Summary: What do you find joy in? Perhaps the answer to that question reveals who you are. Are you wise or foolish? What makes for a good time reveals what our minds and heart are made of.

Proverbs 15:20-24 Good Joy

7/28/02 D. Marion Clark


What do you find joy in? Perhaps the answer to that question reveals who you are. Are you wise or foolish? Do you have it together or are you still missing what life is about? Are you at heart good or bad? What makes for a good time reveals what our minds and heart are made of.


20 A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.

I want to limit myself to two observations of this proverb. The first is the impact children have on their parents. This is not the only proverb to make reference to this. Here are others:

A wise son brings joy to his father,

but a foolish son grief to his mother (10:1).

21 To have a fool for a son brings grief;

there is no joy for the father of a fool….

25 A foolish son brings grief to his father

and bitterness to the one who bore him (17:21,25).

This, children (both young and adult), this matter of parents being wrapped up in the lives of their children is a fact of life. That’s the way it is. Yes, there are children who have suffered because Dad and/or Mom were too busy with their own lives, but then such parents are considered self-centered and foolish. It strikes us as unnatural for a parent not to care about his or her child’s accomplishments or failures. There are also parents who have an unhealthy attachment to their children’s progress in life, parents who basically try to live their own lives through their children, who make unreasonable demands on their children, and so on. But instead of striking us as unnatural, we regard such parents as unhealthy, out-of-balance, going overboard. Striking the right balance in our emotional involvement in our children is the ongoing tension in our lives as parents.

That’s the way it is. It’s a “parent-child thing.” A wise son or daughter is the greatest joy a parent can have; a foolish one – as the proverb says – is grief and bitterness to a parent. Kids, you know when you think, “I’m going to get even with my parents; I’m going to do something that makes them feel bad”? Well, it works. They do feel bad. But the very reason they feel bad is because they love you more than anyone else – more than the honor roll student next door, more than their children’s friends. The joy and the grief are so strong because the love is so strong; the love is so strong because, well, because a parent’s love is so strong.

The second observation has to do with the curious insight of the second half of the proverb: a foolish man despises his mother. There are, of course, children (adult children included) who resent their mothers, but I’m not sure that the proverb means this. It is not saying that through wisdom one child thinks of a way to bring joy to a parent, but that a foolish child thinks of a way to despise him or her. It is the wisdom itself that makes the parent happy, and the foolishness itself that strikes grief, intentional or not.

The County Sheriff gave a speech impressing the value of the father’s role in nurturing sons. For Mother’s Day, greeting cards were offered to the male prisoners to send to their mothers. The prisoners eagerly took advantage of the opportunity to send expressions of their love to their mothers. The program was such a success that the prison offered the same opportunity for Father’s Day. Few prisoners took part. The point was that poor relations between father and son often lead to the sons growing up bad. But think about it. What were the sons really saying to their mothers? “I love you, Mom, but your values of hard work, of sacrificial love, of being honest and decent are worthless to me. I like to take advantage of you having them, but I reject them.” Ask any of those prisoners if that’s what they think of their mothers, and you better make sure bars are between you! But that really is the message of their actions. To act the fool is to despise a good mother.

21 Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course.

The fool likes folly. He likes it! He is drawn by it. He envies others indulging in it. We are always asking of foolish people, “Why do they do that? Why are those kids taking drugs? Don’t they know they are harming their bodies? Why do they drink? Why are they promiscuous? Don’t they know they trouble they can get into?” One of my sisters told me of a girl who, because she was speeding, was in a serious car accident and lost the use of her legs. After weeks of recovery, she has another car fitted for her handicap, and she now drives just as fast as she ever did. Why is she doing that? Because she delights in it.

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