“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” – Proverbs 1:8–9 (ESV)
If fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then listening to your parents is the first step you take on the journey to becoming wise. Just after the thematic verse says that everything in this book is going to be about the fear of the Lord, Solomon immediately turns to where this begins: heeding the voice of your father and mother.
This should not surprise you. The Ten Commandments begins with the commandment to worship no one but God. This commandment is the foundation of everything else that is to follow. It is followed by three more commandments that are about your love for the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
The fifth commandment, and the four that follow, are all about your love for other people, and the place this begins is with your parents. This fifth commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Listening to your parents is the first step you take on the journey to being wise, as it is the first place you learn what it means to obey the Lord by loving your neighbor as yourself.
This commandment has a promise: if you honor your father and mother, it will go well with you. That’s exactly what Solomon is saying here. If you listen to your father and mother, you will be rewarded and honored: you will prosper in your life. The crown on your head and chain around your neck will be visible to everyone around you.
Proverbs was written in the context of the covenant that God had made with Israel, and it is calling those who read it to relate to God according to the commands of God. Implied, then, in the exhortation to listen to your father and mother is the idea that the parents would be instructing their children in the ways of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Fundamentally, honoring your father and mother is to give weight to their position in your life by obeying them in your youth and by growing into an adult who lives the life of faith they taught to you. It is to grow up to be a person whose faith and trust are in the Lord, obeying Him in all that you do.
But, what if you did not have a godly father and mother as a child? The good news is that as you grow up, God also provides spiritual fathers and mothers, which includes the leadership of your church. You should also listen to your spiritual authority like you would listen to your natural father and mother. Honoring them is a sure way to experience the blessing of God in your life. If life has a been a constant struggle for you, consider the weight you have or have not given to the instruction, teaching, and counsel of your parents and your leaders.
It’s never too late to begin listening to the authority God has placed in your life. If you want to be wise, take that first step today!