In our time Christian families are struggling. Too many of our youth are walking away from the church, and too many families are conditioned to believe that the church is primarily responsible for the spiritual development of children. This reality not only needs to be called out, but it needs to be addressed boldly and thoughtfully.
That is why at Bethel Church we are launching a much prayed-over initiative entitled @Home. We’re convinced we must better equip and empower our homes to succeed.
I think King Solomon understood this cause. After all, though he came from great leadership stock, he did not necessarily come from great parental stock. By the time King Solomon got well underway into his reign as king, the challenges of his own upbringing and the overwhelming distractions of his life got the best of him. He walked away from God’s best. Thankfully, however, it appears that he eventually returned to the Throne of God, thus we have great works like the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Book of Proverbs. My suspicion is that later in life, when he could look back at the painful path he had trod, he determined to pass something better along to those who would follow him.
Thus Proverbs 1:8 offers, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” And with that he proceeds to guide his son with wisdom regarding sexual temptation (something he had really struggled with), faith and trust, priorities, conflict, courage, restraint of the tongue, and so forth. Indeed the list is quite long; Proverbs, as a book, is really nothing more than an ancient discipleship manual penned by a very experienced man.
Four obsevations stand out from Proverbs 1:8 that merit attention. First, it bears the tone of authority. The Hebrew word shema, which is the English word hear, is a command. The parent giving the command, in this case Solomon, has implicit authority to offer the command for the follower to pay attention, to listen up, and to otherwise give heed. Moreover, the words shema invites the hearer to go back in time to the Hebrew wilderness experience, during which Moses offered up what is one of the most pivotal passages for all Hebrew people, then and now, a passage often referred to as the Shema. Deuteronomy 6:4 and following declares:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)
Thus, when Solomon throws into the mix the command to hear, the listener or reader would intuitively return to this sacred place where God’s values are supremely elevated for an eternal cause. The weight of Proverbs 1:8 just got much heavier.
Secondly, it is worth observing that Solomon directs his attention to his child, specifically, his son. Indeed, the Book of Proverbs has the tone of court-instruction, the kind of sagacious counsel passed along from a tutor to a would-be king. In that sense it has a strong masculine tone to it. However, if we could step back from that reality and see the greater principle of the sage offering wise counsel to a child, boy or girl, we see an excellent model for legacy-building. King Solomon, as a parent, is not concerned to modify behavior in his child’s life at that moment in time. He influences the boy to shape a man! With that in mind it is evident that Solomon has a long-range view, a concern for the generations that would follow him. He is determined to create a legacy that would outlast him. To paraphrase scholar Tom Constable, “The instructions especially suit young people whose lives stretch out before them.”
Next, we observe that Solomon places mothers and fathers on equal ground. A “father’s instruction” and a “mother’s teaching” place the mother and the father on the same plane. One is not more important than the other. Both mom and dad are necessary and important. Dads cannot just assume that the mother’s role is “domestic” and therefore it is her job to raise and discipline the kids. Mothers cannot just assume that dad is the tough guy so he needs to come home and clean up the choas. Moms and dads must work together in the cause of rearing children.
Lastly, just as the father and the mother are on equal footing, so too are the “instruction” and “teaching” they provide. These complement one another. In the Hebrew world the instruction relates to discipline, correction and chastisement. The teaching relates to positive values injected into the life of the child. Both are needed in balance. Too many are one or the other, thus the homefront is marked by little Johnny raising hell while his parents think he does no wrong and all they do is tell him how wonderful and perfect he is, or the homefront is marked by everyone walking around on egg-shells because no one can do anything right and everyone lives in fear. Solomon demands that these be in tandem, balanced (and note that the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:4 also expects this).
With these observations in mind parents have a tremendous opportunity to create a disciplemaking culture at home, one that is far superior to whatever the church might provide. Indeed, the church’s job is merely to resource this cause (see Ephesians 4:11-12 for a glimpse of the ministry leaders’ role). Some important takeaways are as follows: first, to make a difference at home the influencers must first fear the Lord (Proverbs 1:7); this is a must. Secondly, the influencers must own the opportunity, fully buy into the need. They cannot hedge on the responsibility. Thirdly, the influencers must be intentional. They must move into the responsibility even if it’s messy and they find failure. With that in mind, next, they must be tenacious. Don’t give up! And, lastly, they must be teachable. Bethel Church has tremendous resources to bring to bear for the cause of a healthy homefront. An openness to learn and grow is critical for success!
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“Write This Down…” provides a restatement of selected points or observations from various teaching venues at which Pastor Matthew speaks. The preceding material is from Pastor Matthew’s message entitled, “A Legacy Begins at Home”, part of the “@Home” initiative, presented on the weekend of April 15, 2012, at Bethel Church.