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A Study of Proverbs 4:5-13


Throughout our lives, Mom has been trying to teach us and make us the kind of person she would like us to be. It seems there are some words of advice that all mothers are famous for:

"If you keep on looking cross-eyed, you won’t be able to see straight."

"If your friends would jump off a cliff, would you do that too?"

"Finish your dinner, there are children starving in China."

"Because I said so."

"Always wear clean underwear in case you are ever in a car accident and have to go to the hospital."

"Just wait till your father gets home."

This is the first Mother’s Day I will be without my Mom, so I have been reflecting on how I can honor her. And as I thought about it, I realized that we all honor our Moms by the way we live our lives. Even though there were some things we didn’t want to hear from our mother, as we became adults, we found ourselves agreeing with her more and more and even perhaps repeating some of her famous sayings to our own children!

As we think of Mother’s Day this year, I would like us to examine how we can honor our Moms by the decisions we make and the way we choose to live our lives. In Proverbs 4:5-13 is a section of scripture about getting wisdom. I don’t think it’s any chance that wisdom is portrayed as a woman, in fact it is portrayed a lot like a mother who cares for her children. As we look at these verses, let us examine how we can honor our mothers by applying the wisdom she has taught us over her lifetime.

Verse 5

Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.

Sometimes we make wise decisions, and other times we make foolish decisions. Our choices are telling others how we have been raised. When our parents have a genuine love and concern for us, they will speak instruction to us and try to teach us right from wrong. This verse tells us to listen to the words of wisdom from their mouth. Every time we make a wise decision and choose to do the right thing or act in an unselfish way, we are honoring our parents and the training they have bestowed upon us.

Even though my Mom is now gone, I realize that my life continues to honor her. As a child there were many times when I was sick and Mom had to stay up late with me, praying for me, and wondering what my future might hold. I remember how proud Mom was when I entered into the ministry, and I realize that much of my training for ministry had been received while I was growing up. When we really take the time to think about it, it is amazing how much our parents’ training has helped us to be the kind of person we are today.

Schloerb comments, "The home is the primary and most important factor in the education of a young person. The church and the school have a part in bringing him the knowledge he needs and in cultivating the attitudes that will help him to make the most of his life. But the home is supremely important, since it has the child in the formative years, and since a large proportion of the individual’s time is spent at home."

Verses 6-7

Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you.

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.

We are not to forsake the wisdom that Mom taught us. This wisdom will preserve us and keep us. I sometimes think we underestimate the tremendous influence our mother has had on our development. Here are two famous sayings:

"The future destiny of the child is always the work of the mother." – Napoleon Bonaparte

"All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." – Abraham Lincoln

As we live our lives, do we see the positive values of our parents emerging more and more? As we live our lives, do we gain new understanding and insights as to how our parents were right after all? As we live our lives, do we gain more wisdom and suddenly realize that the wisdom we have discovered sounds a lot like what our parents told us so many years ago? We should. This is part of the growing up process.

Verse 6 tells us that wisdom will preserve us and keep us. I believe it is that wisdom we received from our parents which helps us. It is as though we are living our life with guide posts along the way. We have been given the basic instructions, and as we travel through life, we start to recognize the signs and markers that our parents have planted in our minds – markers that lead us into the path of wisdom and understanding.

Verses 8-9

Exalt her, and she will promote you; she will bring you honor, when you embrace her.

She will place on your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory she will deliver to you.

The wisdom we have received from our Mother’s tender instruction will help us make wise decisions. How often have we stubbornly gone our own way and only later realized how better it would have been if we had listened to the sound advice of our parents.

Notice the blessings that are promised in these two verses when we follow after wise instruction. Verse 8 tells us when we exalt wisdom, we will be promoted. I believe this is true in every area of our life. We all know how a conscientious and industrious worker will be promoted on the job, but following after wisdom will affect our entire life. Do we try to be a good parent, a good spouse, a good neighbor, a good friend? As we follow the wise advice taught us, we will find that others will honor us. Our spouse will love us, our children will respect us, our neighbors will be friendly to us, and our friends will admire us. Verse 8 tells us that when we embrace wisdom, we will be honored.

Another benefit we receive from heeding the wise instruction of our parents is shown in verse 9 – people will see us as gracious and we will be held in high esteem by others. We may never be famous, or rich, or very successful in the eyes of this world, but we will have treasure of the spirit and the soul as we follow after those simple teachings that Mom so patiently tried to give us.

The Interpreter’s Bible remarks, "Proverbs pays high tribute to mothers. Their instruction may be less stern than that of a father, but it may provide the climate of love and affection in which the best attributes can grow. That man is fortunate who has a mother who provides the emotional security which is needed by everyone. He who is sure of his mother’s love has a great asset to sustain him during the trying times in his life."

Verse 10

Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many.

It is really true that if we live our life according to Godly principles, we will have a healthier and longer life. All the sins condemned in the Bible lead in one way or another to health dangers. Drugs, alcohol abuse, illicit sex, immoral behavior, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness all cause physical and emotional ailments. And they are all condemned in scripture. Not only are they spiritually harmful to us, but they have shortened many people’s lives.

