Listen to your Parents’ Wisdom (Proverbs 1:8-9)

Yesterday, I wrote a brief Introduction to Proverbs, and so today continue on with chapter one. The author turns their attention to the wisdom offered by parents, but is really an exhortation to gain wisdom. This continues the theme of chapter one, pointing out the numerous benefits of living wisely.

My child, listen when your father corrects you.

    Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.

9 What you learn from them will crown you with grace

    and be a chain of honor around your neck.

Proverbs 1:8-9 (NLT)

Verse 8 tells us to listen to our father’s correction, and not to neglect our mother’s instructions. This is fairly plain on the face of it, and good advice for the young (and not so young).

Correction

In my post last week – An Open Rebuke – we examined a particular proverb pointing out that being rebuked openly was preferable to hidden love. A rebuke is related to a correction, and put simply is a way for a superior to point out where we have gone wrong and set us straight.

We all need correction at times, and although it rarely feels like a blessing in that moment, it will do us good in the long run.

Emotions make correction hard to accept, but ultimately we must trust that one bringing correction to us has our best interest at heart. In this verse, the correction is being brought by a father, and it urges us to listen to what he is telling us.

Is it your experience that the father brings correction, while the mother instructs? I guess it is a bit of both. A turn of phrase from a few decades ago was the well-known – “Wait ‘til your father gets home!” So perhaps historically the father figure has brought the discipline.

How do we accept correction? Firstly, we must trust that the person wants what is best for us. Secondly, we should prayerfully consider what they say. Not all correction is trustworthy, and not all of it is accurate, so we should be a little discerning. Right or wrong however, if the person feels we need to address something in our lives, then we would be wise to reflect on that.

If the correction is justified, then we need to take steps to put it right. That may require an apology, or some other restitution depending on what has happened. It may simply mean adapting our behaviour going forwards. My view of correction is not to bash someone about what happened in the past, but rather to steer them towards better choices in the future.

My view of correction is not to bash someone about what happened in the past, but rather to steer them towards better choices in the future.

Instruction

Verse 8 tells us not to neglect our mother’s instruction. Instruction is simply to tell someone else what to do. This might be helping them do something new for the first time, or it might be to show them a better way to do things.

If we choose to ignore instructions, then chances are we will make mistakes.

Take a recipe. If you do not follow the steps or the method, you likely will not get the results promised. If you do not weigh out your ingredients, but instead just throw random amounts into the pan, it will not turn out as expected.

We tend to think of parental instruction as only applying to the young. While this is primarily the case, our parents help and advice can be invaluable throughout our lives. Many older people whose parents are no longer with them admit to missing their parents’ support in times of need.

I am acutely aware, when writing of parents, that not everyone reading this will have had a good relationship with theirs. Perhaps you never knew your parents, or perhaps they did not treat you all that well. Whatever the case, there are still lessons for us here.

Firstly, if you did not get on with your parents, or worse if they mistreated you, then there are still lessons you can learn. Try not to repeat their mistakes, and do not pass on what they gave to you. This can be hard to do, especially if you picked up on their bad habits when young. As an adult though, you can examine their lives and their interactions with you, and hopefully you can see some things you do not wish to repeat on your own children.

Secondly, not every parent has to be a blood relative. While this verse says “father” and “mother,” I do not think it a stretch to apply it to other older people who may hold a pseudo-parental role in our lives.

When I think back over my years in church, I can recall a number of elders who looked out for me, instructed me at times, and corrected me too. They were not “parents” but they were spiritual foster-parents of a sort. I am eternally grateful for those who have spoken into my life.

A Crown of Grace

To conclude this post, I just want to reflect for a moment on verse 9. It points out that for those who accept the instruction and correction of our parents (actual or otherwise), wisdom will become a crown of grace or a chain of honour.

In my mind’s eye, I picture a mayor wearing gold chains, or royalty with a golden crown atop their head.

