Heeding Godly Authorities
“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
For several decades now, a pervasive anti-authority sentiment has swept through popular culture in the West, which has then exported this philosophy to the rest of the world through entertainment, advertising, and other avenues. Many of us are likely familiar with the popular phrase, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” Irreverence is in vogue, and what is young and new is prized over that which is old and traditional.
Scripture never teaches that everything old and traditional is necessarily good, and it certainly does not claim that authority figures and structures are always godly. Paganism goes right back to the fall of mankind, and history is littered with despots who persecuted their citizens and defied the one true God. The Bible condemns all false religions and ungodly authorities (Ex. 20:3; Isa. 5:20; Rev. 13; 19:19-20). Nevertheless, the Lord in His Word understands such ungodliness as a perversion of authority and tradition. In fact, our Creator extols the aged and commends submission to authority because of the wisdom that comes with experience and the order that thoughtful leaders provide.
Proverbs 1:8-9 is one of many passages that takes such a perspective. Solomon exhorts sons to heed the instruction of their fathers and the teaching of their mothers. By extension, this exhortation applies to daughters as well, for if the future leaders of the homes in Israel (sons) need to learn from and obey their parents, so do all other citizens. Solomon’s teaching is nothing new, for the fifth commandment calls children to honor their parents (Ex. 20:12). Note that both the law of Moses and today’s passage speak of heeding both fathers and mothers. Children are not permitted to respect one parent and ignore the other.
While Proverbs 1:8-9 focuses on the obligations of children to listen to their parents, we cannot miss the high call it gives to mothers and fathers as well. Solomon assumes that parents are training their children in godly wisdom, which should not surprise us given the call of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to instruct our children in the law of God. Our sons and daughters cannot follow the teaching of today’s passage if we do not faithfully catechize them in what the Lord has revealed and do not model godly wisdom for them.
Today’s passage speaks explicitly of parents and children, but Solomon’s words apply to all relationships between authorities and subordinates. It will go well for us if we submit wisely to those in authority, and teach and model godliness to those whom we lead.
Matthew Henry comments on today’s passage, “Those are truly valuable, and shall be valued, who value themselves more by their virtue and piety than by their worldly wealth and dignity.” A life of wisdom gained by heeding the godly instruction of parents and others is a far greater adornment than the best jewels money can buy. Such a life evidences the presence of saving faith and will receive the Lord’s commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Passages for Further Study