Proverbs Week 10: Parents and children


1:8-9 Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

2:1-5 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

4:1-6 Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my father's house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, "Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.”


15:20 A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.

17:21 To have a fool for a son brings grief; there is no joy for the father of a fool.

17:25 A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him.

19:26 He who robs his father and drives out his mother is a son who brings shame and disgrace.

20:11 Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.

30:17 The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures.


3:11-12 My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father  the son he delights in.

13:24 He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. 

19:18 Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.

22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.

23:13-14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.  Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.

29:15-17 The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall. Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.


10:1 The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother.

23:15-16 My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.

23:24-25 The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him. May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!


13:22 A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children, but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous.

17:6 Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.

20:7 The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him.


Other passages

Ps. 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

Lk. 11:11-13 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"


John 1:10-13 [Jesus] was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent,[c] nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

Gal. 3:26-26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

1 John 3:1a How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!


Eph. 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise— "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Col. 3:20-21 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.  Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.



The first 9 chapters of Proverbs contains at least eleven separate exhortations for the son to listen and give heed to his father commands and instruction (1:8, 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 4:10, 4:20, 5:1, 5:7, 6:20, 7:1, 7:24).  We have already discussed how Proverbs urges us to seek wisdom for our own good, how living in light of God’s reality leads us to life, peace, and blessing. 


Discussion question: What does Proverbs link obeying parents to knowing the Lord (e.g. “if you accept my words…then you will understand the fear of the Lord”)?


The instruction that parents give should point their children to Christ.  The assumption throughout Proverbs is that the father (and mother, 1:8!) are so faithful in their role as godly instructors that obedience to them will result in knowledge of God.  On the one hand, the father is certainly not usurping the role of the Lord.  The son is urged to get knowledge of God, not merely filial obedience (v. 2:5).  However, the narrator assumes that his teaching is right, good, sound, and godly.  As parents, it is our calling to be so faithful to God that our children can trust our teaching and example to lead them to God.

4:1-6 – a beautiful testimony to God’s faithfulness through the generations.  The author is merely following the example of his father David in giving instruction to his son.  Our faithfulness to our children will have repercussions throughout the generations.


Discussion question: What are the consequences of children disobeying or disregarding their parents?


Grief to the parents (15:20,17:21,17:25).  I tend to think of my parents as parents rather than as human beings who can be hurt, offended, and grieved just like anyone else.  Often, we treat our family members in ways that we would never think if treating a stranger, let alone a friend.  It is important to think of all that our parents sacrificed for us and the love that they have for us, when we consider how we treat them.  Also, for those of us with children, when we see our love for them and the pain that their insults cause us, we should remember our own behavior towards our parents.

Public disgrace (19:26).  Children have a duty to their parents; to neglect it is very wrong.

Judgment (20:11,30:17).  God cares how we treat our parents; to dishonor them is a sin.


19:26 “robs his father…drives out his mother” – the action seems to imply refusal to care for them in their old age (see Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees in Mk. 7:6-8)


Discussion question: Why should we discipline our children?


To save them from death (19:18,23:13)!  The author of Proverbs understands that “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).  We are inclined to rebellion, sin, and misery from birth.  The job of parents is to train children to avoid sin and point them towards God. 

It is important to note that the right motivation for disciplining our children is our love for them (13:24).  For their sake, we need to recognize the seeds of sin in their lives (and our lives, or course!) and do our best to warn them of it.


Discussion question: Is teaching children to behave in a certain way simply moralism? 


On the one hand, even external control of sinful tendencies is desirable simply to restrain the self-destructive nature of sin.  As a parent, it is good to teach a child to avoid sinful behavior like drug use or sexual immorality simply because we love them and we know that such behavior will destroy them.

However, we must recognize that external control through rules cannot produce spiritual growth. Teaching a child to act in certain ways will in no way cleanse the sin in their hearts; it will only make them Pharisees.  The goal of godly parenting is not to produce children who behave well, but to point them towards Jesus who alone can free them from their sin.  The NT verses on this subject emphasize that we are to bring them up “in training and instruction of the Lord”.  Our goal is that they would come to have a relationship with him, and that through the work of the Holy Spirit, they would be forgiven and cleansed of sin.


10:1 “joy to his father…grief to his mother” – there are several implications for this verse.  First, children should seek to please their parents because they desire to bring joy to their parents.  Second, parents should instill such love in their children that their children willingly desire to obey them.  I asked a group of teenagers on Sunday how parents could make discipline easier for them to accept.  One of the answers was: “Show great love for your children”.  Yes, it is their duty as children to obey us.  But knowing how hard obedience can be and how tempting rebellion is, we should try to cultivate a relationship with them that will result in their joyful desire to please us.


Discussion question: What should we rejoice in as parents?  Good grades?  Athletic success?


 23:15-16 “if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right” – the ultimate goal of parenting is not to enforce obedience to parental authority, but to raise children who love the Lord.  We desire their obedience not for our sakes, but for the Lord’s sake.  We should make it clear to them that we rejoice not in them obeying us, but in them obeying the Lord.  See also 23:24-25


13:22 - The interesting assumption behind this verse is that people would naturally desire to leave an inheritance to their children and that it would be a great curse for their legacy to be taken away.  The operating assumption in Israelite culture was that children were a great blessing and were the hope of the family.


Discussion question: Which way does blessing flow in a family?  From parents to children or from children to parents?


Both!  17:6 shows that grandchildren are a blessing to grandparents and parents are a blessing to children.  The family was not intended to be authoritarian or competitive.  It was designed for mutual blessing, encouragement, and love.  Parents are expected to use their authority for the benefit and blessing of their children (see Lk 11:11-13).  And children are expected to respond with love and obedience to their parents.


Discussion question: How does our understanding of the Biblical relationship between parents and children help us understand our adoption as children of God?


1.  We don’t need to be discouraged by discipline, because it is not a sign that God is angry with us.  In fact, it is a sign that he loves us (Pr. 3:11-12, Heb. 12:6)

2.  We should not reject the Lord’s discipline because it is for our own good (Ps. 32:8-11)

3.  We should live to honor and obey God just as a child honors and obeys his parents; our obedience brings God pleasure (Pr. 23:24-25)

4.  If we are adopted by God, then God is committed to our good as a father is committed to his children (Ps. 103:13)