[This post follows “Listen to Your Mother!” — a study of Proverbs 31:1]

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Middle son, Animal Whisperer, who is wearing an incredibly huge sombrero for his 23rd birthday. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

Three (Okay, Four…) Aspects of a Mother’s Christian Instruction

In the previous post, we examined Proverbs 31:1, and saw that it introduced the entire chapter as instruction from a mother (Bathsheba) to a son (King Solomon).

Deeper study shows us that there are three aspects to this instruction. These can be seen if you study this particular cross-reference (note the highlighted portions):

“Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach…” (Prov 22:17)

Let’s start with the “sayings of the wise.”

Who are the “wise” to whom young people should be carefully listening? Let’s look at some cross-references for this phrase:

  •  “…For understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.” (Prov 1:6)
  • “The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh–an oracle: This man declared to Ithiel, to Ithiel and to Ucal –” (Prov 30:1)
  • “My son, pay attention to my (his parent‘s) wisdom, listen well to my words of insight…” (Prov 5:1)
  • “The sayings of King Lemuel–an oracle his mother taught him –” (Prov 31:1)

The first aspect of good Christian instruction is the teacher. It’s interesting that these cross-references refer to the the worth of words spoken by elders, wise people, oracles/prophets and parents in the same way!

As a parent, we teach our children to honor and respect the wisdom, not only of their parents, but also of their elders, their teachers, and ministers of God.

What do they have to tell us that is so important?

Proverbs (wise sayings), parables (stories with a message), riddles (questions to make us think), messages from God, wisdom and insight into the way the world works, things to makes us more informed citizens of the world…

Do all my words measure up to this?

And what do we mean when we say “pay attention and listen?”

  • Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” (Prov 1:8)

Not only should a child listen to the words of his parents, but hold to them, and not leave from them.  When you “attend to” something, you regard it, take care of it, and put effort into it. This is way more than, “Look at me while I’m talking to you!”

And how, exactly, does one “apply to his heart” something that is taught?

  • “…Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding — ” (Prov 2:2)

As a teacher, I know that students process information in a progression of increasingly complex ways:

  1. First, they simply listen to it and remember it. (“You said to stop playing with that boy.”)
  2. Then, they understand it, and can explain it. (“… because if I keep hanging with him, I’ll get into trouble, too.”)
  3. Next, they apply it to their lives. (“I saw Lee playing basketball, so I decided to play soccer, instead.”)
  4. As they get more sophisticated, they can analyze a situation. (“I noticed that whoever is playing with a kid that gets into trouble, gets accused of the same thing, even if they weren’t doing it.”)
  5. Then, they evaluate a situation before entering into it. (“I saw Lee with a group of boys together at the edge of the playground, and I asked myself, ‘What could they be doing over there?’ And I decided it was nothing good, so I stayed close to the swings.”)
  6. If we have done our job really well, they create alternative situations for themselves based on our set of rules. (“I asked Joe and Kahlil if they wanted to get some kids together to play Pony, and they said OK.”)

The first two steps are important, but it is only when we get to the third step where we see changes in behavior. In steps 4 and 5, our kids begin to notice patterns and struggle with making the right decision based on them. By step 6, we finally see behavior that is a result of a change of heart. This is hard work – when you “apply” yourself to something, you work at it, and work at it, and work at it, some more. When a child is creating new, good and godly situations for himself, we know that he has applied his parents’ teaching to his heart.

That applies to us adults, too! This is why the Apostle Paul refers to the new in Christ as needing “milk,” while the mature press on to “solid food” (1 Cor 3:2).

Do you see why the Bible so frequently refers to our hearts (and not our heads) when discussing instruction? God didn’t tell us to write His Word on our brains, but on our hearts (Deut 11:18), and tells us to be wary of working things over in our minds too much (2 Cor 10:5).

Implications for Teaching

I see that teaching things of God to my children is just like teaching math facts. The head has to gain some new information. Then the body has to practice working with that new information, until it knows it by heart. Once the body knows it by heart, it is a part of the whole person.

How come I never figured that out before?

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The Power of a Praying Mother is a mainstay in many Christian homes. $6.36 at Barnes & Noble.

For more on how I plan to apply this learning to my homeschool Christian education, see the next post, “This Mother’s Thoughts on Proverbs 31:1.”

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