Summary: There is a generation that does not bless their mother. Let it never be said of the people of God that we failed to bless our mothers.
There is a Generation
In this passage, a literal translation of the phrase that begins each verse is "there is a generation."
Among the bad things that typify Agur’s generation is a general dishonoring of parents. We can get a feel for the severity of the situation by looking at what Agur the author associates this problem with.
"There are those who curse their fathers
and do not bless their mothers;
those who are pure in their own eyes
and yet are not cleansed of their filth;
those whose eyes are ever so haughty,
whose glances are so disdainful;
those whose teeth are swords
and whose jaws are set with knives
to devour the poor from the earth
and the needy from among humankind.
(Proverbs 30:11-14 TNIV)
Agur is mourning the decay of virtue in his society. He is troubled by the way some people are willing to behave. He gives us a short list that is meant to help us see the folly of the broader community, when they ignore wisdom. So he describes a generation. By this expression he does not mean "kids these days" but simply "people these days". His description includes people of all ages and all walks of life. We can see that by the problems that he describes. Starting with the second one:
People who deceive themselves about their own virtue
The picture, as must be with spiritual things, is an analogy. Sin is filth. A ceremonial bath was meant to symbolize cleansing from ceremonial uncleanness that could be incurred by many incidental circumstances. A person who took a ceremonial bath, but had not addressed the deeper spiritual problems, was kidding himself. He may have been clean on the outside, but on the inside he was still fouled.
Imagine a person, let’s call him Gus, coming straight from flushing out septic tanks. Perhaps he has been working around the filth all day, and doesn’t even notice the smell anymore. Since this is his job, it does not bother him the way it would bother some people.
Now imagine that Gus is going to a June wedding. Everyone else is in their best. They have bathed and they are wearing fine perfume and cologne. Their clothes are light colored and spotless.
Now Gus, knows he’s a little dirty. But he isn’t as bad as sometimes. Besides, he’s a friend of the bride. She understands a little grime. It shouldn’t be a problem. After all, he comes by his dirt with honest work. Maybe a quick brush off and his clothes will be fine.
You and I both know, Gus is fooling himself. He will be as out of place as a donkey at the Kentucky Derby. He will attract stares and gossip and rude remarks. People will avoid him and subtly cover their nose when he is close. Because the truth is, he is not clean. He may think he is ok, but he is not ok by this standard. His filth covered clothes do not measure up to the white gown of the bride.
Agur is telling us about the attitude that his target generation has. They think they are clean but they are not. Perhaps they have taken the ceremonial bath, but they’ve not addressed the filth in their hearts. Their sin remains in spite of appearances. They are deceiving themselves that the standard they have arranged for themselves is up to God’s standard.
It is not.
They are Arrogant
For Agur, this attitude is in the eyes, specifically, the eyelids. These days we would associate the expression he is describing as "raising the eyebrows". The gesture is often accompanied by a tilt of the head that indicates what we call, "looking down the nose" at someone.
Now let us revisit Gus. He has made a major faux pas by trying to go to a wedding all unwashed. But there are those who would not give him the time of day even any other time on the street. They would hire him for his services, but never personally speak to him. They would not shake his hand, even after a bath and a change. They think Gus is beneath them. They look down their noses at him. They raise their eyebrows at him.
In this situation, Gus is not the problem, the person with the raised eyebrows is. He has failed to recognize that it does not matter how much money a person has, or what kind of work he does, every person has the same basic value. Every person is made in the image of God. If that person does honest work, he serves others and has a useful purpose to his life. In this way, there is no difference between the plumber and the banker.
In Agur’s world, there is a generation who thinks they are better than others. This is not based on anything other than pure arrogance.