Proverbs 1:8-19 (ESV)

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,

and forsake not your mother’s teaching,

[9] for they are a graceful garland for your head

and kpendants for your neck.

[10] My son, if sinners entice you,

do not consent.

[11] If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;

let us ambush the innocent without reason;

[12] like Sheol let us swallow them alive,

and whole, like those who go down to the pit;

[13] we shall find all precious goods,

we shall fill our houses with plunder;

[14] throw in your lot among us;

we will all have one purse”—

[15] my son, do not walk in the way with them;

hold back your foot from their paths,

[16] for their feet run to evil,

and they make haste to shed blood.

[17] For in vain is a net spread

in the sight of any bird,

[18] but these men lie in wait for their own blood;

they set an ambush for their own lives.

[19] Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;

it takes away the life of its possessors.

Solomon begins, at the very beginning of his Book of Proverbs to tell his son to listen to his instruction and his mother’s teaching. It is a sad truth that it needs to be said in our culture today that this means, at the very least, that parents are to teach their children. We live in a time and place when there are many loud and public cries for the state to do more and more in terms of teaching children what they need to know for success in life. From day care to school to cooking to sex education to parenting to dealing with seniors, we now have a culture that increasingly thinks a parent is simply not equipped for passing on life to their children. Sometimes there is evidence that such is the case. But Christian parents must never surrender the responsibility that God has given them. Many think that the community or the government is the one responsible for making our children responsible adults. And it is simply not true.

This does not necessarily mean home schooling, although that is a distinct possible application of this text and depending on the culture, the school board, the education system and the curriculum, it may be required. But regardless of that particular application, it needs to be said that parents are the primary teachers of their children. And if the Bible is saying to the children that they are to listen to their parents then it is also saying to the parents that they are to teach their children what is in accordance with the Word of God. Teaching children is a life long process. It begins with very basic things when they are infants and toddlers. It progresses to deeper more difficult issues as their lives develop from one stage to the next. At all stages everything taught will be related to truths about God and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. In the words of Deuteronomy 6:

6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

In short, whenever they are with their children. The parent who barks out that the Bible tells children to obey their parents but who has not been diligent in teaching them throughout all their lives about what God has said in the Bible is teaching his children to be hypocrites.

How do parents teach their children to talk? Do they sit down with them and articulate the rules of grammar? Do they get out diagrams of how the tongue needs to be placed in the mouth to form certain words? No. All they do is talk to their children. They talk in front of their children – and the children get it. They simply do what the child will naturally pick up. They are an example for him to follow.

If your children are older or grown you know this is true. You were not trying to teach them to talk at all. But they use your expressions, they have your accent (or at least they did before they started school) and far too often you can hear yourself in the words they use to express frustration, anger and joy. The ironic thing about this teaching of Solomon to his son is that he simply did not live out the wisdom that he is encouraging his son to live. And his sons were not very wise as adults.

Children will hear their father’s instruction when the fathers demonstrate the very principles that they are teaching them. They will not forsake their mother’s teaching when mom has shown that her teaching has been lived out in her own life. We all want obedient, godly children. We will take steps to producing them when what we tell them is consistently lived out by us in front of them in the most demanding crucible that there can possibly be – the home.