Listen, my child, to the instruction from your father, and do not forsake the teaching from your mother. For they will be like an elegant garland on your head, and like pendants around your neck.Proverbs 1:8-9
On April 28th, 2019, after a difficult night of labor, the lives of my wife and I were changed forever. As my wife held our first-born child in her arms, a dramatic shift regarding my role in the family materialized before my eyes. Up until that point in my life, I had been the learner: receiving instruction, failing to heed the instruction and suffering the consequences, experiencing the benefits of adhering to instruction, and gradually arriving at the realization that I would never outgrow my need for instruction. But with the arrival of our beautiful baby girl, I became an instructor, whether qualified for the role or not.
In a moment, my mind raced through all the potential instruction she might need in order to navigate life in a sinful world. What was the first thing I would teach her? How would she respond to my instruction? Is it possible that I’m already doing it wrong?
Thankfully, my wife and I were not left to our own devices in this new season of parenthood. Prior the arrival of our first child, our pastor explained how he read through the Proverbs with his wife before they welcomed the first of four children into the world in order to establish a parenting philosophy grounded in the wisdom of God. In my time of studying the Proverbs since that day, as I continue to grow in understanding what God requires of parents, the Spirit has pressed (at least) two important truths about the value of instruction upon my heart.
Recognize the Value of Instruction
First, parents must discipline their hearts to recognize the value of God’s instruction. I use the word “discipline” because this attitude does not come naturally. It is possible to affirm the value of God’s instruction without treasuring it, learning from it, and beholding it on a regular basis. A person must be constantly learning from the perfect Instructor if they want to succeed in giving instruction.
While the Proverbs have much to say about God’s instruction, here are two quick examples that have encouraged me as I learn the value of God’s instruction. First, God’s counsel is intimate. “Do not envy a violent man, and do not choose any of his ways; for one who goes astray is an abomination to the Lord, but he reveals his intimate counsel to the upright” (Prov 3:31-32, NET, emphasis added). This is a beautiful picture of the instruction the Lord provides. The Lord’s instruction to his beloved children is not given in cliché sayings or simple platitudes. Rather, the Lord’s instruction is deep, personal, and able to address the greatest needs of the human heart. The Lord is able to give this counsel to mankind because he knows us better than we know ourselves! This truth has profound implications for parents. Is the counsel that we offer our children general and vague, or is it intimately designed to address their specific struggles and needs?
Second, God’s counsel is effective. “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. He stores up effective counsel for the upright and is like a shield for those who live with integrity, to guard the paths of the righteous and to protect the way of his pious ones” (Prov 2:6-8, NET, emphasis added). Instruction that flows from the all-wise God is not deficient, but supernaturally powerful to produce results. It is not surprising that the most intimate counsel would be the most effective counsel. These verses also have wisdom for the parents. Is the counsel that we offer our children merely suggestions designed to correct external behavior, or does it cut to the heart and produce true change? Here in two verses, we have insight into why the Lord is described as ‘Wonderful Counselor’ (Isa 9:6)! The rest of Scripture has a great deal to say about the Lord’s instruction, and so may we press beyond these two verses to grow in our understanding of the rich instruction the Lord provides!
Be Convinced of the the Value of Instruction
Second, parents must become convinced of the value of their instruction. “Listen, children, to a father’s instruction, and pay attention so that you may gain discernment. Because I hereby give you good instruction, do not forsake my teaching” (Prov 4:1-2, NET, emphasis added). Notice that a primary reason the youth should not forsake his father’s instruction is because the teaching he has to offer is good! We should not be surprised when our children fail to succeed if we have not provided them with good instruction. There is not a human alive who thrives in the midst of poor instruction. Employees that do not receive proper training from their employer struggle to fulfill their job description. Hospital patients that do not receive good instruction when they are discharged may risk serious injury or damage to their bodies. Therefore, it is crucial to constantly reassess our instruction to ensure that it is good.
Admittedly, I often fail to provide my children with intimate, effective, good counsel as they grow through the stages of life. It is at this point parents can draw encouragement from the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only does he offer grace to those who fail, but he also supplies the motivation for parents to persevere in their pursuit of offering excellent counsel to their children. During the incarnation, Jesus Christ the man grew in his wisdom through a commitment to his Father’s instruction so that he could perfectly fulfill all righteousness (Luke 2:52). If there was ever a motivation to provide our children with intimate, effective counsel that is grounded in God’s word, that is it! But not only did Christ grow in wisdom, the Scripture proclaims that he became to us wisdom from God (1 Cor 1:30) and that all who draw near to him by faith can know his thoughts (1 Cor 2:16). Therefore, through the Spirit of God, we have everything we need to be instructed by God and give good instruction that honors God.
There is no better time for self-assessment than the present. Together with our spouses, let’s prioritize the humble pursuit of God’s valuable instruction so that we might provide valuable instruction to our children to the glory of God.