Proverbs Thematic Sermon: Parenting and Honoring Parents (Erik Veerman)

Mar 10, 2024    Erik Veerman

Parenting and Honoring Parents

If you would please take out the insert with the Proverbs verses. On the inside, you’ll see that our Proverbs reading this morning begins a few verses from Proverbs chapter 23. Verses 13-16. If you would like to read those in the pew Bible, You can find that on page 646.

Our theme is parenting and parents. Let me say, these verses are not just for parents with younger children. No, actually, these verses have applicability to all of us. They speak to children, of course, but also to adults of all ages, whether your parents are still alive or have passed from this world.

Let’s now consider God’s Word. Again, starting with Proverbs 23:13-16


Reading of selected proverbs


Proverbs 23:13-16

    13 Do not withhold discipline from a child;

               if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.

    14 If you strike him with the rod,

               you will save his soul from Sheol.

    15 My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad.

    16 My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right.

The Joys and Sorrows of Parenting

10:1 The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a glad father,

    but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.

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

17:25 A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.

23:24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;

    he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.

23:25 Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.

27:11 Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad,

    that I may answer him who reproaches me.

29:3 He who loves wisdom makes his father glad,

    but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.

Honoring and Obeying Your Parents

17:6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,

    and the glory of children is their fathers.

19:26 He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother

    is a son who brings shame and reproach.

20:20 If one curses his father or his mother,

    his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.

23:22 Listen to your father who gave you life,

    and do not despise your mother when she is old.

27:8 Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home.

28:24 Whoever robs his father or his mother and says,

    “That is no transgression,”

    is a companion to a man who destroys.

Guiding and Disciplining Your Children

19:18 Discipline your son, for there is hope;

    do not set your heart on putting him to death.

22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go;

    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,

    but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom,

    but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you rest;

    he will give delight to your heart.



Every year, about 3-4,000 books about parenting or parents are published. That’s hard for me to wrap my mind around. To keep up, you would need to read 10 of those books every day.

Some of them, of course, become irrelevant pretty quickly because their cultural focus is so narrow. Many are not worth the paper on which they are written. But some parenting books stand the test of time.

And I would say, there’s one parenting book that is head and shoulders above the others. I strongly recommend that every single child read this book. Every single parent needs to read this book. If you’re not married or don’t have kids, reading this book will help you support others in the church. If you are a young or middle-age adult with parents, you need to read it. In short, everyone needs to read this book about parents and parenting.

I’m speaking, of course, about the book of Proverbs.

Do you realize, the entire background of Proverbs is about parenting. I know we just read 20 or so verses that focus on tangible areas of parenting and parents. But the premise of the whole book is a father writing to his sons.

Do you remember that from the first 9 chapters? Over and over, Solomon was speaking to his sons. Like Proverbs chapter 1 verse 8, “Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching.”

In fact, 19 times in the first 9 chapters, Solomon is directing his wisdom to his son or sons. Sometimes it’s singular, son, and sometimes plural, sons. And the first nine chapters that we considered last fall gave us the foundations to wisdom. They answered the questions: What is wisdom? Why do we need wisdom? How do we obtain wisdom? Where is true wisdom found? Who is wisdom? Where should we not go to gain wisdom? It included warnings about evil and foolishness. Part of Solomon’s warning was about sexual temptations that his sons and all of us need to hear.

Twelve foundational lessons in the first nine chapters written from a parent to his children.

But when we get to chapter 10, the structure of the book changes. Instead of focused lessons, we’re given multiple themes in each chapter.

One commentator suggested that the first 9 chapters are from a father to his grade school and teenage kids. King Solomon was giving them the foundations to wisdom. But then chapters 10-31 are for his adult children. I think that’s a reasonable suggestion.

First, look at Proverbs 10:1. It’s on the left under the section titled “The Joys and Sorrows of Parenting.” This is the very first verse after the opening wisdom lessons. That’s why 10:1 begins with the title, “The proverbs of Solomon,” and then it says, “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.”

