As we consider the teaching of Proverbs on various issues, we find that one central emphasis of the book is the importance of right family relationships. Proverbs sets before us the biblical and the unbliblical family. “There is a generation that curses its father, and does not bless its mother” (Prov. 30:11). Unfortunately, ours is one such generation — the problems we are having a culture do not originate in Washington D.C. – they originate in our homes.
Proverbs illustrates for us the kind of covenantal authority that is wielded in the home. Not only does the book of Proverbs contain teaching about the family, in a very real way it is a biblical example of the kind of teaching that occurs within a biblical family. This reveals familial authority. Fathers and mothers in Proverbs command (7:1), rebukes (13:1), discipline (13:24), set an example (23:26), correct (29:17), instruct (4:1), and more. And familial authority is seen in two basic aspects in Proverbs: First, when it works as designed: “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise child will delight in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice“ (Prov. 23:24-25). And second, when it breaks down: “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him“ (Prov. 17:25).
Proverbs makes it overwhelmingly clear that God treats a man and his wife as co-laborers in the work of bringing up children. Overwhelmingly, father and mother are spoken of together. This is sometimes neglected by some of our “patriarchal” brethren, whose idea of male headship is more Islamic than Trinitarian. The temptation to dismiss or disparage the mother must be rejected by all who want to embrace a biblical view of the home. Do not despise your mother (15:20; 23:22). “…do not forsake the law of your mother“ (Prov. 1:8)is spoken to an older son. And what does King Lemuel recall? “The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him . . .“ (Prov. 31:1).
What is taught within the biblical home? The world is a dangerous place, and the book of Proverbs has a lot of practical wisdom — some of which does not seem all that “spiritual.“ We would not be surprised to find an admonishment to rotate our tires in this book, or to change the oil in the car every three thousand miles. Parents should teach many things found in this book, but two stand out. The first is sexual purity. This is an important theme of Proverbs, which we will address separately later. But for our purposes here, parents teach their sons not to be ensnared, and their daughters not to be a snare. Parents, watch out (22:14). “For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman . . .“ (Prov. 5:20). And parents are held responsible for removing the foolishness from their children’s hearts (22:15). This includes the foolishness of the immoral woman (Prov. 30:20). Immoral women grew up somewhere. Secondly, parents should teach children how to deal with money. “My son, if you become surety for your friend, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger . . .“ (Prov. 6:1). Many notice the comment on co-signing notes. But notice also who is being addressed — my son.
The book also contains thoughts addressed to children. The fact that parents are required to teach God’s standards to you does not mean the children are free to wait until they do. If parents do what they ought, then heed them as they obey God. If they do not, then heed God despite this. When parents despise their own authority, God still respects it. “The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it“ (Prov. 30:17). God will curse those children who hold their parents in contempt. Consider also Prov. 20:20. And the Bible does not have two standards of morality — one for outsiders and one for family. “Whoever robs his father or his mother, and says, ‘It is no transgression,’ the same is companion to a destroyer“ (Prov. 28:24).