A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.
How much pain do you cause your parents? How much will your children cause you? Solomon observed this calamity in families, where a foolish child can cause both parents great pain. The lessons are simple – obey and honor your parents, and train your children.
Godly parents know this proverb is true. Fathers grieve when children are foolish, and mothers are pained seeing them reject wisdom for folly. Worldly parents are not as troubled, because they do not understand wisdom, nor do they recognize foolish children.
Mothers endure pain bringing their children into the world (Gen 3:16; John 16:21), and they work hard and long bringing those children to maturity (I Tim 5:8). But if they neglect training them in the way of the Lord, those children can bring far greater grief and bitterness in the future than childbirth or thankless years doing laundry (Pr 29:15).
What should you learn? First, obey your parents. When you disobey, you cause them pain. If you disobey them, you will reap what you sow – future pain from your own children (Gal 6:7). There is nothing weak about remembering how your mother will feel when she learns of your sins. Such thoughts have held some men back from crimes. God defends parents, and His punishment of rebellious children is terrible (Pr 20:20; 30:17).
Second, honor your parents. This goes beyond obeying them. Honoring parents is treating them affectionately, kindly, reverently, and specially. Do you show careful respect for them at all times? God condemns even speaking lightly about parents (Deut 27:16). God condemns even disrespectful facial expressions (Pr 30:17). Because God honors parents, He promises great rewards for you to honor them – a good life and long life (Eph 6:2-3).
Third, choose wisdom. After obeying and honoring parents, you should choose a godly and wise lifestyle dedicated to righteousness and truth. Your highest reasons to do so should be God’s glory and serving His kingdom on earth. But before you consider your own prosperity and pleasure under God’s blessing for such a life, you should consider showing your parents the best character and conduct for their great peace and pleasure.
What else should you learn? Child training, requiring sacrifice and investment, has a fabulous return for all parties. It will save you from the grief and bitterness described, and it will bring joy and pleasure to see children living godly and productive lives (Pr 10:1; 15:20; 17:21; 19:13,26; 23:15-16,24-25; 27:11; 29:3,17). It will also bring prosperity and success to your children, and you will please the God who loaned your children to you.
If you train your children when they are young, they will give you pleasure when they are old, by walking in the ways you know are good (Pr 22:6). God loaned them to you with foolishness bound in them, but He has told you how to drive it far away (Pr 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14). Fathers, training is not an option (Eph 6:4). And mothers, you must participate as well (Pr 1:8; 6:20). The choice is up to you, but the consequences are certain.
Parent, do you have a godly approach to child training? Or is life just happening in your home? Are you so distracted, frustrated, and tired that you are raising them with meals and clothes, but no training? Are your children growing up without daily correction and instruction in truth? The pastor cannot do it for you, and public education is against truth. God chose to have wisdom communicated by parents to children (Deut 6:4-9; 29:29).
Why did you have children? If you will not teach them the fear and love of God, you should not have had any (Ps 34:11). One of the greatest problems in the world today is AWOL fathers – men deserting their responsibility to teach and train children in godliness and wisdom (Deut 6:6-9; Eph 6:4). The pain described in the proverb will come on both parents, but great pleasure for all can result from both parents doing their jobs.
If you trained your child, and you have a fool, he will bear his own burden (Gal 6:5). There have never been perfect parents, and God knows it. If all your children are good, then you must not require enough, these must not be perilous times, Jesus must not have a family sword, the Bible’s warnings must not be true, and holy men with foolish children must be losers. Take comfort there is more in play with your children than your training.
Remember the great men and women of the Bible and their problems with children, lest you despair. Consider Noah (Ham), Isaac and Rebekah (Esau), Jacob (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, and others), Manoah and his wife (Samson), Eli (Hophni and Phineas), Samuel (Joel and Abiah), Job (sons), David (all), Hezekiah (Manasseh), and Mary (Jesus’ unbelieving siblings). These grieving parents are some of the best saints in the Bible.
Christian, do you consider the grief you cause your heavenly Father by foolishness or worldliness (Ps 95:10)? While He is truly independent of actual harm by your sins (Job 35:5-8), His influence can be grieved and quenched in your life (Eph 4:30; I Thess 5:19). You can please or displease your heavenly Father (II Sam 11:27; I Kgs 3:10). Feel the meaning of these words: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children” (Eph 5:1).