27 February 2007

A word to Christian yoots

by Dan Phillips

As I am reading through Proverbs, it strikes me that I may aim my posts too narrowly. When I write I think of male and female, married and single, pastors and not. But usually I am writing to adults, folks who have established their own homes.

But surely not all our readers are adult. Surely some are single teens and twenties (--and thirties?), still under their parents' authority and/or roof. The Bible addresses such frequently. It occurs to me that I should do the same, at least from time to time. (And besides, the rest of you can use the material in your ministry to the "yoots.")

Here is the verse that put this thought to me:
A wise son makes a father glad,
But a foolish man despises his mother
(Proverbs 15:20 NKJ)
My own rewording of the verse's contrast is "Glad dad / glum mum." Let's see who makes who what, and how, and why.

Here's the DPUV: "A wise son makes his father rejoice,\But a stupid man belittles his mother." Proverbs, by nature, speaks in black and white generalities. So it is here: the wise son is contrasted with the stupid man (kesîl); the glad, happy, rejoicing father is contrasted with — well, with whom?

The glad dad is contrasted, the ESV says, with a despised mother. Now first, the presence of the mother is worth noting. Sometimes it is said that Proverbs focuses solely on males, and we see here that this is not entirely true. Also, it is said that the "father" and the "son" are simply teacher and student, respectively, in a school or courtly setting. If so, then, who is the "mother"? The secretary? Hardly. My revolutionary suggestion is that "mother" means "mother."

But what of despise? English translations use this word lazily and misleadingly, I think. We associate despise with strong negative emotions, such as those I feel towards any kind of squash, or loudmouth actors.

This isn't that. It is from the verb bāzâ, of which Bruce Waltke in TWOT says:
The basic meaning of the root is "to accord little worth to something." While this action may or may not include overt feelings of contempt or scorn, the biblical usage indicates that the very act of undervaluing something or someone implies contempt.
So the stupid man looks down on his mother, sees her as of little worth or value, regards her disdainfully and contempt. My own little mnemonic device for the feel of bāzâ is "Buzz off!"

In this, the stupid child exhibits the opposite of the attitude Yahweh enjoins as the fifth commandment, which is the first horizontal commandment: "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; cf. Ephesians 6:1-3). To honor (kabbēd) means to give weight to, to regard and treat with respectful deference, to show honor to. In some texts, the two words ("despise" and "honor") are semantic opposites (cf. Psalm 15:4; Malachi 1:6).

How does the wise child do that? Proverbs itself probably gives us a lot of guidance here. The wise child listens hard and closely to his father (Proverbs 2:1), and memorizes it (3:1; 6:21-23). He does not merely remain outwardly silent but inwardly inattentive; he gives his heart to his father (23:26). He gives his parents rest and delight (29:17).

Other texts grant still more light, which would take us beyond a simple essay. Leviticus 19:3 adds an imperative to revere; the Hebrew tîrā'û ("fear") introduces that element found so frequently in Scripture, and so seldom in our society, of a submissive respect that conditions a heart genuinely to shrink from giving offense. Malachi 1:6 treats this honor a son owes his father as a duty, something inherent in the relationship.

By contrast, in Proverbs the foolish child is neglectful during his years of instruction and learning (10:5), disregards what he has been taught (19:27), is abusive and insulting to his parents (19:26), is stupid (17:25; 19:13), ignores correction (13:1), and hangs around with the sorts of people his father warned him against (1:10; 24:21; 28:7).

If the stupid man embodies the opposite of the Fifth Commandment, the wise son embraces and embodies its values. We read that the wise son makes his father glad, rejoicing, merry. Doesn't this do what Proverbs so often does—give specificity to the Law's generality? A legalistic rebel could think that by hewing to the bare letter of the Law, by giving the bare minimum of compliance to orders when given, he is honors his father and mother. But God has more in mind than bare, grudging, occasional outward compliance to parental commands.

