Raising a child is a costly endeavor. To raise a child to age seventeen, a typical, middle-income American family spends an estimated $234,900, or about $14,000 per year. About 16 percent of this total is spent on food, 18 percent on childcare and education, and 30 percent on housing. This total represents, adjusted for inflation, a 23-percent increase since 1960.
More important than any financial challenge, though, is the task of instilling children with godly wisdom (v. 7). Proverbs 4 focuses on several themes to help us do so. One is to teach attentiveness. You’ve probably already noticed the frequent exhortations to “listen” and “pay attention” (vv. 1, 20). Attentiveness involves more than hearing the words—it requires one to “lay hold” of wisdom, store it up and not to swerve from her commands (vv. 4–5, 23). It’s a commitment that involves one’s whole being (vv. 6, 21).
Another focus for training wise children is to teach them that wisdom and righteousness are two sides of the same coin. One of the most important differences between godly wisdom and human wisdom is that God’s wisdom never takes us down the path of the wicked (vv. 14–15). Wisdom is righteousness and folly is sinfulness, by definition, in the same way that light and dark are opposites by nature (vv. 18–19).
One more emphasis in godly childrearing is to teach wise decision-making. The spiritual life often confronts us with choices between two paths. One is the path of wisdom and righteousness and obedience; the other is the path of foolishness and evil and disobedience. One is the path of life; the other is the path of death (vv. 4, 13, 22–23). Wisdom reveals which are the crooked ways and which are the “straight paths” (vv. 11–12, 25–27).