The very first thing that Solomon conveys in this entire second half is about a son living in wisdom. He wants his sons, perhaps adults now, to live a life of wisdom which would be pleasing to him and to their mother. Some of the Proverbs in chapters 10-31 contain themes more applicable to adults. Like, in today’s focus, disciplining children. Or other themes like just leadership and being a good steward of your money. So, in other words, it’s written to children of all ages – which includes you and me.

I’m pointing this out for a reason. We need to understand the bigger picture of wisdom and foolishness in order to understand how it applies to parents and children. For example, when Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go…”  We first need to know what way he should go be going. That “way” is referring to the way of God’s Word as Proverbs instructs. Parents need to know this way in order to fulfill that Proverb. That’s why the whole book is the best parenting book around.

With that in mind, let’s tackle these verses. We’ll actually start with that last category, Guiding and Disciplining Children. It’s the most focused as far as who it applies to, so I thought we would start there and then get broader.

1. Guiding and Discipline Children

So, disciplining children.

That word, discipline, is used four times in these verses. Like the very first verse listed, Proverbs 23:13. “Do not withhold discipline from a child…” The word discipline in the Hebrew means to be corrected or admonished through some sort of punishment.

Our New Testament reading earlier today spoke about this kind of discipline. That was from Hebrews 12… discipline from both our earthly fathers as well as our heavenly Father. Our earthly fathers “disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

You see, the goal of discipline, is to train the person in righteousness and warn them about the severity of their words or actions.

Disciplining a child is guiding them through the means of a tangible consequence. Children go through different stages as they mature, and discipline helps them to know in concrete ways what is not honoring to God and others. In other words, discipline is directing a child away from folly and evil and toward wisdom and righteousness.

In order to convey that message, children need concrete and tangible consequences when they disobey.

The reason for discipline goes back to what we’ve seen over and over in Proverbs. Foolishness and wickedness lead to sad consequences and death. Discipline is necessary to redirect a child to the road of life.

That idea is captured right there in the very first verses we read from chapter 23. “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Sheol is the grave.

On the top right is a similar one. Proverbs 19:18 “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.” It’s the inverse… If you do not discipline your child, then it’s like you want him to be put to death.

Let me make a brief side note here. I’ve said it before but want to remind you. Proverbs are not formulas. 22:6 is an example of that. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” That Proverb is giving us the general pattern of what leads to life and godliness. It does not remove the responsibility to pray for your child, nor the sinful heart of your child, which may still be led astray. We’ll come back to the sorrows of parenting in a few minutes.

Parents, the call is to discipline your children, because you love them. And that may include corporal punishment (I’m talking about spanking). Four times in these verses, parents are exhorted to use the “rod” for discipline. It’s the same word for a shepherd’s staff. A shepherd’s staff has a hook on one end to grab hold of a sheep and redirect it. But it was also used to strike the sheep as a punishment. The rod is a corrective and protective instrument.

Now, some have suggested that the word “rod” is metaphorical… they would say, instead of physical punishment, it’s referring to the responsibility of discipline in a general way, no matter the form. I would agree that the word “rod” is not always used in a literal way. For example, In Isaiah 10, God says that Assyria is the “rod of my anger.” So yes, sometimes it’s metaphorical, but even in that example, the punishment is still physical.

Let me say a few things to be clear because I know this is a sensitive topic.

·       Corporal punishment is encouraged in Scripture. But I’m distinguishing Biblical corporal punishment from abuse, which is always wrong.

·       When used, though, it needs to be measured and careful. It should be done out of a heart of love and never in a moment of anger. Dads, that’s a hard one at times.

·       Corporal punishment is best for younger children because of its tangible effect.

·       Also, it should be used as a punishment for disobeying and not to force a child to do something.

However, if in your conscience, you are unsure about corporal punishment (you may have some legitimate reasons), then whatever alternate discipline you choose should correspond to the severity of the offense. Discipline needs to make the point clear.