The wise son embraces his father's values, and seeks to please him, to make him happy—not just to avoid getting in trouble. His measuring line is not merely, "How much can I get away with?" It is "How can I please my parents?"

"Any parents?" one might ask. The focus of the proverb (and this essay) is on the child, but I'd feel amiss if I didn't re-state the obvious. This is a proverb. It is brief and pointed, and makes certain assumptions. Would a believing child be expected to make a Baal-worshiping dad happy in every way? Of course not. The assumption is a wise parent, operating within the bounds of his delegated sphere of authority.

This proverb, then, is a down-home picture of two children: one responds to the Fifth Commandment in the warmth and enthusiasm of a living faith. The other does not.

Questions for application: Do you really honor your father and your mother? What part does their upbringing and their teaching play in your major decisions? Do you even consult them, let alone give weight to their input?

Do you think, not just of not angering them, or what you can get away with—but actually of gladdening your parents, making them happy by your choices, attitude, behavior?

Can your friends bear witness to the respect and honor in which you hold your mother and father? Do you bring them around to show your parents off to your friends, and to show your parents how you've taken their counsel to heart in who you associate with (Proverbs 13:20)? Is it obvious to all your friends that you think God gave you pretty neat parents? Or do you clearly act embarrassed by them? Is your behavior anything like Solomon's very public honor shown his mother (1 Kings 2:19)? Do you treat your parents as optional, dispensable "extras" in the drama of your life?

Or let's just bring it home like this. What if I were to look at your father, your mother, as they think about you? What would I see?

Glad Dad?

Or glum Mum?

Confession: I wish I could say this post is about "how to be a godly kid...as I was!" The truth lies far more in the opposite direction. In my testimony, I asked and answered: "Had I dishonored my father and mother? Since I could talk." That wasn't much of an exaggeration. If I wasn't born with a disrespectful, backtalking mouth, I developed it soon enough.

And I wish I could say it changed from black to white instantly, on the day of my conversion. I can't. But I can say that it began to change, I came to see it had to change, and God started me working on that change for the rest of my parents' lives. It did take work.

Our culture is not conducive to respect of anyone, much less our parents, least of all our fathers. I used to fit in just fine with that culture, more's the shame.

But when God saves us, He changes our culture. He transfers our citizenship from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). We have different standards, and different values.

And home's where we need to show them first.

(BTW, my pastor preached an excellent sermon on just this theme, from Ephesians 6:1-4. Some of his on-target applications are woven into my essay.)

Dan Phillips's signature


FX Turk said...

What?! God changes our culture -- He doesn't just come to the one we have and set up shop like a new drug store?

That's radical, bub. That's off the chain. What kind of missiology are you talking about here if God is changing culture? How can you be a valid expression of Christ-likeness if you aren't enculturating the Gospel?

God changes our culture. Huh. I'm speechless. Good thing this was for children's church and not big church, otherwise we'd have to break out the session and examine your baptism.

James Scott Bell said...

Forget the wisdom contained herein. I just smiled at the pictures, and the memory of Fred Gwynne saying, "Yoots?" Thanks for getting my morning started.

Connie said...

Oh my! Just love the use of "yoots" from "My Cousin Vinny"!!! We say that in our house ALL the time--we have two "yoots" of our own!! Now, back to finish reading your post... :-)

Doug said...

Very good post.

BTW, do you guys sell those Pyro buttons at the store?

And another thing! My Cousin Vinny is one of my favorite movies...but on the tv version as the uncut version has too many F-bombs.

DJP said...

Okay, since the comment-thread has started out largely Vinnie-centric, let me tag this caveat to Doug's comment.

The allusion is passing. But I do think the movie is (A) very funny, but (B) features inexcusably bad language. Watch the sanitized TV version. If any.

Dennis Elslager said...

Thanks for the words here. I will share this with our 2 teenage boys. It took my salvation at age 18 for me to have the heart to honor my parents. Let's pray our children will grow up to know the grace of God and "shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life" in the midst of a youth culture void of the fear of God. And may we learn to give the example of this.

