Summary: HOw can parents showe wisdom in the way they raise their children
We’ve spent 4 weeks reading through Ecclesiastes working out how that sort of wisdom literature fits with the rest of God’s revelation of himself and I hope we discovered that it fits well. But I thought we might round that series off with a short excursion into Proverbs, in particular to think about how families might be wise in living not just under the sun but also under heaven.
Now if you’re not living as part of a family right now please don’t turn off or go to sleep. I think you’ll find there are things in this that will be applicable to you as much as they will to fathers and mothers and children.
But let me begin by asking whether it matters how families behave? If you’ve seen the statistics on marriage and divorce lately you might think it can’t hurt. I think it’s something like 40 to 50% of marriages in Australia end in divorce and it’s only getting worse. The cultural changes we’ve experienced over the past 50 years have meant it’s getting harder and harder to raise a family with any success. So any help we can get must be a good thing. And where better to go for help than to the one who made us the way we are?
But notice that the wisdom we find here isn’t just about avoiding the pitfalls, of surviving being a family. It’s actually about maximising the benefits there are in being a family. The basic premise of the Bible is that families were created by God as the basic unit of social structure. And he did this before the fall. So families are part of God’s design for his perfect creation. Marriage was ordained to create a nuclear community of mutual love and support. Marriage is meant to reflect the nature of the community that God has planned for all his people in the new Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, though, families are now a fallen social institution so we need rules to govern how we live. We need boundaries that will enable us to experience the love and freedom that God desires for us. The family is the setting in which most children and young people develop their value systems and their world view, where they learn personal discipline, tolerance, patience and care for others. When children are brought up without these values, these skills, without boundaries on their behaviour, they end up less balanced people.
So what can we do that will produce families that produce godly people?
Well Proverbs isn’t a how-to book. It’s not like a Reader’s Digest ready reckoner on life. It isn’t organised neatly along categories that we might want to study chapter by chapter. Rather it address its many themes in almost random order. So what we need to do is find out some of the things it says about what makes up a good family. So let’s start with
A Wise Husband
Proverbs has a lot to say about wise husbands and fathers. In fact because of its historical context it tends to concentrate much more on husbands than it does on wives, though we will get to wives in a moment.
What makes a husband wise?
- He fears the Lord. 1:7 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." Clearly the first criterion for a wise husband is that he fears the Lord. That sounds good but what does it actually mean? What does it mean for him to fear the Lord? In other words what does it look like in terms of his character and behaviour?
- He’ll be a righteous person. I guess if you fear the Lord then your behaviour is going to be above reproach isn’t it? You might be able to fool your neighbours but you’ll never fool God. If you fear the Lord then you’ll be working at being a righteous person inwardly as well as outwardly and then you’ll teach your children to be righteous as well.
But let me issue a warning here. Sometimes men try so hard to be righteous that they forget love. They try to impose righteousness on their children by fear rather than growing it through love. Through Christ we’ve discovered that true righteousness comes from a personal relationship with God. So be careful that love is the driving force in seeking righteousness from your children. But more of that later.
- He’ll be a servant. If you fear the Lord then you’ll want to be like the Lord, so you’ll be someone who’s desire is to serve others. As a husband and father that means your desire will be to serve your wife and family. In fact isn’t that what God tells husbands to do in Eph 5&6? There he tells us to love our wives the way Christ loved the Church - and gave himself up her.