If you grew up in the 90’s then you know the TV show Boy Meets World. It was a huge show back then and one of my wife and mine’s favorites growing up. We loved it so much that recently we decided to rent (via Netflix) the whole series and watch it through again (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it). We have made it to season five!
The show is centered around Cory Matthews (played by Ben Savage, little brother of Fred Savage who is the kid in The Princess Bride, so you know Ben is legit), a quirky, kind, and somewhat neurotic teenager. His life-long friend, Shawn Hunter, and life-long girlfriend, Topanga Lawrence, come alongside Cory as they travel through middle school, high school, and eventually college together.
The show brought in millions of viewers for seven seasons because it accurately depicted the trials (and ridiculousness) of growing up as a teenager.
In my opinion, one of the greatest things about BMW was the life lessons that they always drew out of everyday experiences and conflicts. Most of the time the lessons were handed down by the venerable Mr. Feeny, the trio’s everlasting school teacher and neighbor to Cory—I definitely feel like Mr. Feeny helped raise me as a child. Other times Cory, Shawn, and Topanga figure out the truths for life on their own.
Usually, the lessons were pretty standard Disney stock such as, work hard and you can achieve your goals. But as my wife and I were watching the show Monday night, we realized that BMW also taught downright biblical truths!
So I thought I would pull five biblical life lessons, proverbs if you will, from the few episodes we watched that night.
1. Respect your parents
In one episode, both Cory and Eric (Cory’s older, somewhat crazy, brother) get jealous of each other’s relationship with their father. This causes both of them, at different times, to shove their father down to the ground. As soon as it happens, both are ashamed and know they have done wrong. They know that you just don’t do that because sons are called to respect and honor their parents even if they don’t agree. Cory even makes the remark that he’ll probably be stoned for shoving his dad. After coming clean and apologizing, Cory and Eric are able to end up having a more full relationship with their father.
It’s pretty popular in media today to depict parents, especially fathers, as idiots who do not need to be taken seriously. The message to kids is: your parents are clueless so it is your job to clue them in, or just defy them outright. But Cory and Eric’s parents are good people and good parents. They are portrayed as respectable people because parents are to be respected.
Proverbs reflects this notion, stating, “He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and reproach” (19:26). It also has strong warnings for those who have strong words for their parents, “If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness” (20:20). I’m not sure what that whole metaphor means, but it sounds intense.
Better to respect those God has placed in authority over you.
2. The foundation for love is not lust but friendship and commitment
This lesson was actually one of the most surprising to see taught on television (and I wasn’t watching Fireproof). Shawn is known as a lady’s man around the high school but he is also known by the girls as a jerk. He tells girls what they want to hear, that he loves them and never will leave them, then he uses them for his own pleasure and dumps them the next day.
This is Shawn’s mode of operation until he meets Angela, a girl he truly wants to cultivate a relationship with. But on Shawn and Angela’s first Valentine’s Day together, Shawn’s past come back to haunt him—in the form of three psycho ex-girlfriends who kidnap him and lock him in a boathouse.
Hell hath no fury.
Through the whole ordeal, Shawn realizes how fleeting and shallow a relationship purely based on make-out sessions is. If you say you love someone, but don’t really know them at all (besides their body), how can you back up that claim? Shawn and Angela decide to take a few steps back in their relationship to first build a friendship, get to know each other, and save saying, “I love you,” for when it actually is backed up by commitment and time.
It really is easy to confuse love and lust. The emotions and the hormones are raging and all you can think about is that person. They live in your mind, day and night. This must be love, right?
If your relationship and ultimately marriage is based solely on physical attraction, what happens when your sexy spouse seasons into a saggy spouse? You will not have a marriage anymore, you will have an 80 year-old roommate. When the looks have all gone away, a friendship will always remain.
3. A good friend will tell you when you’ve done wrong
Although Cory tends to walk the straight and narrow, there is one episode where he cheats on his girlfriend, Topanga, with a girl at a ski resort. They talk all night and end up kissing. To make matters worse, Cory then lies about it to Topanga.
Normally Shawn is the morally compromised character of the show, but to his credit he calls Cory out on his lies and his unfaithfulness; and Shawn does it with gusto. Shawn even, although in a humorous way, exhorts Cory to “Read the Bible!” Yes, Shawn and Cory are the best of friends, but Shawn cares enough for Cory to get in his face and let him know he is doing is wrong.
Most of today’s society would say: follow your heart; what is true for you is true for you; don’t judge other people’s choices. Instead of proclaiming truth and calling sin sin, friends are expected to sit back and be the biggest cheerleaders while the people they care about are driving their lives off a cliff in flaming glory.
Even a 90’s sitcom and the biggest womanizer (outside of Eric) on the show knows that following your heart is not always the correct thing to do. There is right and there is wrong, and a friend needs to love enough to point out the difference.
Solomon says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6). It’s the people that never confront you who you should worry about.
4. When you play with fire, you will be burned
Same episode as the previous point but different lesson. Cory’s fall from grace did not happen suddenly, it occurred with one wrong decision after another.
First it was long gazes, then flirting, then staying up all night talking, then pretending to be injured so he could spend time with her and not Topanga, then lying to Topanga, and then finally the kiss and subsequent lies to cover that up. Shawn, the ever faithful friend, warns Cory multiple times that he is “too close to the fire” but Cory does not take heed and eventually he does get burned. A couple episodes later, he loses both Topanga and the other girl.
In reference to adultery and sexual sin, Proverbs says, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” (6:27-28). The obvious answer is no. You play with fire and you will be burned.
In spite of common sense, people always like to test this theory out. They first inch closer to the fire. They feel its warmth. They extend their hands out. But they do not stop there. They get closer and closer until they are in the thick of it and by the time they realize it, it is too late. Their pants are on fire.
5. Husbands and boyfriends, listen to your woman
My wife probably appreciated this episode the best. In a pretty comedic setup, somehow every main male character on the show ends up angering the woman he cares about because he simply did not listen to them. Instead, they stubbornly hold to their ideas and opinions and every guy ends up in the doghouse.
The men hold a conference to try and figure out what went wrong. They finally come to the conclusion that guys are idiots—not only that, but they are big idiots. Specifically, they are idiots because they want to make their woman happy but are unwilling to listen to them to find out how to do that. They eventually reconcile with their woman by a joint dance number to “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer.
Peter exhorts his male readers to “live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7). This means to be gentle and listen. You must close your mouth and open up your ears. I am speaking from experience here—what you think you heard and what actually was said may not always be the same thing, so listen carefully. The one who is too quick to speak is a fool instead (Proverbs 29:20).
Let’s take a page out of Boy Meets World as we seek to live for Christ in the real world.