DJP said...

Denny, you sound an excellent point I didn't dwell much on in the post.

A godly, Biblical attitude towards parents would a potent witness today.

The world sees neglectful, embarrassed disrespect, shrugs, and detects no difference from its own stance.

C. M. White said...

Hey, guys! I'm 17, long-time reader, occasional commenter. Thanks.
The lesson today is tough. It comes at a tough time. I'm going to college in a few months, and, honestly, am looking forward to being away from my family. Yesterday, my mom was really irritable, so I mostly ignored her. I didn't even think about it...
You offer some new perspective and a little deeper analysis on the passage than youth pastors and Sunday school teachers I've heard talk about it. Thanks for that.
By the way, how long does it take to cook a grit in your kitchen? (saw the tv version a few years ago)

DJP said...

Thanks, Caleb. It would be nice, wouldn't it, if parents always made it easy to respect them? (A parent might add it'd also be nice if kids always made it easy to love them!)

That's surely part of why God sets it up as He does, though. If a girl won't learn to respect her dad from her heart, does she think that ability will pop up out of thin air when she puts on a wedding ring? Or that the requirement will be waived for her in her marriage, because she's a special case?

Or the young man, what of the respect he must give his employer, his pastor?

Or in both cases, what of respect for God when His ways are hard, and His Word crosses our wills?

(And, since you ask, thankfully Mrs. P never cooks a grit in our kitchen!)

donsands said...

Another nice study in the Word. What a blessing to know the Lord is pleased when we honor our parents.

BTW, I used to despise squash, but if you "shish ke bab" it it ain't so bad.

LeeC said...

Thanks Dan.
This is how we change the world, this is how to be salt and light.

And it's not just for "yoots"(when I first heard that line I thought of Paiutes having come from Okla. and lots of American Indian culture) I stand ashamed of how I still struggle with this.

Much like loving your neighbor, respecting your husband, obeying your rulers Eph. 6:1-3 is not conditional.

God does not say "Honor your godly parents" or Honor your parents if they deserve it" but simply honor them.

That can be hard in this day and age rife with neglect, abuse, vulgarity and so much more ungodlieness from parents, but as my pastors last seron said "God is not impressed with our excuses." If we love Him, we need to obey Him. We who were loved by Him unconditionally when there was not one jot or tittle within us that looke lovely to Him MUST set aside our conditons for obeying Him in this.

I who have been give so much love, honor, and a myraid of other things unconditionally far too often place conditions of my own in where I place my love, and honor. And that includes my parents, for whom I should be very thankful for.

Thanks fr helping me on the road to repentance.

Dave said...

Thanks for this, Dan. As a 26-year-old single who's still very connected to his folks (across town), this is something I have to keep relearning. Our church called a new pastor this year, and my folks and I have been having somewhat heated discussions about the ripple-effect of that choice. This past weekend, I do believe I crossed that respect line, and made my dear mum glum (or rather, irritated and yelling). Guess I need to do a little repenting there. It's a tricky thing, relating to parents post-college. But the honoring doesn't stop, does it?

DJP said...

LeeC--"God is not impressed with our excuses."

Good for your pastor.

If Christians would put HALF the effort into finding ways TO obey God, as they do in finding excuses NOT to obey Him... much would change.

C.T. Lillies said...

Dan I'd like to see what you have to say about what happens when parents actually do frustrate their children.

"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

Even So... said...

If Christians would put HALF the effort into finding ways TO obey God, as they do in finding excuses NOT to obey Him... much would change.

Indeed...me included...

LeeC said...

I'm not Dan but heres my take on how to obey Scriptures in this area. (btw I already wrote a long reply but blogger ate it...)

So the short answer is.


If you are provoking your children you are creating a stumbling block for them making it harder for them to obey God.

Stop it.
Repent, ask them to forgive you if need be, then move on.