Whatever discipline you choose, always explain why your child is being disciplined – to the extent that you are able to communicate depending on their age and situation.

Let me add one more thing. Shaming your child in front of others is wrong. What I mean is either verbally putting them down for what they did in front of others, or making them do embarrassing things in front of others as a punishment. To be sure, that’s different than telling them to go ask forgiveness from someone they sinned against. They may feel embarrassed but it’s still the right thing to do.

Lots more can be said, of course, but I’ll end it there for now. The bottom line is this: discipline is necessary, and it is a sign of love.

2. Honoring and Obeying your Parents

OK, let’s move to the middle category. #2 Honoring and obeying your parents. As I mentioned earlier this is not just for young children and teenagers, rather, this is also for adults.

But first, I would like to speak to the school aged children here.

Kids, God has given you parents, and he has called you to obey them. And this is really important for your life. Earlier in the service we read the fifth commandment about honoring your parents. It’s one of ten summary statements of God’s law and it is directed to you. That’s how important obeying is.

Let me give you another example where God calls you to obey your parent. There’s a book in the Bible called 2 Timothy. The apostle Paul, guided by God, wrote this book to Timothy, a young pastor, whom Paul was discipling. And in chapter 3, he talks about godlessness. Godlessness includes the things people say and do, which demonstrates that their heart is turned away from God. And he lists all of these evil and foolish things. I want you to listen to this list. He writes: “understand this, that in the last days [he’s talking about now] there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”

Did you hear that? In the middle of that list of grievous sins, he includes, “disobedient to their parents.” God considers obedience so very important. Now, to be sure, God forgives, and he helps.

The book of Proverbs, likewise, emphasizes how important it is to obey your parents. For example, Proverbs 20:20 says “If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.” That image is a grave warning about not honoring your parents.

For the younger children here… at your age, it’s sometimes difficult to understand why you should obey. Sometimes you want to do something and your parents say “no” OR you don’t want to do something and your parents require it. And it’s hard to understand. But, let me say, your parents more often than not, know what’s best for you.

Onetime, I didn’t like all the things my parents told me not to do. So, I decided to run away. I was young, by the way. I packed a small bag with clothes and I told them, “I’m running away!”

And my parents said, “ok, well, umm… the door is always open if you want to come home.” So, I left and went around to the side of the house. I think I lasted like 30 minutes and then came back.

They knew what would happen.

Proverbs 27:8 says, “Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home.” Now, that has applicability to both children and adults. To be sure, it’s not talking about physically leaving, rather, one who leaves behind a faithful commitment to the Lord and his Word.

That’s a good transition because all of us here are called to honor our parents. And that can be difficult at times.

For the adults here, I want you to think about your relationship with your parents… or parent if you grew up in a single parent home. Maybe you live close by and see them often. Or maybe you occasionally visit them. Or maybe you are caring for them in some way. Maybe one or both of your parents have passed away. Whatever your situation, how would you describe your relationship? Loving and caring? Did something happen that broke that loving bond? Is it strained because of other factors, like health or divorce? If you had a father growing up, did he work so hard to provide for the family that you felt he wasn’t there for you when you needed him? Many, many things affect our relationships with our parents. We sinned against them. They sinned against us.

But that doesn’t change the responsibility you have to honor your father and mother… again, whether they are still alive or have passed from this life. It may mean forgiving them for something that happened or a pattern of sin. If your parents are older, honoring them may mean caring for them or helping them in different ways. You may need to honor their choices, even if those choices may not be what you prefer or think is best.

Look at Proverb 23:22 “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” That applies no matter your age or theirs.

To be sure, I am not diminishing the challenges or relational strain, whether current or past. Each situation requires prayer and help.

Nonetheless, we are each called to honor those whom the Lord ordained to be our parents.

3. Joys and Sorrows of Parenting

That brings us to the last category, which is the first there on your list. the Joys and Sorrows of Parenting.

