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Wisdom in the discipline of a loving parent

Proverbs 10:1

The proverbs of Solomon:

A wise son makes a glad father,
But a foolish son is the grief of his mother. 

Proverbs 15:20

20 A wise son makes a father glad,
But a foolish man despises his mother. 

Proverbs 19:26

26 He who mistreats his father and chases away his mother
Is a son who causes shame and brings reproach.


There is a humorous scene in the classic Cohen Brothers dark comedy film, “Raising Arizona.” The baby, (the eponymous Nathan Arizona Jr.) is kidnapped by the hapless, hopeless, childless couple, H.I. and Edwina McDunnough. 

Little Nathan is one of the five famous “Arizona Quints,” and since H.I. and “Ed” are certain that the parents have more than they can handle, they help themselves to one of the babies–with hilarious results. (Did I mention that this is a dark comedy?) 

As they are leaving the nursery, H.I. grabs a copy of Dr. Spock’s Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. As he hands Nathan Jr. to Edwina, he tosses the book into the car, and says: here’s the instructions!

Do you wish that your children came with instructions? That may be one of the hardest parts about parenting, trying to figure out what comes next. Comedian Jim Gaffigan, a father of five, quips: 

I don’t know what’s more exhausting about parenting: the getting up early, or acting like you know what you’re doing.— Jim Gaffigan

Fortunately for you and me, we have the Bible. Although it does not cover every detail of childrearing (does my toddler want her sandwich cut into squares or triangles? Will my moody teen EVER have a good attitude about anything ever again? If I have to hear that song from “Frozen” again, will I lose my mind?), it does provide a blueprint for raising up your little “arrows” to be a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5). 

The book of Proverbs serves as a vital chapter in this book of instructions, for it was written by Solomon as instructions to his sons and the children of Israel. Indeed even the Son of God was raised in Proverbs, who received His childhood education at the feet of His earthly parents. 

Chapter 10 of Proverbs begins a new section of this book of wisdom. Solomon concludes his “Prologue” in chapters 1-9, and now records a second scroll of wise sayings. These are found in chapters 10-22. These writings differ from the Prologue in that they are in the form of shorter “wise sayings” or maxims. In them you will find the wisdom shared in the prologue in more compact, poetic form–and each packs a punch.

This section contains 375 different proverbs, that appear to be set in numeric order using the Hebrew consonants of Solomon’s own name. This is very likely to aid in memorization for his young pupils. 

Memory work for children is a wonderful way to teach. Young minds are like sponges that can absorb some of the most complicated information, such as language, and also soak up the moral guidance of parents, teachers and adults around them. 

Did you memorize bible verses or the catechism as a child? As an adult, I can barely remember where I put my car keys, but a child learning scripture, or good theology will remember the Way of Wisdom to the end of his days. 

What are they memorizing here? Poems and couplets like this:

The proverbs of Solomon:

A wise son makes a glad father,
But a foolish son is the grief of his mother.–Proverbs 10:1

The first of these “mini poems” cuts right to the chase, and perfectly illustrates how this type of writing works. It is a form of “parallelism” containing two approaches to the same thought, a poetry of “half lines,” as commentator Bruce Waltke explains. 

These half-lines form couplets, or “versets,” that in some way escalate or advance the same idea, often using opposite or contrasting images. They commonly move from general to specific, abstract to concrete–and helps to seal the idea in the heart.

Verse 1 is a swing for the fences, and reveals one of the underlying themes of the book of Proverbs and the life of wisdom. It bears the psychological effects of a wise or foolish child upon the parents. “Father” and “mother” are both used–but the principal applies the same.

The wise son makes a glad father. Of course he does. Has you child achieved success in life, obtained a good education–or simply remembered to put the lid back on the peanut butter jar without being asked for the hundredth time? A parent will experience a warm feeling of everlasting joy and happiness as a result. 

More importantly, to have a child who believes and trusts in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and knows that their home is in heaven is the hope of every believing, godly parent. 

This is Solomon’s hope too. He knows firsthand how a foolish son will break the heart of a parent. His brother Absalom killed his older brother Amnon after he raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13). The anguish of David was deepened when Absalom subverted his rule and attempted to take over the throne in a revolt against his father. His father is forced to flee and when he hears of Absalom’s ignominious death following a battle, he exclaims, O my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son! (2 Samuel 18).

A wayward and rebellious child is every parent’s dread–especially when that way leads to death. For this reason, the Heavenly Father makes this a part of His law.  God makes provision for this in His law with the Fifth Commandment: 

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.–Exodus 20:12

God placed strict punishments on children that rebelled against parents (Exodus 21:17), up to and including death by stoning (Deuteronomy 21)! Thus, the discipline of children is vital to good parenting, for it can have eternal consequences–and not just to make sure their room stays clean. 