If you are, or have been provoked by your parents realize that again God is not impressed with our excuses. Our parents sinning against us gives us no excuse to sin ourselves and in fact is an excellent opportunity to glorify God by acting like Christ and seeking to obey our Father regardless of circumstances.

So, obey, if we fail in that repent, and always take it to the Lord in prayer so that we don't rely on our own strentgh and fall on our faces.

Connie said...

You said, "Our culture is not conducive to respect of anyone, much less our parents, least of all our fathers." So true!

Here's just a bit of background for the sake of context. We adopted our Russian-born daughters at ages 9 & 12.5 a little over 4 years ago. While they knew NO English, they clearly knew how to "despise" and disrespect--no surprise that depravity knows no political/geographic boundaries!

Needless to say, as Xian parents it was our desire to ENJOY our children (whether biological or adopted) and our children enjoy us--really! So we immediately began training in respect--respectful face, respectful words, respectful attitude, etc. While we did begin to see outward compliance, it wasn't until the Lord saved one (so far) that we clearly saw the "change" in her.

Much of the fruit we've seen has come from showing them and telling them the MANY opportunites to offer/apply respect--parents, siblings, neighbors, friends, store clerks, police officers...husbands!!!!

God has been abundantly gracious to us as we've built our little family. There's still much work to be done (and often REtraining) but He has granted so much joy in our labor!

(P.S. So sorry for my part in the "Vinny-centric" comments--your point is/was understood)

DJP said...

Totally OK, don't mind at all. I just had in mind that if many fastened on that movie, I'd better put up a disclaimer.

Kaffinator said...

Dan, a once again you have another dead-center-on-target post. Edifying to both yoots and former-yoots. Thanks.

And Lee, great advice to parents who blow it: "Stop it. Repent, ask them to forgive you if need be, then move on."

A question I've encountered more than once in my circles is "should I ask forgiveness from my child when I screw up?". My answer has been: "hmmm lets see. You get to learn some humility, your child gets to see you hold yourself to a higher standard, you child also gets to practice forgiveness, and your relationship is restored. So ... what was the downside again?"

DJP said...

GREAT answer.

Plus there's the practice-what-you-preach aspect.

We make our kids apologize when they (say) bonk their siblings. As they grow and want more privileges, we tell them that a major mark of maturity is doing what's right without anyone forcing you to do it.

What better opportunity for modeling that very thing?

Thanks for that, K.

Connie said...

You know, I don't think I ever expected to get Biblical "parenting" training at Pyromaniacs, but keep it up (even the comments!!) Talk about "well-rounded". :-)

Anonymous said...

Hello, Mr. Dan

I'm a 15-year-old Christian teenager and I am living with a a single parent , well, my mom who opposes Christianity with verbal attacks and threats. (Sometimes, but not a lot)

You know,or maybe you don't, but every time i lisiten to sermons, or read Christna material, or read the Bible, she comes in and starts sayng "Oh, you have nothing better to do. Stupid sermons you're lsitening to. I mean, it's funny whe nyou think about it, because every Christian would know that Satan is jsut trying to attack me through her.

But, uh, the point you made about obeying and respecting parents, well in my heart, yeas, i do, i want to honor my mom. But you have to take in the considertation that I'm not into really spending time with my mom. I'm not sure if i have a grudge because she always attacks me with her New Age and Mystical beliefs.

I think couple of years ago, or maybe later on since I became a Christian she threatened me not to go to chruch if I didn't watch this documentary about aliens. I mean it's all forgotten, since it was a long time ago, but I had to watch it. I did bawl over it, though! I did't wanna watch it. It was all evil.

but, uh, i learned that I shouldn't get into my heart anytihng she accuses me of, because behind the accusations Satan is wide and ready to mess up my heart! Like I don't know it!

But, uh, this is a differnt situation than probably most of Christians living with Christian parents. That is why this has to be balanced out.

Anyways, we are Ukrainians. We speak Russian.

Thanks and thanks for the post.

Bhedr said...

Thats a great post!

DJP said...

