Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
Training a toddler not to touch household chemicals needs no explanation of merits in terms of parental discipline, nor demands any rationality to offer the child. However, Proverbs 22:15 goes way beyond this simple imperative to address “stupidity and stubbornness” (Kidner) which assumes a modicum of knowledge and a boatload of willfulness. Commentator Kidner gives a marvelous title to this verse “knocking the nonsense out.” As parents, we need to be concerned about what cements the temptation towards such foolishness in the life of our child, making common sense seemingly evaporate. (Definitely the prima facie reading and the correct place to begin.)
Yet we could also consider the spiritual foolishness eddying around our own hearts, as we may tussle and flirt with “simple” issues of sin. (Here a godly spouse can be of great encouragement!) Recently I was wrestling in prayer and in my emotions all day with a hard situation concerning a friend and sin. Once my wife finally got the story out of me, her insight cut through “the fog”: “You seem to be embracing the sin of a friend more than the truth of your loving, forgiving God.” Ouch! Knowing the kindness and forgiveness God has showered upon us through his rod of discipline and grace, how could we be so stubborn and foolish to embrace any caustic sin?
Proverbs makes it clear that the foolish person 1) doesn’t listen or learn from others, 2) becomes defensive easily, and 3) rejects any responsibility for problems, instead blaming others. Parents, if we could attack these three basic foolish tendencies early in the lives of the children our Lord has entrusted to us, consider how their souls may be more attuned to the Lord’s leading. This verse teaches that it takes more than words to dislodge foolishness: Our life example and joy in following Christ, interspersed with firm consistent discipline and training (cf. 22:6) by God’s grace, will enrich the lives of the next generation.