Proverbs 4:3

When I was a son with my father,

    tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,

Proverbs 4:3 ESV

Here, the writer indicates that the timing of his father’s instruction was early in his life, when the son was still “tender.” Tender can mean tender of flesh or soft of heart. In either case, in this context it seems to mean that the boy was quite young. An additional consideration is that the boy was the only one in the sight of his mother.

If this be the case, what are the implications upon fathers today? How does this verse guide a wise father in terms of teaching his son (or daughter)? In so many ways the modern culture has spun this proverb on its ear, allowing young children to teach their parents. A common thread in so many movies and television shows is that the parents are wrong and the kids are right. And given enough time and circumstances, the parents will realize their own foolishness and their children’s wisdom. Today, young boys (3, 4, and 5 year olds!) are telling their parents they are girls and the culture says the parents should listen to the child. And some parents actually accept that instruction. Think about it, a child that usually doesn’t even know how to tie his shoes is smart enough and wise enough to discern the depths of his own sexual identity. Interestingly, most parents, even those open to transgendering their boys, would not believe it if their 4 year old son told them he is a horse. They might play along with the child’s fantasy in some ways, but they certainly wouldn’t begin feeding him oats and hay or building a barn to provide him a place to sleep.

In this proverb the writer provides the order of instruction and the timing of the instruction. First, the parents teach the children. Second, they should begin that instruction early in life.

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