We all need wisdom. And it’s not something we’re born with. Ironically, the fool thinks he has wisdom, whereas the wise recognize their continual need for it. Although age doesn’t naturally produce it, the older you are, the more opportunity you have had to grow in wisdom. That is why children and youth are especially in need of it. It’s also why in the book of Proverbs we see a dialogue between a father and a son—a father pleading that his son wouldn’t forsake the instruction and teaching of his parents (Proverbs 1:8, 2:1ff, 3:1-2, 3:21).
More of my days than not were lived as a fool. But I thought I was wise. In Australia, 6th graders graduate to the equivalent of a combined middle / high school. At the ripe old age of 12, I thought I ruled the world—I knew how it was. But by the end of senior year, I’d look back and roll my eyes. He was such a fool compared to the wise young man I had become. Or so I thought. Several years later I’d get married. As a write this, I’ve now been married more than a decade. My wife and I look back at our wedding photos and wonder who those two children were? We thought we understood our faith, what marriage would be like, and we had our “5-year plan.” By God’s grace, marriage and life experiences have matured us. The Lord has grown us closer to Him and each other, helped us dig deeper into His Word, and has slowly, sometimes very slowly, been making us more like Jesus. I don’t expect this pattern to radically change. I hope with each wedding anniversary we celebrate that we can look back and see more clearly where we have lacked wisdom, but also to be able to reflect on the ways He has grown us.
Gaining wisdom is kind of like increasing one’s peripheral vision. The problem with poor peripheral vision, and with a lack of wisdom, is that you can’t see what you can’t see and you don’t know what you don’t know. We think we have a full view of life until we realize that we have been looking through a window, and a small window at that. This is why young people are often very sincere when they believe that they know better than their parents. It’s doesn’t compute for them that their parents were literally their age once, that they’ve made mistakes, learned lessons, grown in wisdom, and may actually “know better.” They have poor peripheral vision.
Not only are we not born wise, foolishness is tangled up in our hearts (Proverbs 22:15). Is it any wonder then, with 93% of those aged 12-17 using the internet, that there’s really no other place on earth where a lack of wisdom is more on display? Social media has given everyone a voice, and by their tweets many betray their foolishness. Remember, even “a fool who keeps silent is considered wise” (Proverbs 17:38). Google has become our librarian, anonymous websites our tutors, collaborating to instruct us and lead us on an exploration of every foolish and sinful impulse. Perhaps Proverbs 10:19 could be restated as, “When Google searches, and clicks, and status updates are many, transgression is not lacking.”
Christian parents rightly seek to guard their children from the dark corners of cyber space. It’s a powerful tool, and with great power comes great responsibility. We cannot blindly hand our children over to a digital Vanity Fair. However, limiting screen time, installing firewalls, and tightly configuring internet filters is not the end of parental responsibility in the 21st century. Disconnecting altogether also won’t help prepare our children to navigate the world in which they’ll spend their subsequent decades.
So what are parents to do? The secret to preventing children from simply becoming another “connected fool” isn’t by keeping them from connecting, but by instructing them in wisdom. Jesus is wisdom personified, and His Word is full of wisdom for today’s hyper-connected world. James charges us, “If any…lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously…” (James 1:5). We as parents should be praying this often, and we should be encouraging our children to as well. God answers that prayer loudly in His Word. Scripture addresses how we should use our tongue (or fingers to type words) (Proverbs 21:23), what we should place before our eyes (Psalm 101:3, Matthew 5:28), and how we should treat those around us (Mark 12:31). It reminds us that although we can surf the internet “anonymously,” no one is anonymous in God’s economy (Proverbs 15:3), and that we will all give an account for every idle word (Matthew 12:36). Most importantly, the Word of God is able to “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Although it’s ancient wisdom, the Bible does address all areas where technology and the internet intersect with life.
Raising a wise generation, not a disconnected generation, should be our goal.