He who loves wisdom makes his father glad
But a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.-Solomon
Beloved reader, you’ll recognize in these lines an instance of antithetical parallelism: the two lines parallel each other while pointing out some fundamental contrast.
- “He who loves wisdom” is contrasted with a “companion of prostitutes.”
- “Makes his father glad” is contrasted with “squanders his wealth.” We’re not sure whether the “his” refers to the son or the father, but in the end whatever reading we land on doesn’t matter much since the father and son’s wealth are tied together.
At first glance the initial line’s contrast seems laughably pedantic, almost farcically so. Of course, it’s not wise to visit prostitutes! I mean, come on – couldn’t we say something more pointed here to characterize the wrongness, maybe use some “s” words: scandalous, salacious…?
But here, through the parallelism, the proverb writer is making a more subtle point than we might at first realize: in characterizing the son as loving wisdom [or not], he’s not so much speaking of who the son is in himself, but referring specifically to the son’s companions. The lover of wisdom particularly is the one who befriends and spends time in company with wisdom, especially that select people we could call the Wise.
“He who loves wisdom” – to incorporate language from another proverb – has called wisdom his sister and insight his intimate friend (Prov 7:4).
Today’s proverb doesn’t so much impel us to look inward, for instance to scrutinize our habits of thought. Rather, we’re meant to take stock of our friends. Our companions – alive or dead, physical or virtual, known or strangers – who influence us.
Are your companions (physical or digital, including through various media [perhaps especially musical?]) those who themselves practice, and then either explicitly or implicitly cajole you into, self-control, measured speech, prudential views toward the future, sexual discipline, a care for righteous material increase, the fear of God?
In other words, by the choice of your companions do you love wisdom?
Or do you associate with those who major on fun, thrilling experiences, living in the moment? Who bring you up to and through ecstatic yahoo!! or glazed eye ahh! moments… but that leave you only feeling blank and regretful? Whose seriousness is shallow, and happiness is thin? Whose cumulative effect is to drain you: drain your talents; drain your opportunities; drain your ethic; drain your bank account?
Any decent father is glad to see himself and his children prosper, including in ways financial and material. That gladness, and the prosperity of which it partially consists, is threatened by his child’s poor choice in companions.
On the other hand, when a father sees his children lean into wisdom by thoughtfully, carefully selecting good companions, no matter how bleak things might look in the moment, he can’t help but feel there’s a good moon risin’.