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Wise People Keep Themselves Under Control


In the 1960s, a Stanford University psychology professor conducted a famous experiment known as the “marshmallow test” with a group of four-year-old children. Each child was given a marshmallow and told he could either eat the one marshmallow immediately or wait several minutes and be given a second marshmallow. Only about one third of the children exercised self-control and waited for the second treat. Interestingly, showing self-control on this test correlated in some ways with the children’s success later in life.

Self-control is a crucial ingredient of godly wisdom. This chapter provides an excellent opportunity to recap or review many of the ingredients of wisdom as seen in Proverbs. We’ve seen that wisdom is closely associated with righteousness, trust in God, sexual faithfulness or purity, justice, order, good leadership, acting for others’ benefit, joy, blessing, care for the poor, being slow to anger, integrity, honesty, fairness, being diligent in parenting, obedience, peacemaking, humility, attentive listening, an openness to rebuke or correction, and the fear of the Lord. We’ve also seen that foolishness is associated with wickedness, tyranny, disorder, trust in self, adultery or sexual immorality, injustice, oppression, stubbornness, tyranny, exploiting the poor, being hot-tempered, deceit, dishonesty, disobedience, pride, ears closed to rebuke or correction, greed, destruction, insincerity, selfcenteredness, rebelliousness, anger, violence, a lack of self-control, and no fear of the Lord.

Wisdom makes more sense! An evil person falls into his own trap, but the righteous “shout for joy and are glad” (v. 6). That trap is defined as “fear of man”—it’s fear of the Lord that is the true key to wisdom, safety, and blessing (v. 25).

Apply the Word

It’s never too early to start teaching self-control and other character virtues to children, including fruitful spiritual habits such as daily prayer and Bible reading. One helpful book is Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp (Shepherd Press, 1995). He and his wife, Margy, have also written Instructing a Child’s Heart (Shepherd Press, 2008).

BY Brad Baurain

Dr. Brad Baurain has worked as a writer and editor for Today in the Word since 1993. Currently, he serves as associate professor and TESOL program head at Moody Bible Institute. Brad has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has also taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Brad and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Munster, Indiana.

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