Across the board I'd say the most difficult people to lead, influence, or collaborate with are the un-teachables, people who have taken the exit ramp from the information super highway. In every life discipline are humans who over-estimate the data stored in their neurons. Because they know everything, they stop learning. In a forty-eight year career---six as a banker, two as a financial administrator, and forty as a pastor---there were critical intersections where the un-teachables hindered goals, objectives, and mission as a result of being stuck in an outdated path. Their hunger for growth and maturity has been satisfied by what they had already consumed. As Winston Churchill said, "The most important thing about education is appetite". These un-teachables have lost their appetite.
The theme of remaining teachable reverberates through Solomon's Proverbs. Verses about receiving counsel, advice, and instruction are too numerous to list. He wanted his sons to know the blessings and joys of being life-long learners. That's one of the trendy new concepts apparent in much of the Christian discipleship material available today. It's obvious that Solomon himself considered personal education a life-time study. Many historians believe he wrote Song of Solomon in his younger years, the Proverbs around middle age, and Ecclesiastes when he was much older. It is just as clear that his learning was accelerated by the many character flaws he exhibited and the sin that so tangled his life and his epoch as king of Israel. Mistakes, errors, and brokenness create many teachable moments.
Proverbs expresses God's wisdom by delineating the disciplines of life-long learning. They are repeated in Solomon's eloquent language and gifts of expression. He doesn't mince words or avoid addressing controversial topics. But, the thread of continuing education connects them all. Solomon learned several important life lessons---
1. The truth that none of us knows everything. At root throughout Proverbs is the contrast of wisdom and folly. Folly is the life without God, meaning, purpose, or direction. It is empty and self-centered. It hinders the continued instruction and counsel Solomon recommended. And, the supposed learning of foolish thinking is folly itself. Solomon identifies the fool as one who thinks he knows everything. The Message translation of Proverbs 28:26 is a very clear rendering of Solomon's ancient language---
If you think you know it all, you’re a fool for sure;
real survivors learn wisdom from others.
Solomon instructed his sons to pursue learning. It is folly not to do so.
2. Life without counsel is foolish.
Beyond the necessity of life-long learning, Solomon made a subsidiary, but profound point. Being unteachable is one thing. Life decisions without the guidance of others multiples the folly. In the very first chapter of Proverbs Solomon reproves those who rejected his counsel---
Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none
of my counsel and despised all of my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their
way, and have their fill of their own devices. Proverbs 1: 29-31, ESV
Because we cannot know everything, we humans need the guidance of others as we navigate life. This point was central to Solomon's teaching---
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 12: 15, ESV
By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.
Proverbs 13:10, ESV
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.
Proverbs 19: 20, ESV
Life-long learning involves the humility to seek the knowledge, experience, and lessons of others. Solomon made this point too many times to list here.
3. Solomon knew that the seeds of life-long learning are sown at home.
Yes, Solomon was King of Israel and a man of great influence. Scripture reminds us that "...people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom" (1 Kings 4:34, ESV). Still, his Proverbs were spoken to his sons. It can be argued that he was speaking broadly and not specifically identifying his children. But, he also mentioned the instruction of ",,,your mother..." (see Proverbs 1:8; 6:20; and others), further identifying parents role in educating their children. . The first words of King Lemuel (Proverbs 31:1) indicate that "...his mother taught him..." the oracle. This home school system was how education happened in the Old Testament, fulfillment of what God had spoken to Moses and the nation after their deliverance from Egypt. A lesson learned from Proverbs is that life-long learning starts in the home and continues with the urging and support of the parents.
Proverbs is a unique lesson plan in pleasing God with our lives. There is instruction and guidance about even the most elemental relationships and responsibilities. The ideal of life-long learning and personal openness to guidance, counsel, instruction, and even reproof links every verse and every chapter.
Remaining teachable is a primary bullet point in growing wise. A teachable spirit can move us humans from the regions of folly to the promises and blessing of wise living.