Parenting is full of joys and sorrows… times of rejoicing and times of worry and sadness and fervent prayer. These verses capture that reality:

“A wise son makes a father glad” – multiple verses say that in different ways. Or take chapter 23 verses 24 and 25 “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.”

It is the great joy of parents to have a child or grandchild faithfully walking in the wisdom of God.

And it is a deep sorrow to have a son or daughter walking down the path of folly. The second half of 10:1 speaks of that sorrow, “…a foolish son is sorrow to his mother.” 17:25 is similar, “A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.”

Some of you here carry the weight of a son or daughter who has wandered from the way. It’s a heavy burden and often seems hopeless. And you pray that the Lord would turn your son’s or daughter’s hearts back to him.

Recently, I was listening to a podcast where the hosts were interviewing a guy name Christopher Yuan. He wrote a book a few years ago titled “Out of a Far Country.” In it, he describes his conversion to Christ.

You see, Christopher had gone down the path of drugs, drug dealing, and homosexuality. He lived a life of partying and promiscuity.

His mother, Angela, became greatly distraught because of her son’s choices. At one point her despair brought her to the place of contemplating suicide. It was in that moment that she came to believe in and know Jesus (that’s a story of it’s own). Through her new faith in Christ, she found solace and hope. And she began praying. While Christopher was partying and dealing drugs, his mother prayed. She committed every Monday to pray and fast for her son. And she enlisted dozens of friends. At one point, she fasted 39 days for him.

Well, for Christopher, things came crashing down. He was arrested and sentenced to 6-years in prison for drugs. All of his so-called friends deserted him. He hit rock bottom. And so he reached out to his mom, whom he had not spoken to in a long while. She shared her faith in Christ and that she had been praying for him for years. That had a profound impact on him.

On his third day in prison, he pickup up a book from the trash pile. It was a New Testament, so he took it and read it. Then he read it again and again. And the Lord opened Christopher’s ears to hear. And the Lord transformed his life… The Lord answered his mom’s faithful prayers. After his imprisonment, Christopher dedicated his life to ministry, he eventually received a doctorate in ministry. He now teaches at Moody Bible and also runs a ministry reaching the LGBTQ community with the Gospel. And his mom continues to be his prayer warrior.

Through the joys and sorrows of parenting, there is hope.


That hope comes through the one we call our Heavenly Father and through his Son, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Their relationship perfectly models the relationship between a Father and a son. And every single aspect of their relationship ministers to every single aspect of our relationship with our parents… and if you are a parent, with your children.

Consider three things related to our three points:

·       First, we deserved the fullness of the rod of the Father’s discipline. Yet, that rod of discipline fell on Christ for us. The judgment we deserved for our disobedience, Jesus endured for us. So, children, when you receive discipline from your parents, it is only a shadow of the discipline that you truly deserve. Parents, when you discipline your children, you are demonstrating to them the consequences of sin. That discipline reveals to your children the justice of God and it ultimately points to their need for Christ. That is why discipline is so important for children.

·       Second, Jesus perfectly honored and obeyed his Father. He submitted himself to his Father’s will. And the results of Jesus’ obedience are amazing – his exaltation and glory and our salvation. When we honor our earthly mother or father, even considering their failures, it testifies to the perfect obedience of Christ… and it testifies to how, in him, we can honor and obey our parents, no matter our age.

·       And last, sorrows and trials exist in every single relationship in this world. That is the result of sin. But there is a particular heartache when it is between a parent and child or child and parent. If you know and believe in Christ, you not only have a Savior who took on the discipline you deserved, but in him, you have a Heavenly Father who loves you. He loves you despite your sin. It’s the true love of a Father. And through his love, you can love your parents… and you can love your children despite their sin and wayward lives. You can pray for them trusting in your heavenly Father. And you can rest in his comfort and love through his son.

So, for the parents of young children, here, when you discipline your children, may it point to the one who endured the disciple you deserve. And for the children here, all of us. May we honor our mother and father, not because they deserve it in and of themselves, but because we’re called to and we have a heavenly Father who loves us.