As Fritsch points out, "The idea that long life is the reward of right living is common in Proverbs. He who walks in God’s path will have his protection and so will live his years to the full without being violently cut off. should be noted that the joys and blessings of this present life are not only God’s rewards here on this earth, but also earnests of those fuller and more wonderful joys in the world to come."

So all those times when we remember Mom saying to eat our vegetables, or to not have too many sweets, we now realize that Mom was right.

Verse 11

I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths.

Our parents tried to teach us the way of wisdom and tried to lead us into the right paths. I can remember as a child my Mom talking to me about the importance of accepting all people no matter what their race or nationality. Mom told us of the time when she was first married and the Air Force transferred Dad to Georgia where Mom got a job in the Post Office. She would speak to all her customers – white and black – by addressing them by the title Mr. or Mrs. This was Georgia in the late 1940’s so Mom was told by the postmaster that in Georgia they did not use those titles for black customers. Mom stood her ground and informed them that was not the way she was raised. When Mom finally retired from the Post Office in California in the 1980’s she had made many Hispanic friends because she took the time to learn Spanish so she could help the many migrant farm workers that worked in the area with their postal needs. It is one thing for a parent to preach about doing what’s right, but it is another thing when you actually see them do what is right by their actions.

Mom was also adamant in passing down moral values. There were certain standards which were not to be tolerated. That’s the way Mom and Dad lived their lives, and it had an effect on their children. Just as it says in verse 11, it taught us the way of wisdom, and it taught us how to walk in right paths.

Every time I reach out to someone who may be of a different race or nationality, every time I practice those moral values that were taught me, I am honoring my parents. I am continuing my Mom’s and Dad’s legacy.

Verse 12

When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble.

As we honor the wisdom our parents have passed down to us, it is amazing how easier our lives are. Verse 12 tells us that our steps will not be hindered, and when we run, we will not stumble. Stubbornness and rebelliousness leads to heartache and despair, but honoring our Mom by learning from her wisdom will help us in our everyday activities.

Here’s a wonderful poem about mothers that I found. It tells us about what is truly important. As you read this poem, think of how your Mom blessed you. And then think of how you can honor her with your life.

Just Mother

She could not paint, nor write, nor rhyme
Her footprints on the sands of time,
As some distinguished women do;
Just simple things of life she knew –
She was no singer, neither blessed
With any special loveliness
To win applause and passing fame;
No headlines ever blazed her name.
But, oh, she was a shining light
To all her loved ones, day and night!
Her home her kingdom, she its queen;
Her reign was faithful, honest, clean,
Impartial, loving, just, to each
And every one she sought to teach.
Her name? Of course, there is no other
In all the world so sweet – just Mother!

Verse 13

Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life.

This verse tells us we are to take firm hold of instruction. What is it that your Mom has passed on to you? What wisdom and understanding have you learned? I pray that God will help us realize that as we live our lives according to divine principles, we are honoring the instruction that Mom had given us for so many years. Let us never forget that we are a child of our parents. Much of our personalities, our inclinations, our likes and dislikes, we received from Mom and Dad – some of it genetically, other by instruction, and still other by watching their example.

Arnot reports of a commercial fishing ship earlier this century which was sinking off the coast of South America. The life boats were loaded with the crew and a few necessities for survival, and they shoved off away from the sinking ship. Suddenly, two of the strongest swimmers jumped out of the lifeboats and returned to the sinking ship. As the water level began approaching the level of the deck, the two men boarded the ship hurriedly retrieving a forgotten item. As they dived back in the water the descending ship started to created a whirlpool which threatened their lives, but they were strong swimmers and so returned safely to the lifeboats. What did these two men risk their lives for? The ship’s compass. They needed it to be able to steer the lifeboats to safety. Without it they would float aimlessly in the South Seas. With the compass they would be able to find their way back to land and to help.

In a way each of us have a compass to help guide us to safety. That compass is all the Godly teachings and instructions that we have received over the many years of our lives. We need to follow the directions from that compass. It will lead us to a quiet harbor and a place of safety.

Whether your Mom is no longer with you as in my case, or whether you are blessed to still have your Mom to encourage and support you, remember that our lives are a reflection of what Mom has tried to train us to be. What do our actions tell the world? Do we honor or dishonor our Mom? Let us live our lives in such a manner that we honor our Moms. May everyone know that we had parents that loved us enough to teach us the right way to do things. I can’t think of a better way to honor our Moms on this Mother’s Day!


This Mother’s Day message on Proverbs 4:5-13 1999 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.

All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the New King James Version 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers

Schloerb: The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4, pg. 786 1955, Abingdon Press

Famous sayings from The Complete Speaker’s Sourcebook pg. 168 1996, Zondervan Publishing House

The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4, pg. 786 1955, Abingdon Press

Fritsch: The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4, pg. 798 1955, Abingdon Press

Just Mother by May Baker from The Complete Speaker’s Sourcebook pg. 169 1996, Zondervan Publishing House

Arnot: from Gray and Adams’ Bible Commentary, vol. II, pg. 764-765, Zondervan Publishing House

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