Bearing the Family Image – Proverbs 17

“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6)
“A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.” (Proverbs 17:26)

The time has come again for us to consider the big picture of what The Book of Proverbs is about. As the most ancient “youth life manual,” this book of wisdom ushers its readers into a time of instruction from a loving father to his children. The father’s lecture is more than a pep talk, however; it is an earnest, passionate plea for his sons to gain godly wisdom while they are at home and to carry this wisdom into their lives as husbands, fathers, employees, and citizens. Solomon wants the best for his children. He wants them to avoid danger and evil and find joy in godliness. What motivates Solomon’s wishes is no different than what fathers expect from their children today: those children bear the family image and take it wherever they go.

Whether a grandchild of a Rockefeller or a Bin Laden, a typical person has a connection to his forefathers by virtue of his ancestry. Such a heritage can be good or bad; in some cases, bearing the family name brings great pride while in others it brings shame. Likewise, parents and grandparents long to experience moments of family pride as they watch their children succeed. What children do and who they become is a reflection of their family, a sort of booklet that reveals a larger anthology of instruction, home life, and personality inherit in a family. Such a reflection may not always be accurate, but it certainly communicates something about one’s family. This is why three times in Proverbs 17, Solomon says a foolish son is a disgrace to his family (v2, v21, v26). He also warns of the danger of a household filled with strife (v1). Positively, however, he also says “grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers” (v6). The family and its image is very important to Solomon.

Bearing the family image is also important to the Lord. As we read Proverbs 17, we’re not only reading of a man who wanted to keep a good reputation through his sons; we’re also reading the Holy Spirit’s inspired words. God is telling us that our character and lives reflect our family image. Though the imago Dei was corrupted through sin, it has been restored in Christ. Christians bear the image of a new family, the family of God. God the Father has adopted us as sons and daughters. Jesus Christ has become the firstborn among many brethren. Our fellow Christians are our blood-bought brothers and sisters in the Lord. The wisdom in Proverbs 17 is given to us that we may resemble our family image more accurately, that we may bring glory to our Father and not shame, and that we may consider the weight of what it means to be a child of the Most High, bearing his name and image, as we walk through this world.

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