At every stage of my life and in every circle of friends I’ve had in life, there has always been some level of peer pressure. But I’d like to point out that peer pressure in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Peer pressure can be good. For instance, if a married man is struggling with porn addiction, peer pressure from loving brothers in Christ may be a catalyst toward freedom from that addiction. There may be good peer pressure in that context. Perhaps we might even say, gospel-centered peer pressure.
Yet, as we know and often associate, peer pressure tends to be a bad thing. It is often viewed in negative terms. It tends to be something that people confess they dislike and wish to be free from. And when there is pressure to do things one might not be typically inclined to do, the preference for such pressure leads toward sharpened clarity within the attitudes of the heart. That is to say, either we give in to the pressure because of some gain in some way, or we work to avoid it because we sense that where the pressure is leading us is not good, and perhaps even sinful.
So, when we think of peer pressure, the context must defined and understood which is exactly what we see developed of us in Proverbs 1:8-19.
8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 9 They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. 10 My son, if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them. 11 If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for innocent blood, let’s ambush some harmless soul; 12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; 13 we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; 14 cast lots with us; we will all share the loot”– 15 my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; 16 for their feet rush into evil, they are swift to shed blood. 17 How useless to spread a net where every bird can see it! 18 These men lie in wait for their own blood; they ambush only themselves! 19 Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it.Proverbs 1:8-19 (NIV)
Out the gate in this section the writer is imploring the son to listen to wisdom. I think it is fair to say there is at least a mild degree of pressure for the son. Firstly, he is commanded to obey his parents. Secondly, he enticed with a promise of reward: A garland for the head and a chain for the neck.
A garland decorates the head which is where the mind resides. In the mind, the one who dutifully obeys righteous parents will retain within him not only the law but the purpose of the law*. They will know God and the doctrines which God has laid out for us in his word. In his mind, he will make up his mind to conform his life to this doctrine which he has fervently conceded under careful study of the mind. He knows in advance that any action he take must conform to the law. This he has determined in his mind. Yet, it is not enough to know the law but one must also worship the law giver from the heart. (Ref. Rom 6:17, Eph 6:6, 1 Tim 1:5, 2 Tim 2:22). So goes the chain which adorns the neck and drapes the heart.
A lesson from Proverbs 1:8-9Tweet
When we obey righteous parents, we will be blessed with a knowledge of God and a heart that is inclined to worship Him.
IF PRESSURE TO SINS COMES
The opportunity to sin comes from every corner and everyone is fair game. It doesn’t matter whether you grew up with great parents or not-so-great parents; parents who know God or are ignorant of Him.
As we see clearly portrayed verses 10, the righteous parent understands that sin is waiting. The pressure to sin is typically not a matter of if but when. Solomon helps breakdown the sorts of sins that are coming and his simple advice to avoid them.
A break breakdown of godly advice
- Do not given in (V. 10)
- Do not go along (V. 15)
- Do not follow them (V. 15)
A brief breakdown of the kinds of sin
- Murder (V. 11-12)
- Stealing (V. 13)
- Conspiracy (V. 14)
Do not give in, do not go along and do not follow after at bookends to the the sins Solomon lists in verse 11-14. Solomon starts off when his advice, then describes the sorts of sins we’ll be pressured to commit and then reiterates, do not do it.
SIN IN THE HEART
The majority of people reading this advice in 21st century America are not going to be pressured to commit physical murder, rob houses and conspire accordingly. But everyone reading this proverbs has been pressured to murder others in their heart, to covet other people’s things and to conspire within our own heart how to elevate themselves above others. These sins of the hearts are rampant because the degree to which the heart is fallen in sin. It is totally depraved and sins all the time.
The vast majority of people will not physically murder someone but everyone does become angry with another person as some time or another. Jesus elevates anger as tantamount to murder, (Matt 5:21-22).
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. [Mat 5:21-22 ESV]
QUICK REFLECTION QUESTION
WHO ENTICES YOU TO BE ANGRY?
- Social Media
When looking at Jesus’s teaching we pick two big lessons when it comes to materialism. (1) Jesus command us to do the opposite of what the sinners in Pro 1:11-14 pressure us to do regarding material possessions (Luke 6:30). (2) Jesus points us to heaven. Rather than thinking only about material gain vis-a-vis robbing other and storing up for yourself earthly treasure, Jesus says to store up treasures in heaven (Matt 6:19-21). This isn’t to say that material things are bad in and of themselves.
Jesus’ ethic ,which is obvious contrast to the sinner who pressures us otherwise, is this: Do not think that you will find what you think you need on this side of Heaven. Only I have what you need. So, as freely I have given to you, give to others.Tweet
QUICK REFLECTION QUESTION
IN WHAT WAYS DO STORE UP FOR YOURSELF TREASURE ON EARTH?
- Buy things
- Persistent envy of others
- Lack of contentment in God’s current provision for you
Further Jesus has us judge ourselves rightly before we conspire with ourselves about others (Matt 7:3-5). There may be time when the conspiracy to take and kill others is indiscriminate. Yet, often times (if not all the times) we have a rationale:
- They’ve made us mad
- They deserve it
- I’m getting them back
- I’m just protecting myself
When there is a true understanding of our wretched state that we ourselves deserve the judgment of God; that we are beneficiaries of God kindness to us in Christ, then we can rightly grant that same mercy to others and thus altogether flee those temptations to conspire against others in our heart.
Lesson from Matt 7:3-5Tweet
When we rightly see our need before God, we can rightly see our neighbor’s need and by extension be the conduit of God’s mercy even if, and especially when, our neighbor has offended us.
THE FUTILITY OF SIN
Sin will always lead to one’s own destruction whether in this life or the next, and our sin will either be dealt with in Christ on the cross or we will pay the ultimate price for our sin. This is the principle message wise and righteous parents seek their children to understand.
17 How useless to spread a net where every bird can see it! 18 These men lie in wait for their own blood; they ambush only themselves! 19 Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it.
There are two things we can grasps from verse 17.
(1) We will eventually get caught for our sin, whether in this in life or the next.
(2) God see all your sin.
It is possible that someone commit heinous crimes on this side of heaven and die never to be punished by the courts of men. Yet, as we know, the Sovereign God sees everything from the birds eye view (Ps 33:13). We cannot escape God’s overseeing eye or his righteous judgement.
This is why, in the end, we ambush only ourselves and God’s judgement is the only lasting pathway of our life. Though one may have enjoyed great pleasures, in the end, it will be your life that is taken from you.
ADVICE WHEN PRESSURE TO SIN COMES YOUR WAY
When pressure to sin comes, here are three way to practically apply this section of Proverbs 1.
- Remember what your righteous and wise parents taught you. In the case of those who did not have righteous or wise earthly parents, appeal to the next comparable figure: a pastor, a grandparent, a mentor, and the Lord himself.
- Remember sin is both external and internal. Develop a habit and posture of saying no and fleeing sin at every corner it lurks; every corner of your heart and life.
- Remember God always sees sin so you will never get away with it. If you keep going, then you will destroy yourself.
*Matthew Henry helped me formulate this idea of obedience to parents who ought to teach their children the law of God.