In 1970 (incidentally, the year I became a Christian), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released the song, Teach Your Children. The tune was memorable, and the lyrics were of war protest and lament. My thoughts and values are certainly different, but Graham Nash’s chorus of teach your children well echoes the note of warning and concern of parents for their children.
These are tough times in which to be a parent, and I am very grateful for all the help I have had through the years. In March of 2001, my husband and I heard Tedd Tripp speak at his Shepherding A Child’s Heart conference. From Proverbs 1, Dr. Tripp listed three foundations of life to give your teenagers:
Proverbs 1:8-9 Remembering your parents’ words:
Remind them that no one loves them like you do.
Proverbs 1:10-19 Disassociation from the wicked:
The attraction of association with the wicked is camaraderie—a sense of belonging. Make home a great place to belong.
Our two children were about 11 and 15 at the time, and I decided to do a Bible study with them in Proverbs. I printed the text of Proverbs, double-spaced, so that we could mark the words as we read through it together. We each had our own copy of Proverbs and our own set of colored pencils!
I kept the study very straightforward and informal. We read and marked and talked together. We marked key words, noted contrasts, comparisons and conclusions as they came up and marked simple lists within the text. Proverbs covers a wealth of topics: relationship with the Lord, benefit of wisdom, results of foolishness, the snare of wicked companions, integrity, sexual purity, money, the tongue, scoffing, respect, anger, work, etc. Dr. Tripp suggested educating your children to dangerous situations and role playing with them, and Proverbs gives you an opportunity to talk over just about everything!
There are key ideas, people and behaviors to note. Throughout the book we marked the key ideas of wisdom, instruction, understanding, knowledge and instruction; and key people: wise man, naive, youth, son, mother, father, fool, sinner, scoffer, etc. We marked and discussed the various relationships, good and bad situations, and behaviors, as we read about them. We talked about things they were going through or situations they might encounter in the future and possible ways to handle different problems.
To start the study with your own children, I suggest reading the first seven verses and talking about the author and the purpose of the book. From these verses you can also discuss with your children what God can accomplish in their lives through Proverbs, and why this book is important.
Working through an entire chapter in one sitting is information overload. After the first chapter, read through a chapter aloud (or section if the chapter is long) and briefly discuss the main ideas. The next time together start working through it paragraph by paragraph, marking and discussing as you go. I would suggest discussing Dr. Tripp’s three foundations of life in Proverbs 1, after you have finished the corresponding section of the first chapter.
I think it is really important as you go through this to help your children learn to dwell on, think through and meditate on God’s Word. Love and transparency on your part will encourage them. Talk about what is going on in their life and go before the Lord together to ask for and apply His wisdom.
There are sections in James (adversity, temptation, favoritism, tongue, wisdom, riches) that make excellent cross references. In addition to James, there are several passages in Paul’s letters that can be used. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:28 through 2:26, are of crucial importance to help your children see that we cannot know God’s wisdom or live wisely without the Holy Spirit enabling and empowering us. 1 Timothy 6 discusses money and contentment, and 2 Timothy 2 speaks of fleeing youthful lusts. The Lord knows what your children will be facing and how He wants them to grow in wisdom and knowledge of Him. Pray together with them about what they are learning.
Be in prayer that your children will see and know the greatness and excellence of God in Proverbs and the depth of His love and your love for them. Dr. Tripp stated, “Communication is more than telling my children what I think. The finest art of communication is learning what they think.” Ask Him for wisdom in knowing the right questions to ask and the right Scripture to use. Ask Him to enable you draw out your children’s hearts and guide them with love and wisdom.
Because I was teaching my children at home, we worked on this first thing in the morning and it took us a number of months to go through Proverbs. As an alternative, this study could be done in the afternoons two or three days a week or during summer. Dr. Tripp also suggested reading through the prophets with your teenagers.
Remember that God works through His Word to change hearts!
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
I love the combination in this passage of the power of God’s Word, our accountability to God and the grace and mercy we find in Jesus Christ. It is a wonderful passage to keep before your children—and to keep before yourself! That brings me to another excellent piece of advice I received years ago: if you want your children to improve in a certain area of their lives, work on that area in your own life!
The following suggestions are not exhaustive, but are an example of how I did the study, and to give you some ideas on Proverbs 1:1-7, and beginning the book with your children:
Pray and ask the Lord to teach and give wisdom. Read through the first seven verses together. Who wrote the book and what form does it take? What is a proverb? Underline all the times the word ‘to’ is used and the verb that follows. From these infinitives, what does Solomon want these proverbs to do in a person’s life? Who is mentioned and how is their life changed? What attitude is necessary for life change? What is the attitude of a fool? What are some things you’ve seen that were the consequences of wise/foolish actions? How does knowing Jesus make a difference in how we are to live?
1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
To discern the sayings of understanding,
3 To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice and equity;
4 To give prudence to the naive,
To the youth knowledge and discretion,
5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning;
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The next time read the entire chapter and overview the topics. The third time, you can begin to read, mark and discuss Proverbs 1, section by section.
May the Lord richly bless you and your children through His Word.
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Caveat: I think most who read this realize that when I quote someone it doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with everything that person had said or written, but I wanted to make this clear. There are times I read my own writings and disagree with something I have written previously!
Original content: Copyright ©2010 Iwana Carpenter