When we accept the teaching of those who have gone before us, we can learn great wisdom, and such wisdom will be evident for all to see.

If there are people in your life right now who love you enough to instruct or correct you, tell them how much you appreciate them. It only takes a second to reach out today and share your gratitude.

An Open Rebuke

An open rebuke

    is better than hidden love!

Proverbs 27:5

Generally speaking, and not wanting to assume, you probably are not all that keen on being rebuked… let alone having it done openly where others may overhear it!

At work, if we need to correct a member of staff about something, it is thought bad practice to do so in the open office where others may listen in. It does happen from time to time, and it is surprising how quiet an office can get when it does!

So, all in all, an open rebuke doesn’t sound all that fun. And yet, this proverb tells us it is preferable to hidden love. How so?

Firstly, what is a rebuke (open or otherwise)?

A rebuke is a stern reprimand. It is essentially to pull someone up on something in a not always so gentle manner. For me, what makes a rebuke tolerable or not is the heart behind it. If someone is trying to show me up, catch me out or just downright embarrass me, then I have little time for it. If, however, they are generally trying to help me, turn me away from some destructive behaviour or to improve my performance in some way, then I gladly accept it.

The “open” part might be harder to handle than the rebuke itself. We might be able to take a rebuke conducted privately where no one else can see. We certainly do not want others to see the mistakes we have made or to be aware of our faults and failings. Something about a public correction seems far worse than a private one… and could that simply be pride? We tend to portray a certain persona to the world around us, and rarely let our guard down except with close friends or loved ones. An open rebuke may allow others a glimpse beyond the veil of our external personality.

Given this, in what way is “hidden love” worse?

I am reminded of these verses from James’ letter.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:14-17 (NLT)

This situation is similar to hidden love. While the character here may bestow good wishes on this individual in need, they do nothing to actually help them. Hidden love, likewise, may make one feel warm and fuzzy, but does no good to the one being loved.

I may love my wife and children, but if I do not show that love at any point, then it is hidden.

Hidden love appears identical to “no love”.

Hidden love appears identical to “no love”.

At least if someone rebukes me, I know that they care. Someone who cares nothing for me will simply let me continue in error. But a friend will point out my fault, and help me get back on to the right road.

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.

Hebrews 12:5-6

These verses from Hebrews remind us that God’s love is not hidden, and that He rebukes and disciplines those He loves. Discipline is a sign of love, believe it or not. When I discipline my children, it is not because I am some mean ogre, but rather because I do not want them to engage with sin, danger or behaviour which will not set them up for a good life. While I take no pleasure in rebuking, it is more loving to point out the danger than to ignore it.

Imagine a person walking towards an open pit and not realising it is there. It is not loving for me to avoid telling them about it, for fear of rejection or how they might react. No, I tell them, “Look out!”

There are a number of ways we can apply this verse in our lives.

Firstly, do not be offended when someone tries to set you straight. For the most part, we must trust that people have our best intentions at heart. Take their rebuke to the Lord and see how He directs you. If it is a true rebuke, it will lead you to repentance and change. If it is not, you can move on and not waste your energy on offense.

Secondly, do not hide your love. If you care about someone, then show them! This is not about rebuking them left, right and centre, but love them in every way you can. Don’t just wish them well, as James points out, actually do something they can see or feel.

Lastly, is there anyone in your life whom you need to challenge? Make sure it is your place to do so. If some random stranger started rebuking me in a coffee shop, I probably won’t respond all that well! Why? Because they have no place or right to speak into my life. If my wife comes and points something out, then that is very different. She has more than earned the right to correct me, and I trust her to do so. We err when we think we have the right to tell anyone we like what we think.

Pray about it before you decide to confront. Let the Lord guide you carefully. He will show you if it is you who should do it, and the timing and the words you need. Humbly ask Him if you need the same message yourself first.

Thanks for reading!

