The writer is describing a young child who is being taught specifically by his father even though it refers to the mother as the boy being her pride and joy. The implication is that the father has the dominant position of training up his son. He is taking the needed time to teach him life lessons, inserting them deep into his inner being.
In this picture, we see a clear one on one conversation taking place and a depth as the two relate one to the other. It is not a couple of stolen moments in between video games or accompanied by background music or television. This is intentional quality time with the goal of expressing how to live successfully. In today’s world, it is called the Family Altar or Family Devotions, and, it is during this time that the father warns his son to internalize his words with all seriousness, because they are the golden nuggets that will work to grant him sure success.
Chapter 4 goes on to say that, “nothing you possess can be compared to wisdom and understanding” and to deviate even an inch from those two attributes is forbidden, because they are the needed elements to guard your life and even give you a moral compass (wisdom keeps her eye on you.)
This particular father further admonishes his son to embrace wisdom and understanding in a way that doesn’t let go, because it’s those things that will make his life glorious and even add years to it.
Perhaps the most telling advice of the father is found in verse 23 where he says “Keep vigilant, watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.” This father knows that his son will need to check his heart often and well, because that is the place where we are so easily lured and tricked. It is from that place that good or evil is birthed, nurtured and matured. If this boy, especially at a tender age, can understand the nature of the heart and its proclivity to be deceived, he is on his way to skillful understand of how to make the right choices. His eyes will be straight ahead, and he will be able to ignore all the distractions which would pull at his heart and urge him to take the most pleasurable path but one which can result in swift destruction. In the end, he is told to “leave evil in the dust.”
I am especially taken by the role of the father in this scripture, because society has usually tasked the mother with teaching the child and being the more hands-on parent who gives guidance and instruction, but Proverbs 4:3 actually places that role on the father and suggests that he is to be the one who imparts the valuable life lessons, imploring his son to listen well to all that is being said. In fact, the father is said to drill him, and the child is expected to commit these truths to memory.
The scripture does not go into specifics about when all this is supposed to take place, but there is a sense that it happens daily and is a regular part of the father/son interaction as the child grows to maturity, so there is an assumption that this is referring to the family devotional time.
What is equally interesting is the fact that the mother is only referred to as the one who is delighted by her child, being her pride and joy. Could it be simply due to the fact that this special father/son (and others in the family) instructional time is already paying off, causing the mother to enjoy the fruit of an obedient, disciplined and well-trained child?
In truth, I don’t think there is anything more attractive to a mother and a wife than seeing her husband taking time with their child, guiding and instructing him on how to live well. It is clearly a sign of proper priority setting, investing valuable time on your greatest asset and seeing it pay off before your eyes.
It is one blessed woman who has chosen the type of husband who will understand the value of pouring godly character and advice into his child.
But it is also the wise husband and father who understands that his greatest legacy is his child, and, while two parents are needed, it is the authority figure, the leader of the family and the protector who can have the most influence on the outcome of a child.
It is a well-known fact that often, due to the lack of the love and appreciation displayed by a father, that a daughter feels undervalued, unloved and, often, all too quickly gets involved with the first man who shows her any kind of affection and attention.
The unique role of a father is to let his daughter know that she is beautiful, precious and special so that she will properly evaluate her self-worth and avoid giving herself to the first taker. It is the confidence which is derived from that special relationship which only a father can give a child – a surety that will build up her image and security that only someone truly worthy is the individual for whom they should wait to be a lifelong partner.
A mother can and should also create that sense of value in the life of her child, but no one can take the place of a father as the perfect model of a selfless, nurturing rock to whom each family members totally and completely trusts.
And where does this wonderful role model get his own inspiration? It is only from a personal committed walk with his own heavenly father – the One who has shown grace, compassion and generosity to him, thereby enabling and equipping him to bestow it upon his own family.
Of course, this is the ideal world. Most fathers are overwhelmed trying to make a living in a world where even two breadwinners are insufficient to make ends meet. After working long and tiring hours, so many men have little or no energy left at the end of the day and are simply looking to unwind by throwing themselves in front of the t.v. As the father becomes unavailable, kids find their own amusement choices, and each retreat to their own corners of the house with the minimal of interaction.
It’s, therefore, no wonder that children are being raised without the needed instruction or moral clarity of their fathers. The effects of this lopsided and non-existent parenting is being profoundly felt and even rocking our culture with rebellion, violence and anarchy in a way that hasn’t been seen throughout our time.
What is missing? Clearly, the needed input and molding of a loving and dedicated father who sets aside time each day to instill and equip his children with the spiritual, moral and ethical armor which will serve them well all their lives and cause them to walk towards a path of wholeness, total well-being and blessing, both to themselves and others.
If you are not doing this, it’s not too late. Figure out what works best for you, take the needed time each day and be that guide and that caregiver who understands the value of those who will follow in his footsteps. Give them what they will need to have a blessed life, avoid disasters and the type of deception which will steal productive and useful years that could have been a wonderful contribution to those around them. Don’t waste any more time. Start today and be consistent.
Tip: Use a more modern version of the scripture (The Message Bible) so that it is understandable, clear and relevant to your kids’ world. Have a discussion of what each scripture means. Try to find practical advice within the text to incorporate and integrate into your daily lives. Make it a fun, interesting and lively time to which your children will look forward rather than a boring, obligatory slot of time which they must endure for the sake of your feeling you’ve done your duty.
This article originally appeared on Makor HaTikvah, June 14, 2018, and reposted with permission.