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Buried Treasure

Wisdom of generations

Proverbs 23:22-25

22 Listen to your father who begot you,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.

23 Buy the truth, and do not sell it,
Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.

24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice,
And he who begets a wise child will delight in him.

25 Let your father and your mother be glad,
And let her who bore you rejoice.


On the high desert plateau of the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains of central Mexico is the small farming community of San Diego. It was founded in 1619 as a hacienda and is in many ways typical of many such settlements found in the region. It hosts annual festivities to venerate the local patron saint, and with the exception of the looting and abandonment of the hacienda during the revolution of 1913, life in San Diego has remained unchanged since the Spanish arrived. 

The town’s centerpiece may be the historic old hacienda and church, but the jewel in its crown is a small reservoir formed by an old concrete and stone dam. San Diego sits on the edge of a small, fertile valley and seasonal rains flood the channels of the valley’s streams and form a shallow blue lake. The waters of the lake are managed for the irrigation of local farms, where some years two harvests are possible due to the rich alluvial soil.   

When I was nineteen, I visited San Diego while I working in the nearby city of Rioverde on a summer mission trip. The missionary took me to visit local protestant churches connected with the mission. In San Diego, the presbyterian minister took us to meet members of his small flock. While standing on the dam overlooking the beautiful lake, he related a story of the distant past:

Once, San Diego was known for its magnificent local pottery. It was still a local skill in the area, which was filled with the descendants of pre-columbian people who had inhabited the area for millennia. Sometimes their ancient craftsmanship is discovered in the area. 

Many years before, a nearby farmer had unearthed a massive stone chest while plowing a field. He excitedly broke open the chest and out spilled hundreds of small, clay figurines. These were likely small idols or images of Aztec deities. 

Delighted with his find, and the incredible stroke of luck it represented, the poor farmer began to break each figurine one-by-one into small pieces. He expected each to be filled with gold, but in the end he only met with disappointment. He resumed his work, leaving the shattered remains of the small clay figures to return to the earth. 

As he related the story, the local minister shook his head and marveled at the great loss of such valuable historic artifacts—and the foolishness of the farmer who tragically destroyed something that may have been priceless in order to seek gold that was not there.  

Solomon doubtless would have appreciated such a story—and he certainly would have enjoyed the good food and friendly people of the small Mexican town. As he instructs the young people of Israel in Proverbs, chapter 23, he too speaks of priceless treasure that is often hidden in plain sight, and easily squandered if one does not know the richness of what he has found.

Chapter 23 is part of the “Thirty Sayings of the Wise,” a collection of proverbs based on a similar pattern found in ancient Egyptian wisdom. Verses 22-25 make up a dialogue about faithful parents and obedient children. It begins with a call to heed a father’s and mother’s advice:

22 Listen to your father who begot you,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.–Proverbs 23:22

“Do not simply listen to your father, or your mother,” Solomon teaches, “listen to both of your parents.” This is not only sound advice, but directly reflects upon the Fifth Commandment: “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you”

This is a reminder that in this modern age of man’s seeking “redefine family” and the mind-bending phenomena of “gender dysphoria,” God has established marriage as between a man and a woman, with both required to raise a healthy family. In a time of “no-fault” divorce and expressive individualism, the vital building block of the traditional family needed for a healthy society is in extreme danger. 

There is nothing new under the sun. When the Apostle Paul wrote to his friend Timothy, he reminded the young pastor that children who neglected the wisdom of their parents were a sign of an evil age: 

1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,–II Timothy 3:1-2

Solomon, like Paul, acknowledged the generational impact of children honoring parents—and for the need for parents to be honorable. Times of prosperity, such as has been experienced in western culture over the last fifty years, can lead to softness and dependence on luxuries instead of wisdom and old-fashioned “know-how.” 

Life- and community-sustaining skills such as vegetable gardening, home repair, and even cooking can easily be outsourced to “DoorDash” and “UberEats” and other conveniences that can easily be lost—along with the basic wisdom they have replaced. 

What’s more, the moral imperative of parents instilling godly wisdom that comes from shared experience, suffering, and joys can help a child develop skills to survive in a harsh world, as well carry with them strong traditions such as attending church and being civically-minded. The lack of, or disregard for the words of a father and mother can have lasting negative effects on society.  

