"Hear, my son, your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching."
This is an interesting proverb for it helps us understand a way of thinking biblically that we are not given to consider. The biblical idea of father and mother is one of protection, instruction, nurture, and help. This idea extends to all those who rightly exercise authority over us. Therefore, in the biblical mindset those who would be a boss or government official are extensions of our natural father and mother. They are governmental fathers and vocational fathers. There are also spiritual fathers and mothers who offer protection, instruction, and nurture for us as we live our life.
It is this role of spiritual father that Solomon is assuming in this first section of the Proverbs. He is setting down the information that those who would be willing to be mentored by him will need to know to avoid the pitfalls of living.
One of the consistent things that I find in ministry is that many people need to be re-parented in many areas of their lives. They may not know how to handle money. They may not know how to be disciplined with their time. They may not understand how to be warm and grateful to other people. They may not know how to make friends. They may be ignorant when it comes to how to relate to God. All these and many others could or maybe should come from our mothers and fathers as we are growing up. But God has structured, in a well-ordered society, that we will have many fathers and mothers who will "parent" us. There is no perfect parent and, therefore, everyone in this fallen world could criticize their parents for not instructing them in some needed wisdom for life. But we are not limited by the knowledge or skill of our natural parents. God has placed throughout our lives those who know more than us and those who are in authority over us who will offer protection, instruction, and nurture. He has also given us the inspired Scriptures to act as a further parent for us.
We are never too old or too smart to not need a number of fathers and mothers in our life. Solomon is offering to become a spiritual father to us, teaching us wisdom to live life in a deeply enjoyable way. Do not become proud and refuse to receive instruction from these fathers and mothers all around you.
I have watched as people have become bitter over what their parents did or did not teach them, when there are people all around them at the present – as they are spouting bitterness and anger – who would re-parent them if they were only willing to listen. God has not left you without the protection, instruction, and nurture you need even if your parents were far less than perfect. Too often though we enjoy our bitterness and refuse instruction because we are too proud.
Who are the fathers and mothers that God has placed in your life right now? Are you listening to their instruction? Are you growing by their wisdom? Do you accept their protection or push away at their restrictions? Rejoice in that God is our father and has mediated his protection, instruction, and nurture through a myriad of people in your life so that you are not alone.
Allow yourself to be re-parented and grow and learn. In our day and age it is called leadership development and mentoring, but we must allow ourselves to learn and listen and respond to those who have authority over us and those who have greater spiritual insight.
In fact, while my wife and I are parenting our children, we are always on the lookout for mentors, instructors, and role models who can parent our children through a period of their life in ways that we cannot.
There will be times when you will be parented by an author or by a tape series or by a professor or a friend. Those men and women who offer sound advice to you are to be respected and honored and listened to. It is even helpful to ask these people in your life for their advice. Don't make them force their opinions and wisdom on you. Ask.
In this particular case, you are being parented by Solomon and his considerable wisdom filtered through and prompted by the inspiration of God. This is a good parent.