wrath and calamity.  That’s why we became God’s children.  And God takes great delight in us.


(3)   The foolish son is a shameful and disgraceful son.


Look at Proverbs 19:26 – “He who assaults his father and drives his mother away Is a shameful and disgraceful son.”  The Bible says that the foolish son assaults his father, it means that the foolish son steals from his father (Swanson).  How do you think the foolish son steals his father's goods?  When I think of this question, of course, I think about the prodigal son in Luke 15 who squandered the wealth that he got from his father (v. 13) but also Malachi 3:8 came to my mind: “Will a man rob God?  Yet you are robbing Me!  But you say, 'How have we robbed You?'  In tithes and offerings.”  And I thought that if the sons and daughters don’t honor their parents and don’t give money for them to use, then that can be robbing their parents.  What do you think?  This is what Proverbs 28:24 says: “He who robs his father or his mother And says, "It is not a transgression," Is the companion of a man who destroys.”  It is sin to steal the things of the parents.  The foolish son is committing this sin to God and his parents.  The foolish son also drives his mother away from home.  Rather than taking care of his mother, the foolish son makes his mother’s heart very uncomfortable in order to drive her out of home and live elsewhere.  In short, the foolish son does not fulfill his filial duty.  He doesn’t honor his parents and doesn’t care for them.  Rather, the foolish son causes his parents to be shameful and insults them by abusing them and drives them out.  The Bible says that the foolish son who is shameful, insulted and dishonor his parents is ‘the maker of idols’.  Look at Isaiah 45:16-17: “All the makers of idols will be put to shame and disgraced; they will go off into disgrace together.  But Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.”  But the Bible says that Israel will never be put to shame or disgraced forever.  The reason is because God will save them with everlasting salvation (v. 17).  We who believe in Jesus are saved by God's eternal salvation.  Therefore, we will never be put to shame or disgraced forever.  This is because we are children of God, not foolish sons and daughters.  Since the children of God loved God, they honor their parents (Lk. 18:20) and fulfill their filial duty (1 Tim. 5:4).


Second and last, what should the parents do to their foolish son? 


There are at least three things:


(1)   The parents must have hope for their foolish son.


Look at Proverbs 19:18a – “Discipline your son while there is hope ….”  Why should we, the parents, have hope for our foolish son?  Why is the reason?  The reason is because we believe in God.  In other words, we have hope for our foolish son because we believe in God.  Look at Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


(2)   The parents must discipline their foolish son.


Look at Proverbs 19:18 – “Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death.”  Not only must we have hope for our foolish son by faith in God, but we also must discipline him because we love him.  Look at Proverbs 13:24 – “He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”  Why should we discipline our foolish son?  Look at Proverbs 22:15 – “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”  The reason we should discipline our foolish son is because the rod of discipline will remove his foolishness far from him. 


(3)   The parents should not let their foolish son to stray from the words of knowledge.


Look at Proverbs 19:27 – “Cease listening, my son, to discipline, And you will stray from the words of knowledge.”  We, the parents, must not only hope for our foolish son by faith in God, but also to discipline them out of love for him.  But we must not end in discipline.  We must not only discipline our foolish son, but also must not let him listening to discipline that will stray him from the words of knowledge.  I think the best way to do that is to continue training our son in the way he should go.  Look at Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  When we train our son the way he should go, he will not go astray or depart from it when he is old.  I think this is the best way to keep our son from listening to discipline that will stray him from the words of knowledge.


No parents want their children go astray and do wrong.  All of us, the parents, want our children to be well, so we will try our best to do our parental responsibility and nurture them and pray for them.  Nonetheless, when we look at some children who go astray even though their parents are doing their best, we cannot but acknowledge that child-rearing is not accord to our plan.  That’s why we should leave our child-rearing to our Heavenly Father God.  At the same time, we must strive to fulfill our responsibilities faithfully as a parent.  One of those efforts is to seek wisdom from God when we pray for our children.  As we do so, we must show our children God’s given wisdom to us rather than our foolishness.  And that wisdom is to fear God and obeying God's commandments.  And the lesson God gives us in Proverbs 19:10, 13, 14, 26 is to live a thrifty life and not a luxurious life.  Also, the lesson God gives us is that if we have foolish children who bring shame and disgrace to us, we must discipline them while there is hope and let them not listen to discipline that will stray them from the words of knowledge even though they are destruction to us.  I hope and pray that we may humbly receive these lessons and obey.