Solomon continues with his instruction, urging the son to do more than simply listen to parental wisdom, but to do all he can to obtain it:

23 Buy the truth, and do not sell it,
Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.–Proverbs 23:23

He uses an economic metaphor to contrast the worldly mind with the mind of the godly. “If you are to buy and sell anything,” he is saying, “buy wisdom, and never sell!” Wisdom can be inherited from good parents, or it can be earned—but usually at great cost. Solomon urges his son to pay whatever price is needed, as commentator Bruce Waltke explains:

The son so greatly values the wisdom of his parents that no price is too high to stop him from obtaining it, and no offer is high enough to tempt him to part with it.–Waltke, “Proverbs”

What is the most you have ever “paid” for wisdom? It is easy to joke about attending the “school of hard-knocks,” but you know firsthand how high that tuition bill is. The agony of defeats, the temporary joys, the richness of friendships earned, and the years or decades of it all in the making can be rewarding, but take quite a toll on body, mind, and spirit. 

How much more precious, then, is sound wisdom learned from a good parent? The only cost is to listen and to love, and the reward can be eternal—for a godly parent will lead you in the way of Christ. A mother who prays for you, or a father who is faithful and works hard, can seal on you an indelible pattern of wisdom that cannot be paid for in a hall of higher learning.

Verse 23 is not unlike other verses in Proverbs that exhort the young to be wise:

5 Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.–Proverbs 4:5

You can almost feel Solomon’s urgency in this verse. Perhaps you have felt the same with your own children. There are times when as a parent you feel almost overwhelmed with the desire for your son or daughter to know and understand some of the lessons you have learned in your life, marriage, career—and your own walk in Christ. 

When you see your child succeed by heeding your advice, or make a righteous decision based on prayer and the Word, you are overjoyed, are you not? Solomon says that this in itself can be a true reward:

24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice,
And he who begets a wise child will delight in him.–Proverbs 23:24

Are you a godly parent? Even in your older age, you can still impart wisdom. Your child may have an advanced degree, children of his own, and be doing quite well, but there is always something to be shared. 

As a parent, do you share  the godly wisdom of kindness, patience, and knowledge from the Word? Or do most of your interactions with your children or young people consist of complaining about the government, modern trends, and the decay of society? Make the most of the precious time you have with your children in any age! 

As you get older and your children more self-sufficient, it is common to feel unneeded. Loneliness for people of all ages is a huge problem in modern society, but especially acute for older generations. Is there a young family or parent in your church who could use a friend? Are there hard-earned skills that you can share with a young believer? One of the special features of Christianity is that as members of the Body of Christ, we are united to Him in the Spirit. This makes the church a truly inter-generational blessing to all! This gladness is felt in Solomon’s final verse:

25 Let your father and your mother be glad,
And let her who bore you rejoice.–Proverbs 23:25

Just as a child, you longed to see your mother smile, or receive the approval of your father, so making your Heavenly Father rejoice in your following His wise ways is a priceless reward. Listen to the hard-earned wisdom of your parents, or be willing to patiently share your own experience with young believers. In doing so, both of you will be discovering buried treasure.

Thinking back to the farmer with his pre-columbian artifacts reminds you of the words of Jesus as He taught in Matthew’s Gospel:

44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.–Matthew 13:44

Do not forsake the hidden wisdom of older generations and miss out on the wealth that it can give. 

The story of the little town of San Diego continues. With the 1991 “NAFTA” trade agreement came a flood of modern consumer products that drastically changed the rural way of life for that region. People still farmed, but now instead of crafting beautiful and useful pottery like their ancestors, the people of San Diego used plastic bottles and other conveniences. Soon, the pottery-making skill faded away and a tradition of generations ceased.

In recent years, a team of artists from the state capital visited San Diego and discovered the lost art of the pottery of the region. They established workshops and art projects that helped the people re-discover the fading art of their ancestors. 

How can you share the art of your life with younger believers? Is there “lost art” in your own parent’s long-forgotten wisdom that you can re-discover? Hold tight to such treasures, and seek to glorify God with each memory, for in Him is the treasure of eternity.   


The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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