Before I knew Christ as my Savior, I was familiar with the phrase “everything will work out for good.” The more familiar I became with evangelical Christianity, the more I learned similar phrases like “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” and “God helps those who help themselves.” ...
Witness new parents and, despite the unnerving sleeplessness of those early days, you will likely see aweing smiles and hear expressions of joy and every good intention possible for their new addition.
While little can prepare a new parent for the round-the-clock needs of a new baby, nothing can prepare a new parent for the overflowing love.
Scripture does not chide parents for their brimming desire to give good gifts to their children—rather, it assumed that God’s design is for parents to have full, generous hearts. Proverbs highlights what children might anticipate from godly parents:
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. (Proverbs 1:8-9)
By the time this Proverb was written, Israelite parents had already been instructed to teach God’s ways to their children:
And these words [the law] that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
Proverbs 1:9, then, designates this earlier parental charge for instruction and teaching of God’s Word to children as joyous head- and heart-adorning: “a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.”
Head Wreaths and Neck Pendants
A literal head wreath and pendant for the neck in the ancient Near East were considered symbols for honor and prestige. For example, when Joseph had favor with Pharaoh, he was adorned with a gold chain around his neck (Genesis 41:41).
This necklace was a “badge of rank” or “dignity.” And Egyptian heroes wore a great wreath after victory over enemies, signifying what was considered the vindication of power and status that accompanied being a victor.
In the Egyptian context, a neck pendant and head garland could theoretically be given for honor to even a deceitful leader or a wayward victor-king. The qualifier for these was not the inner man, but the outward status or victory.
Similarly, unwary parents can cause dissonance between God’s good purposefor a parent’s overflowing heart and their children receiving the goodness God intents. Perhaps an abundance of entertainment, possessions, or social and educational status can become viewed as the best honor and prestige a parent might enable.
But Proverbs 1:8-9 corrects. God’s own Word, crowning and ruling the mind—what richer education? And God’s own Word, hanging beautifully upon the heart to steer its direction—what finer possession?
God Adorns Us with His Victory
According to Psalm 149:4, in God’s pleasure with His people, He “adorns” us with His victorious salvation. Reflecting Him, the honor of parenthood is to adorn children with a knowledge of God’s grace and ways.
He allows His people who are parents to, as it were, place His garland of grace upon a child’s head and fasten His pendant of true instruction and teaching around the neck.
Parents wanting to give generously to their children might feel inadequate, like enough can never be bestowed. But the grace of victory in Christ over sin and death and the value of God’s pure and wise ways have already come from the heavenly Father for parents to give.
God’s intention for the parent’s full heart is not ultimately about what we have to give, but adorning our children with what God has already given us. Biblical instruction and teaching “themselves are the adornments” that outrank other good gifts.
As parents, we can pray that our children hear and do not forsake the instruction and teaching of the Lord for any lesser honors or values (Proverbs 1:8), as we display the same through what we communicate to our children is most prized to flow from us to them.
And in rightly directing our hearts, we can find that passing forward God’s grace that cannot be fully fathomed abundantly satisfies our longings to give.
Photo Credit: Unsplash
 Proverbs 1:9 and Genesis 41:41 are related according to Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 1: 391.
 Ibid., 1:42.
 Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004) 187-188.