"Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, And give attention that you may gain understanding" Proverbs 4:1
There is much said today about fathers. We hear about 'absent fathers' or 'deadbeat fathers.' Sitcoms frequently portray fathers as clumsy and clueless. Yet the Proverbs are quite clear on the vital role the father plays in the lives of his children. In this text, there are three key points made.
First, a father should instruct. Of course, there are fathers who fail in this great responsibility. They leave this vital instruction to mom, the church, the school or the society. Our prisons are full of men who grew up without a father (or even a male figure in their developmental years). Yet in this book dad is taking charge. He is "manning up" and being what God demands and what his children need. The apostle Paul said: "And fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).
Second, when a father instructs, the son should hear. It is true that some fathers fail to instruct. Yet there are many times that the father does instruct but the son is not a willing listener. There are so many "voices" in the world today that demand attention. There are the voices of the son's peers (Proverbs 1:10-14), the voices of immoral women (Proverbs 7:10-18); the voices of earthly wealth (Proverbs 8:10-11). Today we hear the voices of rock stars and movie stars. How have these people earned the right to instruct our children? They haven't, yet many hear then nevertheless. The son needs to be discerning (Proverbs 1:4) and to listen to the voices of wisdom.
Third, when the son does hear, it should make him intelligent. The father in the book of Proverbs is a good, godly man. His instruction is based upon the words of God (Proverbs 2:6) and upon his own years of experience. Therefore, the son, when he listens (and heeds) will "gain understanding." There are many sons out these who say their father was the single greatest influence on their lives. There are also those sons who remember well the instruction of their father, instruction that they chose to ignore. Now they are paying the price of that choice.
Dads, let us not lose heart. We must press on in this most important work of teaching and training our children (Proverbs 22:6). Sons, learn to be discerning. Weed out those voices of fools, and hear the voices of those who truly care about you and your spiritual development.
--Reprinted in Honor of My Dad