Proverbs 2:1 "My son, IF thou wilt receive my words..."
In Solomon’s first chapter of proverbs, he prepared his son for the potential of pernicious peer pressure. His counsel started with the words, “IF sinners entice thee” and “IF they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood.” He wanted Rehoboam to be prepared for the decisions of the wicked and in particular, for the harmful decisions of the wicked. Life is about decisions. Every decision has a consequence. Good decisions typically result in good consequences while bad decisions typically result in bad decisions. Every person’s life consists of the consequences of their decisions and unfortunately as well as of the consequences of the decisions of others. What we decide can have a profound impact on others. What we decide to do in life often creates the necessity for those in our lives to then make an important decision of their own. In Rehoboam’s case, the decision of the wicked to try to recruit him for their evil plot would create the necessity for him to then make an important decision – to consent or not to consent, that would be the question.
Given the weight decisions carry in life, it shouldn’t surprise the reader of Proverbs to find chapter two start with a similar theme. In chapter one, Solomon says, “My son, IF sinners entice thee.” In chapter two, he writes, “My son, IF thou wilt receive my words...” In preparing his child for life, this wise father wanted his son to contemplate two “IF’s.” First, he wanted his son to be ready to make a sound decision IF others made a decision to target him. Secondly, he wanted him to make a decision about the instruction he was receiving from his father, regardless of whether or not he ever faced any peer pressure. In chapter one, it was the choice to give in to peer pressure IF evil peers decided to pressure him. In chapter two, it was the choice to receive his father’s instruction or not. Solomon was confronting Rehoboam with the Valley of Decision (Joel 3:1).
Again, life is all about choices – good choices and bad choices. In many ways, there is no such thing as indecision. The failure to make a decision is the decision to make no decision. The choice to delay a decision is a choice. In this case, Rehoboam had the choice to receive his father’s wisdom or not receive his father’s wisdom. Reception would be a decision. Rejection would be a decision. Indecision would be a decision not to receive his father’s wisdom. Over the course of the next three verses, Solomon would use the pivotal two-letter word, “IF” two more times. In verse three, he writes, “Yea, IF thou criest after knowledge” and in verse four, he writes, “IF thou seekest her as silver.” Because life is about decisions, so much hinges on the “IF’s” of life. Because life is about choices, our “IF’s” determine so much of what happens to us.
Even though we place more emphasis on the “IT’s” of life, the “IF’s” carry so much more weight. “IT’s” or things like social status (single, married or divorced) are important but they are not nearly as influential to what happens in our lives as the choices we make within each of those social status. “IT’s” or things like career and place of employment are important but they are also not nearly as influential to what happens in our lives as the choices we make within our careers or within the companies we work for. Possessing a big house is not nearly as important as making good decisions. Owning a fancy truck in itself does nothing to improve one’s life – making sound decisions however, will improve one’s life. It’s not the “IT’s” in life that matter, it’s the “IF’s” in life that matter. “IF’s” in life matter because they’re always accompanied by “THEN’s.”
IF you turn on the faucet, THEN water will come out.
IF you pull the trigger on the gun, THEN a bullet will project out.
IF you stop breathing, THEN you will die.
IF you drink too much alcohol, THEN your mind will be impaired.
IF you jump off a bridge, THEN you will be severely injured.
IF you treat people poorly, THEN you will be disliked.
The IF – THEN relationship is the DECISION – CONSEQUENCE relationship. Solomon wanted his son to be ready to make decisions and more importantly, to make the right decisions. He didn’t want his son to operate on indecision nor did he want his son to navigate through life not understanding the ramifications of his decisions. In the first four verses of chapter two, Solomon used the word, “IF” three times. In the following five verses, he used the word, “THEN” two times. A “THEN” always follows an “IF.” A consequence always follows a decision. An effect always follows a cause. The person who operates on this basis reason will be more apt to make sound decisions. The person who assumes decisions have no real consequence will consistently make bad decisions. The person who operates under the assumption that chance, not consequence, reigns supreme will consistently make poor decisions. What we choose determines what we lose. Solomon desperately wanted his son to understand the IF – THEN relationship. So much of Rehoboam’s life hinged on IF he received his father’s instruction or not. So much of Rehoboam’s future hinged on IF he received his father’s wisdom or not.
There is much wisdom in building our lives on this fundamental principle. We are two to three times more likely to succeed if we use an IF – THEN plan than if we don’t. In one study, over 90 percent of people who used an IF – THEN plan stuck to an exercise program (versus nearly 40 percent of non-planners). New York University psychologist, Peter Gollwitzer recently reviewed results from 94 studies that used the technique and found significantly higher success rates for just about every goal possible. Simply put, we cannot afford to ignore the undeniable and unbreakable relationship between IF and THEN. Every “IF” has a “THEN.” IF we eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting, THEN we are going to be unhealthy. IF we drive on the other side of the road, THEN we are going to get hit by another vehicle. IF we resist the wisdom of God’s Word, THEN we are going to embrace the foolishness of this world. IF we don’t feed our souls with spiritual sustenance, THEN we are going to be spiritually famished. Every IF has a THEN and every choice has a consequence.
We would do well to place a much greater emphasis on our "IF's" than on our "IT's" – on our decisions than on our possessions.