“Listen to your father who gave you life,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.
Buy truth, and do not sell it:
Buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
He who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
Let your father and mother be glad:
Let her who bore you rejoice.”
For most of my high school years, I concerned myself with my own affairs. This meant I wanted to do the best I could at whatever I did for my own reputation and success. Because of this attitude, I was not only royally self-centered, but I also viewed my parents on occasion as obstacles to maneuver around. The proverb here challenges this prevalent attitude in children, and also encourages parents in their God-given purpose and calling.
For children, the commands are straight forward. Instead of seeing parents as obstacles to avoid, children are to listen to their parents. The Bible talks about listening in several terms-but overall suggests that true listening will be more than simply hearing words-it involves a response of obedience (James 1:22). Children also are commanded to care for the needs of their parents as they grow older. I have watched my own Mom call her mother every night before bed to listen, check in and make sure her every need is provided.
Children are also given a specific instruction on how best they can honor their parents as they are commanded in Exodus 20:12. The proverb here commands children to be righteous and wise in order to bring the greatest blessing to their parents. We know through Scripture that wisdom and righteousness are gifts that come only from God and a relationship with him. Therefore the best way for children to show honor to their parents-and really to all who have contributed in raising them-is by pursuing wholeheartedly a relationship with Jesus.
I think this is also meant to serve as both a challenge and message of encouragement for Christian parents. It is easy to focus on the success of children in their grades, habits, athletic or artistic achievements, or even their outward behavior. But the primary purpose that God gives to parents is that they raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:4). Parents should seek after the truth of Christ, walk alongside their children while asking for wisdom from the Lord, seek understanding within fellowship, and receive instruction from his Word. But this proverb should also encourage the discouraged or anxious parents among us who are doing all of this-seeking the Lord in every aspect and challenge, those who are truly listening and obeying God’s Word, who are growing towards him as they seek to bring along their children too! Praise the Lord that he promises to show his ‘steadfast love to a thousand generations of those who love me” (Ex. 20:6).
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dora McFarland. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org