The Wise Obey their Parents, Devotional on Proverbs 1:8-9
The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon
How do you usually respond to you parents' advice?
After briefly introducing his book, Solomon instructs us, his readers, to "listen to" and to "forsake not" our parents' instructions and laws. He wants us to mind our parents' directions and rules so we know what to do, how to live, and how to behave. The point is that we should care about what our parents have to say and that we should obey them. Solomon's instruction is definitely reminiscent of Moses' fifth commandment "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." (Exodus 20:12, KJV)
Just like Moses in Exodus 20:12, Solomon instructs us to obey our parents because it is God's will (in Proverbs 1:7, Solomon established that the basis for wisdom is fear of God). However, Solomon also looks at the practical benefits of obedience to our parents. He tells us that our parents' instructions will be a diadem and a necklace over us if we obey them.
Usually, people wear jewelry to influence how others perceive them. Jewelry can make us look more attractive, wealthier, or more powerful. Just think about the jewelry worn by a woman going on a date, the medals worn by a soldier to a gala event, and the crown placed on a monarch's head during his coronation. Those jewels cause their wearers to be admired. Likewise, those who obey their parents will be more highly esteemed by others.
Why do parents give advice to their children? Why do they set rules and expectations on them? It is because parents are genuinely and personally interested in the success of their own children. Parents want their children to succeed because they love them and because those children also represent their accomplishments in society. A caring parent sees his children as his legacy.
The sources of our parents' wisdom is manifold. It was taught to them by their own parents or other caregivers in their lives. It is the result of their own failures and successes. It is what they have deduced from their own personal relationship with God. It is derived from many sources: books they have read, classes they have attended, and growth they have experienced through their professions. Thus, children are called to recognize that parents have a plethora of knowledge that can be of great advantage in life to them. There is no need to rediscover fire, or to reinvent the wheel.
There are clear exceptions to this proverb. The proverb presents an ideal, not a formula that works in every situation. The father and the mother must be caring parents, responsible parents, and capable parents. They must themselves be wise and not foolish; God-fearing, blasphemers. They must be the product of a righteous society. Ultimately, these parents must themselves be submissive to God's authority and the wisdom of a God-fearing community.
Children whose parents are rebellious, stubborn, and irresponsible are at a disadvantage. Children whose parents are uneducated are at a disadvantage. Children whose parents have abandoned them are at a disadvantage. These children will have to discover wisdom by other means. Nevertheless, we all need to start somewhere; and usually, the best place to start is at home, under the guidance of our own parents.
The Age Group
It is doubtful that Solomon meant to write this proverb to children. The book of Proverbs deals with some very mature content, including adultery and prostitution. It is likely, then, that Solomon was writing this proverb for young adults (although young adults in biblical times may have been quite younger than our young adults today).
The young adults category makes sense because they are most likely to seek independent from their parents, but at the same time they are still heavily influenced by their parents. As the young adult looks to building his own life, the parents are likely to advise him and correct him, and the young adult is likely to resent them, thinking that he is now an adult and therefore should be able to show independence.
Nevertheless, the this particular proverb can still be applied to us who have long left our parents' nest. We can still examine carefully our old parents' wisdom, and learn from them not only about moral principles, but also about how to make financial decisions, how to conduct our marriages, and how to raise our own children. We can also learn from our parents about how to hold on to our faith in difficult times, how to face disease, how to grow old, and how to face death.
A Hidden Jewel
As we seek to obey this biblical commandment (to mind our parents' advice and obey it), we may find a hidden jewel. That hidden jewel is precious reconnection with our parents. Spend some time with them, ask them about their lives, and listen to them. As they see your genuine interest in their lives, in the lessons they have learned, and in their perspective on problems you are facing, you will most likely reconnect emotionally, relive memories, and remember how much you care for each other.
Don't forget to thank God for the time you get to spend with them.
Questions for Reflection or Discussion
1. What are some of the most valuable lessons that you learned from your parents?
2. What did your parents do right when raising you? What did they do wrong?
3. Did you ever disobey your parents? How did it go? Looking back, was it to your advantage to disobey them?
4. What are some things your parents did not teach you but you wish they had?
5. If you are a parent, what are the life lessons (the nuggets of wisdom) that you are trying to pass on to your children? How are you planning to pass them on to them?
6. Now that you are older, what other lessons do you want to learn from your parents? How do you plan on getting them to teach you those lessons?
© 2017 Marcelo Carcach