Solomon echoes this thought in Proverbs 10:1, and again in other places, such as Proverbs 15:

20 A wise son makes a father glad,
But a foolish man despises his mother.–Proverbs 15:20 

And again in Proverbs 19:

26 He who mistreats his father and chases away his mother
Is a son who causes shame and brings reproach.–Proverbs 19:26

Wise parental discipline, thus, is intended to keep a child from foolish paths, helps preserve the family order, and brings glory to God. This is not a call for parents to be harsh and unloving, but to chastise in love–as God disciplines his own children, including you and me (Hebrews 12:3-11).

Solomon echoes this a thousand years before the author of Hebrews:

24 He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.–
Proverbs 13:24

As a child facing punishment, the words of a loving father or mother staying “I only do this because I love you,” or “this is for your own good,” may seem like a vicious lie. But failure to administer discipline only leads to destruction. Commentator Derek Kidner says of the loving discipline of a child, A hard way to wisdom is better than a soft way to death.

Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung understands that young people have rebellious hearts, but that a godly child cannot be left to his nature:

Independence, learning to think for oneself, trying and failing sometimes–these are the steps toward adulthood. But stubbornness, rebellion, and disobedience need not be.–DeYoung 

Commentator Bruce Waltke shows how Solomon appeals to this deep, deep parental love to prevent the harsh judgment in the shadow of God’s violated commands:

The Law of Moses commands obedience [5th Commandment] but Proverbs motivates them through tender family affections.–Bruce Waltke

This is one reason that a believing father and mother must work to provide not just discipline, but also the an upbringing steeped in the Word. This is true love, as Martin Luther writes:

Father and Mother are apostles, bishops and priests to their children, for it is they who make them acquainted with the gospel.–Martin Luther 

You as a parent must remember that this is not simply so that they memorize verses and participate in Sunday school. These are all good things, but as Pastor John Piper states:

The point of the gospel is not just to make nice families. It's true that good families are a byproduct, but it is not the end. The gospel does have good sociological benefits, but ultimately it is about the glory of immeasurable love of God.–John Piper 

This is why Solomon is including so much of this in Proverbs, for it glorifies God. The effects of this go far beyond family. All you have to do is consider what the lack of parental discipline causes:

It is not the right of American teenagers to break the Fifth Commandment, no matter what their friends and hormones tell them. Never before has our cultural ethos done more to encourage youthful immaturity…Contrary to the fears of some, most households are less patriarchy and more “kindergarchy”–DeYoung 

The ramifications of undisciplined children can threaten the very social fabric and upset God’s created order. As psychologist Jordan Peterson describes:

The apostate West’s failure to discipline its children has left it in moral chaos with the result that, in the end, the parent “will hate his son, for he will see him…going forth to evil deeds.”–Jordan Peterson 

Proverbs 10:1 reminds you of the social ramifications of sin. Proverbs continually lifts the reader from considering the personal call to walk in wisdom, to seeing the greater effects of doing so. A wise son or daughter blesses far more than their own family:

Proper rearing is essential because it affects society spatially (from the home to the community) and temporally (from generation to generation).–Bruce Waltke

Can you see the effects of the wise decisions of your ancestors in your life today–or feel the pain of their past transgressions? Many families live in shame today for the crimes or sinful habits of parents or grandparents. 

Do you consider how your own sins may affect your future generations, your church, or your neighbors? Tim Keller puts this in a stark and honest way:

A man may consume pornography privately. But not only does it influence the way he relates to women in society, it also creates a market for it, making it available to others.–Tim Keller, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life:” 

There are no “victimless” crimes in this life. There is no such thing as a “harmless” sin. We are unavoidably interdependent, Keller says:

A Woman may insist that she has a right to commit suicide because she belongs to no one but herself. Yet at the human level, that is wrong. What right does she have to darken or even ruin the lives of those who love her and who will be devastated by her suicide?–Tim Keller

It is in light of this that we see that our only hope is a life seeking to live for the One who is the Wisdom of God. Jesus is that faithful, obedient Son of the Father. He took the pain of the discipline meant for us-and restored the order of creation, broken by sin. 

“For the joy that was before Him,” As Michael Card sings in his beautiful anthem, “He overcame the fear,” and enduring the shame of punishment for the sins of you and me, and paid the cost to restore the Father’s children to Him:

So let us fix our eyes upon
The priest whom God did hear
For the joy that was before Him
He overcame the fear
Oh, once and all He paid the cost
Enduring all the shame
Taking up the cruel cross
Ignoring all the pain–Michael Card, “He Was Heard”


The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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