The Challenging Word of God

I love it when the Bible catches you off guard. And especially so when it is a passage you think you know well.

That very thing happened to me this morning. I was looking over the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5. I cannot say I was actually reading it, but was more just scanning through a few verses. I certainly wasn’t doing any quality study!

One of the statements Jesus made really hit me. I am not even going to say which one it was, because that’s not the point of this post. It was just a vivid reminder that God’s Word is alive and God so often is wanting to speak to us through it.

God’s word is living and full of power. It is more sharp than any sword that cuts on both sides. What God says cuts through and divides the mind and spirit. It cuts through and divides the place where the bones are joined, and the part inside the bone. What God says is able to judge the things people think and plan in their hearts.

Hebrews 4:12 (WEB)

There was a real challenge for me in the words of Christ which I read this morning. It was as though the Holy Spirit lifted the curtain slightly, so I could see how far I still have to go. It was convicting, but not condemning. I didn’t walk away feeling depressed or deflated, but the prick of pain I felt from my own shame has caused me to dive deeper into God.

Jesus’ words often take us to a much higher level. The Sermon on the Mount is a great example of this. Jesus tells His audience to “go the extra mile,” or “to hate is to murder,2 or “to lust after a woman in your heart is the same as adultery…” These are difficult teachings to take in.

When we think we are doing well, then there is always another, deeper level we must strive for. I don’t mind confessing the sin of pride to you today. At some point, I must have thought I was doing well on my Christian journey. But of late, God has shown me a number of areas in which I’m falling rather short.

God’s Word is like a mirror we can study ourselves in.

But obey God’s word. Do not just listen to it. If you just listen to it, you fool yourselves.

23 Anyone who just listens to the word, and does not obey it, is like a man who looks at his face in a looking glass.

24 He looks at himself and goes away, and right away he forgets what he looked like.

James 1:22-24 (WEB)

In a physical mirror in your bathroom, you take a look at yourself and make sure you are presentable before leaving the house. Now I know your mirror may be underused during this lockdown period, but you catch the meaning! The mirror shows you if anything is out of place or needs fixing. You cannot look directly at your own face, so you use a reflection to aid you.

The Bible is just like this. It allows you to look deeply into it and show you things that are out of place. When you compare your life to that described in the Bible, you can begin to see areas where you need to change. We cannot change simply by our own effort, because that is called “works of the flesh,” meaning doing it in our own strength. Instead, we need to pray and study, and the more we rely on God, the more He can change us.

The Word of God should challenge us.

All that is written in the holy writings comes from the Spirit of God. The holy writings are good for these things: to teach people, to show them when they are wrong, to make them see what is right, to teach them to do what is right.

2 Timothy 3:16 (WEB)

Paul uses four separate words here to describe why God’s Word is useful to us.

For teaching – God’s Word teaches us how we should live. It shows us the way to conduct ourselves to please God with our lives.

For training – Training goes beyond teaching. To teach is to share knowledge, whereas training is to fully equip them with practical knowledge to do a particular task or job. God’s Word teaches us about Christ on the one hand, and trains us to live for Him on the other.

For reproof – Reproof is not a word we often encounter in our daily lives. To reprove someone is to sharply reprimand them. In this case, God’s Word can bring about discipline and rebuke us for our sins.

For correction – To reprove is to point out the wrong thing we have done, but to correct is to give a steer to show us the right way to go. Reproof and correction go hand in hand. One teaches us what we’ve done wrong, and the other what to do differently in the future.

God’s Word has challenged me today, as it so often does. It drives me forward to change, and leads me to want to please God in every way that I can. It could never do this if I did not take it seriously and regularly read and understand it.

Learn to love God’s Word today and everyday!

The Bible can a little difficult to get to grips with at first, and will take your entire life to master. I suggest you start reading the book of Luke and then Acts. These tell the story of the life of Jesus Christ, and how the church was born. 

For some other resources, I also recommend Understand the Bible