The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. (Pro 1:7-9 KJV)
Men as fathers play a strong role in their children’s view of God. We as fathers can instill many false views of God into our children by our words and actions. Absence, abuse, anger, and apathy have been common for five decades now and have resulted in generations of increasing aimlessness, restlessness, and worthlessness. For far too many young men, the closest father figure they have is an officer of the court. This is how it is today. The beginning of this calamity was not so.
The fear spoken of here is not fearing condemnation by God as Judge. It is the familial reverence for God as Father. When children have a good relationship with their father they “fear” what will disappoint him–actions which besmirch the name they have been given. Even when they do disappoint they know that whatever actions are taken by their father will be done in love and for the good of the children. This means they trust their father even when he disciplines them because they are certain of his love for them. It is crucial for men as fathers to image this love of God to their children. Absent this, there is only ever a quivering fear and resentment of the punishment to come.
This fear, this reverence, is here called the beginning of knowledge. This means the foundation, the guide, the head of knowledge. It guides and supports knowledge in the same way the foundation of a building guides and supports the building above it. The stronger the fear (reverence) of the Lord, the stronger the life is that is built on this foundation. With this foundation, a life can be built that is beautiful and the building of it deeply meaningful.
Laying this foundation in a son’s life requires the dedication of both fathers and mothers.
Fathers must instruct, this means they must reprove, but also means that they turn sons to the direction they should go. This is moral instruction, but it is also a careful observation and understanding of the gifts, talents, abilities, and aspirations of their sons, and the use of that understanding to tailor how they approach the teaching and discipline of each son. This is coupled with loving the children so that they know that there is no end to their father’s love.
Mothers must teach the law of the household. The nature of boys is often to be wild and unruly. They must be civilized, taught how to live with order and expectations of responsibility and authority. Their first glimpse of this comes from their mother and how she orders the household. Proverbs 31 gives a high standard of such ordering: a woman who diligently engages in housework, teaching, running a farm/vineyard, an international business, and charity work for the poor. She is so diligent in these works to order her household, that her husband’s reputation is based on his wife’s good name. By action and example, she teaches these things to her children.
Failure to do these things brings about a generation of fools who despise wisdom and instruction. The word despise means to “attack the house”. It is not the case that they simply ignore wisdom and instruction. They actively seek to burn it down to ashes. Principles, traditions, institutions, are all attacked relentlessly, not because they have failed, but because they have succeeded. As such bulwarks are weakened and begin tottering, it then becomes easy to topple them.
This is what happened over a long period in America, starting after the Civil War and accelerating during the twentieth century. During the sixties, this destruction reached a crescendo but did not stop. Instead, foolishness was plunged deep into the culture and proclaimed loudly from the rooftops. New principles, traditions, and institutions were, and are, constantly proposed and tried, but all fail because they are like building a highrise on mud. Collapse is inevitable and inescapable. Each generation becomes more foolish, despising the one before it, more unstable, more incapable, and ever surer of their moral superiority.
For too many Christians, the answer to this tottering civilization of ours is to buttress the rickety structure with calls for action to that great Baal of our time, the government. But as the one of old, this one too will prove mute and powerless to bring what is needed.
The answer lies in that simple phrase, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” How much will be lost before we return to its simplicity and grace?