Be Wise about Family
Sunday School Lesson for January 25, 2004
Wisdom in Accepting God’s Design for the Family
Proverbs 18:22; 31:10; 24:3-4
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD.”
This passage sets the stage for a biblical understanding of the institution of marriage by reminding us that God Himself ordained the union of a man to a woman. Therefore, it is a sacred and holy institution that brings glory and honor to the Creator. In the Garden of Eden, God declared that “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18). From this we learn that marriage, described in Proverbs 18:22 from the vantage point of the male (when one “finds a wife”), is “a good thing” that brings fulfillment to both the man and the woman.
Here the particular emphasis is upon the fact that a good wife and, consequently a good marriage, provides clear evidence of the special “favor” or blessing of God. That is, a wife, God’s gift to a man, uniquely displays His gracious and loving care for His children and provides unequalled joys and blessings in this life.
Note how this same truth is expressed in Proverbs 31:10—“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” Once again, from the male perspective, we are reminded that the union of a man and a woman under God in holy matrimony is a priceless treasure. Here the “excellent wife,” one discovered under the direction and guidance of the Lord, is one of strength and character who is capable of meeting the needs of her husband and family.
“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; 4 and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
This passage reveals what may be described as the blueprint for a healthy and God-honoring home. Note that it is established upon the solid foundation of “wisdom,” “understanding,” and “knowledge.” These words should be understood more or less synonymously within the context of Proverb’s unique definition of wisdom as originating with the “fear of the Lord” (9:10). Strictly speaking, then, a “house” (marriage and family) in the biblical sense cannot be successfully built apart from a relationship with God.
Wisdom in Relating to One’s Spouse
Proverbs 14:1; 21:19; 12:4; 19:14
“The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down
with her own hands.”
A husband and a wife, who possess a relationship with God and, consequently, display true wisdom, will always seek to make a positive contribution to their marriage relationship. With the tools of wisdom, supplied by their constant dependence upon God, they will build their home. However, those who are “foolish”—those who either have no knowledge of the Lord or otherwise behave selfishly as if they do not know the Lord—contribute to the erosion of the marital bonds and the ultimate destruction of the home.
A particularly destructive form of foolish behavior is reflected in Proverbs 21:19—“It is better to live in a desert land, than with a contentious and vexing woman.” The words “contentious”—indicating the presence of strife and discord—and “vexing”—suggesting the presence of anger and bitterness—describe one with which a close and fulfilling marriage relationship is virtually impossible. Angry, contentious people are incapable of relating to others in healthy, God-honoring ways, particularly within the bonds of marriage. The practical point, therefore, is that one would be better off living in a tent than with a spouse who is always ready to fight. Certainly, this is not suggesting the dissolution of the marriage in such cases. It is only acknowledging that the joy and fulfillment God designed for marriage partners to share is shattered by such self-serving behavior.
As suggested above, an angry wife (or husband) causes great suffering in the family. According to Proverbs 12:4, “she who shames him is as rottenness in his bones.” In other words, any behavior that is selfish, immoral, or does not conform to the commands of the Lord, leads to the demise and eventual death of the relationship. Here, such behavior is specifically said to produce “rottenness” or decay in the heart of the husband in contrast to the “excellent wife” who is the “crown of her husband.”
“House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife
is from the LORD.”
Finally, we learn that a wife who is “prudent,” that is, she manifests wisdom, insight and spiritual discernment, is a gift from the hand of God. The point is that a good spouse and, as a result, a fulfilling marriage, is no accident. As we have already noted, a successful marriage is the result of the couple’s mutual submission to God.
For those who are unmarried, the implicit promise of this verse is that when one seeks God’s will in the choice of a husband or wife, and desires to build the marriage upon a godly foundation of wisdom and discernment, God will provide the right person at the right time.
Wisdom in Parenting
Proverbs 20:7; 16:21,23; 13:24; 23:13-14; 19:18
“A righteous man who walks in his integrity-- How blessed are
his sons after him.”
This passage displays the responsibility of the father to provide a godly example for “his sons” to follow “after him.” The word translated “walk” denotes the concept of life-style, or how one conducts his daily affairs. Specifically, it applies to the man who is “righteous” in the sense of being blameless before the Lord. It implies that he has a relationship with God who, by grace through faith, has declared him to be righteous. The word “integrity” should be understood in the sense of being blameless, or morally upright. The blessing occurs when the righteous man’s children not only hear his instruction, but also see his example and emulate his ways.
A second responsibility of the father is that of redemptive discipline. This is expressed in Proverbs 13:24—“He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Here, the provision of diligent discipline, or correction, is the sure sign that the father deeply loves his children. This fact mirrors the way that God displays His love for His children (cf. Prov. 3:11-12). If no discipline were present, one would have every right to question the love of the parent for the child. To allow a child to act in ways that are contrary to God’s will is the surest evidence of neglect and, according to this verse, even hatred.
“Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you beat him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from Sheol.”
Far from being destructive, discipline provides both immediate and eternal benefits for the child. The parent should have no fear of hurting the child through the application of appropriate and loving discipline—“he will not die.” Rather, through the use of “the rod” he will live. That is, the child will learn and embrace those truths that will direct him to the knowledge of God and eternal life. Note, however, that the converse is also true. To neglect correction, or “hold back discipline,” will imperil the child both in time and in eternity.
The positive benefits of loving discipline are expressed in Proverbs 29:15—“The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” Here the vital link between the application of discipline and the development of wisdom is established. Through the process of correction, instruction, and even the employment of the rod, a child gains spiritual insight and discernment. As before, however, observe the flip side of the equation; to neglect discipline—to permit the child to have “his own way”—brings shame upon the family and eventually destroys the child.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he
will not depart from it.”
This rather difficult verse is often understood as ensuring that if one teaches a child the truth, even if he wanders away from it, he will eventually come back home. While this is a worthy and legitimate expectation, this is not the meaning of the verse. Most likely, the passage is teaching that parents should discipline and teach their children according to their individual gifts, interests, skills, and unique personalities. Such instruction will provide a tailor-made roadmap for the child as he or she develops.
Another possible interpretation sees this passage as a cryptic warning that if one allows their child to establish his own direction in life, apart from godly guidance and counsel, the child will stay on this wayward path for the rest of his life. Thus, the parents have the responsibility to instruct their children in the ways of God, guiding their lives through appropriate instruction, discipline, and corrective measures.