My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; for they will be a graceful ornament on your head and chains about your neck. (Proverbs 1:8–9—NKJV)

Youth has many enviable qualities, but wisdom gained by long experience is not one of them. The temptation to think that you have outgrown the need for those older than you is a pitfall to be avoided at all costs. Insightful wisdom gained through years of life is a wealth of resource for the godly, thinking, young man or woman.

Though our text separates the instruction received from a father and the precepts imparted by a mother in poetic form, I believe the distinction is granted to communicate subtle lessons about a godly mother’s legacy for her children. Solomon makes this distinction of roles no less than twelve times in the book of Proverbs, both to powerful and noteworthy effect.

A general reading of the book forces the reader to distinguish between wisdom and folly, wise choices and foolish decisions, wise action versus a fool’s errand, and wisdom’s triumph over a fool’s end. There are precious few sources of trustworthy, distilled and good-willed wisdom available for young people. All other wisdom usually comes to you at a cost, sometimes severe. God, your Creator, is all-wise and by His grace He has given the best of wisdom to live by, both now and eternally, in the Bible. Parents, especially godly ones, are a gift to their children as they dispense biblically tuned wisdom for as long as a child is under their tutelage, but that wisdom is remembered for a lifetime.

A mother’s preceptual teaching is not to be forsaken. The Hebrew word signifies a loosening or relaxing “of the ties of obligation,” to abandon, neglect, and reject. After all, your mother is the one who has known you the longest in your earthly existence. A mother’s love in both action and precept are a treasure to be cherished.

The parental work of consistent instruction in wisdom affords the blessed children some very special tokens in life. Verse nine illustrates imparted wisdom as costly jewelry to be worn before others. A graceful ornament was a token of favor for adorning the head, like a crown for a king or a wreath for a victor. The “chain about the neck” might sound to a rebel’s heart like an “albatross” or a “millstone” (as many young people are wont to think of parental precepts), but, in actuality, it is a necklace for displaying rank before your peers, if not for accessorizing.

Other texts in Proverbs augment this picture. Proverbs 6:20–23 reads, “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck. When you roam, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will keep watch over you; and when you awake, they will speak with you. For the teaching is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” Proverbs 23:22–25 admonishes, “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise child will delight in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice.”

The collection of proverbs ends with the description of a godly woman and mother, but before it does it defines the generation of those whom God opposes. God begins the list (30:11–17) with these words, “There is a generation (kind of man) that curses its father, and does not bless its mother.” Be wise and do not “despise” your mother (15:20), nor be “grief” (cause of heaviness, 10:1) to her.

Have you given thanks for the wisdom that has been imparted to you by those who have nothing but love for you as their motive? Are you drawing from the wisdom of God and passing it along to all who will listen? Trust and obey.