Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday’s Wisdom – The Ornament of Instruction

“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. “ - (Pro 1:8-9 ESV)
It felt strange to type the title of this weeks Wednesday’s Wisdom post. “Ornament” seems, being something desired and valued, a misplaced metaphor for “instruction.” However, as we learned in a previous post, wisdom is having God’s perspective of the world and what goes on in it. And if God describes instruction as an ornament, we should align our understanding of instruction as close as we possibly can to His. So in this week’s post, we are going to try to understand how instruction is a really a precious gift to be desired and valued, instead of a condescending interaction to be offended by.

In the context of this passage, a father is exhorting his son to listen to and heed the instruction and teaching of his parents. He goes on to describe the value of such instruction and teaching. In American pop culture, parents, especially Christian parents, are portrayed as selfish, ignorant, incompetent and hypocritical dictators that are simply trying to control and ultimately ruin the lives of their children. Just think of some of the television shows on prime-time. Sadly, this portrayal is not merely inaccurate, but is a gross and purposeful misrepresentation. Even most parents that are bad at parenting love their children and have their best interest in mind. For example, a parent may reason that giving his teenage son beer would be more safe rather than him going out drinking with other teenagers. This is bad parenting, but good and loving intentions.

I love “The Andy Griffith Show.” I admit getting a little teary-eyed sometime when Andy is teaching Opie an important lesson about life. Do you remember the one where Opie had a slingshot and killed the songbird? Andy opened the window so that Opie could hear the baby birds that no longer had a mother. He didn’t do this to hurt Opie. But he didn’t do it simply to keep Opie from shooting birds with a slingshot. He was instructing Opie about life and death and the consequences of our choices so that Opie would grow up to be a man who valued and respected life and understood the responsibility every man has for the choices he makes. It was not some evil ploy to inflict pain on his son. Andy loved Opie and wanted to see him grow up to be a real man. This is an example of a father’s instruction being an ornament, or a “graceful wreath”, as our passage puts it.

This is not to say that all instruction is desirable and valuable. There are plenty examples of instruction that is worthless and wrong, and by seeking godly wisdom we can discern the difference. But, what I hope you take away from this post is two-fold. First, if you are a parent or an adult who has influence over others, I hope you see your opportunity to instruct and teach as a serious responsibility and opportunity to shape those in your care or under your authority, and that part of your instructing them will be to teach them how desirable and valuable such instruction is so that they will grow to be people who can accept, and even seek out, good instruction. Secondly, if you are a child or person under authority (which we all are), I hope that you will understand the value of good instruction, and desire it, not forsake it.

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