Proverbs is a curriculum for a school of wisdom and that school is the family. In Proverbs, there are wise parents, who seek only what is right and good for their children, but, of course, foolish men and women also become parents and the consequences of their foolishness is lived out by the children (Exodus 20:4-6). The insights of these ancient texts on family life is worth meditating upon if only because the cost of foolishness in families is still high today. [Audio | Video | Notes]
For further thought
(Wives and Husbands) Proverbs 5:15-19; 12:4; 14:1; 18:22; 19:14
(Children and Parents) Proverbs 4:3-9; 10:1; 13:1,24; 15:20; 22:6,15
Proverbs is a curriculum for a school of wisdom and that school is the family. There is no outsourcing of life skills or moral education or education in wisdom – that job rests on the shoulders of parents. In Proverbs, parents are idealised, seeking only what is right and good for their children, but, of course, foolish men and women also become parents and the consequences of their foolishness is lived out by the children (Exodus 20:4-6). In Proverbs, families are also broken by foolishness in the form of laziness, insolence, an inability to learn (humility), arrogance and adultery. The cost is to see the efforts of family life wasted, scattered, frustrated and marked with grief.
Q: In what ways has the family you were born into determined who you are? How are even our rebellions against our families reactions to the forces that shaped us?
Q: What are some of the movements in our culture (and the arguments for and against them) that are pushing against traditional forms of family life?
Proverbs claims to summarise the wisdom we need to navigate the underlying rhythms of life. Those rhythms are not our own social constructs (though they are decorated by them) but are patterns the Lord God has built into nature and the social make up of human beings. Proverbs claims to be a work that has accumulated observations on how to navigate these patterns over generations through. The reason for this curriculum is it is neither possible or desirable for one life time to learn from experience the wisdom Proverbs seeks to pass on about successful living.
Q: What is freeing and what is dangerous in trying to renegotiate the underlying patterns of family life our day?
As we saw under the theme of beauty in Proverbs the vision of marriage it contains is unexpected for the Ancient Near Eastern. Women are not chattel. Marriage is not simply for financial gain and breeding heirs.
5,15-19, 14.1,18.22, 19.14 along with 31:10f proclaim a different view of women’s worth and role in marriage.
Q: What ideals of wisdom does Proverbs expect for wives? Why is this important for founding families wisely?
Q: Who teaches children wisdom in 1.8,9; 6.30 and 31.1,2?
Read these verses on disciplining children: 13.24; 25.15; 15.31; 29.15, 17; 3.21; 17.6; 22.6; 31.1; 17.1; 15.19
Q: What is Proverb’s model for training and disciplining children?
Q: How does this compare to other ideals for training and discipline you know about?
In the New Testament, Jesus relativises the importance of traditional families. It is not that they will disappear or should be disregarded but, in his Kingdom, they are not the sole means of forming people or of giving them a place to belong (eg. John 13.34).
One of Jesus’ hardest sayings on this can be found in Matthew 10.34-37. Anyone who has converted to Christianity from a family background that has other priorities will know the pressure that Jesus spoke of.
Q: How does belonging to the family of God (eg. 1 Timothy 3:15) shape your identity now?