Hi, Sweetly Broken. I want to give you as decent an answer as I can, but it's likely to be Wednesday at the earliest. A nasty flu or something has thrown me, and my head's not at its best.

Anonymous said...

All right, thanks Mr Dan.

I'll be wide and ready for your asnwer.
God Bless!!!!! :)

Leberwurst said...

Dan, Excellent post as usual. As one who grew up an unbeliever in an unbelieving home I had never heard the biblical admonition to “Honor your father and mother”. Of course I loved and wanted to please my parents, but I was also hopelessly rebellious and self-centered… But when I was saved as an adult and father I became painfully aware of the fact that the family was the training ground for conveying spiritual truth, and that authority and submission as taught and modeled there would be the basis for the child’s understanding of God. After all, if we don’t honor our parents how will we honor God? If we exasperate our children how will they come to trust and submit to God? When I was a teen the world said “Question Authority” was this not the same lie from the serpent’s mouth in Genesis “has God not said” ? It is not just yoots who need to practice honoring the authorities placed over them by the loving sovereign hand of God it is every one of us who profess the name of Christ. In a world that says “look out for #1” and “be true to your own heart” it is only those true children of God who can overlook their own selfish desires and honor those under whose care God has placed them…

DJP said...

Sweetly Broken, I'm feeling better now, so I'll give you such as I have.

First, sympathy. Sounds like a rough go. I was saved into an unbelieving family also, both parents and both sisters at the time. I didn't, however, get anything like the opposition you're reporting.

Second, like me, you have the parent God wanted you to have (Psalm 115:3; Romans 11:36; Ephesians 1:11b). Trust Him to bring good out of that relationship.

Third, your case is perhaps analogous to the Christian wife of 1 Peter 3:1-2. Her closest authority (husband) is not walking with the Lord, and he isn't interested in what she has to say. What to do, then? Present an eloquent and compelling testimony by attitude and behavior. Respect your mother for her position. Stay close to the Lord, and let her mocking and opposition drive you still closer. David does this again and again in the Psalms. You could paraphrase some of them as David saying, "Did You hear what they just said, Lord?" (i.e. Psalms 3, 4, 11, etc.).

And of course love her, pray for her, and remember what Paul says in Titus 3:1-7.

I hope that is of some help and encouragement.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Dan

I greatly appreciate it. You're right, I go to the Lord about this stuff. I used to put it all in my heart and let Satan eat my heart out, but now I just go to the Lord and say, like , God I'm so sick and tired of this. I want you to guard me and destroy every demonic spirit that comes from mom and so on. "

and,I have best friends who led me to the Lord and they teach me to become a man because living with a mom and wihtout a dad makes you incomplete, so you are lacking something. So I got to let God have control of every situation.

I try to love mom, but sometimes we have arguments and sometimes I do things that my mom gets angry at and I want to try not to do those things. Just gotta stay in the Lord's will and his Holy Spirit.

Thanks and god bless.

Anonymous said...

I also have a blog too. Got the idea from your website.

it's called: CHrist: the Wisdom and Power of God.


Hope people visit it and post! God bless.

HooverBranch said...

Well I was blessed with very Godly Parents. Whom I thank the Sovereign Lord Daily for. But I can say that I have seen the impact of a Glum Mum. Or a Sad Dad for that matter.

I would imagine it is hard on parents when they try and raise their children with the Word of God as the back bone of their Parenting. And then have them grow up and get to that rebelious age. Having seen some rebelious things that have happened to my Parents I dont think they would had been able to get through it if not for the Lord.

It is amazing through every instance you can see the Lords Impact on His people. My parents have not been discouraged by things that have not turned out the way they wanted. Instead they keep going. The influence their testimonies have left on my life is unexplainable. The amazing thing is it wasnt their acts or works that did anything or does anything. It is Jesus Christ and the Lords Sovereign Will.

Glory be to God in Honoring your Parents
James(19yrs Old)-Ohio

John Ryan Elward said...

I originally thought this was a joke. But I actually enjoyed the read. Thanks.