My child, may you keep your father’s instruction, and do not reject your mother’s teachings, for they are a garland of favor for your head, and pendants for your neck. My child, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us! We shall lie in wait for blood; we shall ambush the innocent without cause. Like Sheol, we will swallow them alive and whole, like those who descend to the pit. We shall find all precious wealth, we shall fill our houses with booty, keep your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they hurry to shed blood, for “in vain is the net scattered, in the sight of any winged bird.” They lie in wait for their own blood. They ambush their own lives. Thus, are the ways of all who are greedy for gain—it will take the life of its possessors. Proverbs 1:8-19 LEB
This is a big chunk of Scripture. There is a lot of us who have heard the very beginning of this exhortation against following the crowd but have never had the entire section put with it to give it proper context. No, this is not telling us that we should listen to our father and mother’s teaching over what the Word instructs and teaches us. If your father is teaching you that it’s fine to be a drunk, or a womanizer, or a drug abuser—clearly your father is wrong. If your mother is teaching you that it is fine to gossip, use men and demean those around her, clearly your mother is wrong. So, no, regardless of memes that rally for parents knowing best, this is not where the Bible gives parents the green light to be all up in their adult children’s business while trying to control every aspect of their life. That is called codependency.
There is one thing about this exhortation and warning that all of us should understand. These passages assume that the parents in question are following the Word of God, for the Lord our God and serve Him as a believer should. These passages may be best understood from the vantage point of genuine believers who have raised their child up in piety and love of God and who are now sending that child off to college. For some of us, it may even be viewed as our pastors saying these words to us after having trained us in the ways of the Lord before we venture back among our unbelieving families.
I know that this flies in the face of what most of us have heard or been taught. However, Jesus said in Matthew 12:46-50 that whoever follows the will of His Father were His brother, mother and sisters. Clearly, there is a needed emphasis on following the will of the Lord.
Once I have accepted that, the next thing I realized as I read these passages is that when a sinner entices me, I must not consent; and while that seems like a no brainer, there is no distinction of who those sinners might be. Sinners enticing us, is a background condition which frames in all of the circumstances that follow; and while all of the circumstances that follow are extreme examples of sin, that word sinner used here literally means: a person who has disobeyed any divine command or neglected any duty (whether intentionally or unintentionally). So, in other words, if anyone entices us to sin we are to put the kibosh on that and if it happens to be a brother or sister in the faith, then we need to gently point them back to Jesus and show them grace.
Ultimately, these passages hit me like a forerunner for being called out of the world (John 15:19) and set apart from it (Romans 12:2). We are to follow the instruction of our Father in heaven, contained in His Word. Those who are following the Word are our newfound kin, as we have been grafted into God’s family (Ephesians 2:11-13; 2:19; 3:6). We should pursue that which is good and pleasing to God; and take heed to the commands that are in the passage: do not consent to sin; do not walk in such a way (that is, sin); and keep yourself off of such paths. Pretty straightforward really.
What about you? How do these verses hit you? What do you see differently?
Until Next Time,
 The Lexham Analytical Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017).