Rev. Bruinsma is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.”
The warning signs are all around us. “The New Single Mom: Why the Traditional Family is Fading Fast” (Newsweek headline, May 28, 2001). “Married With Children Now in the Minority in Michigan” (Headlines of Kalamazoo Gazette, May 23, 2001). The cry is heard everywhere that the traditional definition of the family must needs be changed. The family of modern society no longer fits into the old-fashioned view of what the family is. And since society sets the standard for all things, our definition of the family must change with the changing times!
Unbelief again, as is always the case, puts pressure on the church to change what God Himself clearly teaches us in Scripture about the family unit. And much of the church world is caving in under that pressure! This is true because unbelief itself has made deep, deep inroads into the sphere of the church institute of today. The infallible standard of God’s Word is now ignored, and it is replaced by the humanism of our day. What is good for society is good for the church too, so it is reasoned. This is why much of the fornication that characterizes our licentious society can be found within the sphere of the church today. This is why there is a murmur heard within the church too for acceptance of the changing standard of what constitutes a proper and godly family unit.
As God’s people who are called to make a stand in this world against the evil influence of our degenerating society, we may not become confused, or worse, calloused by unbelief’s evil masquerade of a proper family. We must refuse to let sinful man define for us what constitutes a family. On the contrary, we must look into God’s Word for the correct view of the family. Then we must establish and maintain such biblical families. God establishes His covenant in the line of our generations in the way of proper, godly family units.
That unit of the family is described for us in Proverbs 17:6: “Children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children are their fathers.” In this verse we read of old men and their children’s children, that is, their grandchildren. We also read of the fathers of these children. The Hebrew states all of this using the male gender: “Sons of sons are the crown of old men (grandfathers), and the glory of sons are their fathers.” This does not mean that women are not included in the picture presented by this verse. The mention of the male gender in many passages of the Scriptures often is meant to include the female gender also. (It is rather refreshing, though, to see the family here described in terms of men. The modern idea of the family centers in women almost to the exclusion of men altogether!) The beautiful picture that is presented us by Solomon here is this: grandfathers and grandmothers sharing their lives together with their sons and daughters as well as with the grandchildren those children are bringing forth.
What a foreign thought this passage presents to our present society! Today there is an abnormal mixing of the generations going on. And it is not pretty, though the world of unbelief pretends that it is! The world of wickedness and sin has created it and attempts now to excuse it as “normal” when, in fact, it is far, far from normal! It is a twisted and perverted concept of the family! Even within the church there is so much unlawful divorce and sinful remarriage going on that it is difficult to distinguish fathers and mothers from stepmothers and stepfathers. And since this has been going on for some time already in society, one loses track of one’s true grandfathers and grandmothers or grandchildren!
It is becoming difficult to identify everyone at family gatherings and to know whom to invite to weddings. Here is a possible scenario. When I invite my brother he may take along with him his second or third wife whom I hardly know. That wife may take along with her the children of a previous marriage. Or maybe my brother will take along with him the children of his second marriage whom his third wife hardly knows, but which he has to take care of because his second wife is gone on a trip with her boyfriend. And where are his children with his first wife? Well, they are not there to see grandpa and grandma because his first wife decided to take them along with her! In their place are all these “foreign” children who are not even the flesh and blood of father and mother. All this compounds itself the more when this happens with more than one of the family members. Soon there are children running around that belong to this niece or nephew that are either born out of wedlock or are from a previous marriage. The old man and woman (can they truly be called Grandma and Grandpa anymore?) sit there entirely bewildered! This is their family? Who are all these strangers that somehow are supposed to fit in with their own flesh and blood?
This is not an exaggeration of what is going on in today’s society—including within those families who yet insist that they are “Christian.” Family lines have blurred! It is like mixing together several beautiful colors of paint and coming up with black! The clear and beautiful picture that Scripture draws for us in this proverb of Solomon is lost today! Very few families are left unscathed by the corruption of the family that is taking place.
It is clear from Scripture what God’s ordinance for the family is. God has ordained from the beginning that a man leave father and mother and cleave to his wife that they might be one flesh in the unbreakable bond of marriage. The two, the man and his wife, are called by God, if God so wills, to bring forth together children out of their union with each other. And if that union is unbreakable, then the children they bear are certainly going to be raised by them alone. These children then grow up and also enter into the bond of marriage. In their marriages too they bring forth children who live within the confines and security of a home established by father and mother. These children have their two sets of grandparents whom they learn to love and respect as much as they do father and mother. And so the generations continue one after another. That is the ordinance of God as far as the family unit is concerned.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the standard. There can be the death of a spouse, and remarriage is then allowed by God. There are, also, husbands and wives to whom God does not in His providence give children. There are even cases where a spouse is deserted by another or has obtained a lawful divorce because of the unfaithfulness of the other. These must then raise their children as a single parent. But these exceptions are far from the norm. These occurrences within the church are few and far from creating discord and disharmony in the family unit. God’s ordinance for the family is set. We ought not to allow unbelief, that ignores the dictates of God in every area of life, to determine for you and me what constitutes a proper family. To follow the direction of society today is to end up in the ultimate ruination of the family. We are already finding in some states in the United States the marriage of homosexuals and lesbians, and their adopting or using artificial means to have children in these adulterous relationships!
What a heartwarming and proper picture of the family Solomon gives to us in Proverbs: children’s children are the crown of old men! There is no greater blessing that God can give to a man and his wife than children. Children are a heritage of the Lord. We rejoice when we are able to see in the church young men and women bringing forth children. We sorrow with those who are unable to do so. The wicked may boast of their love for children. But children are, in fact, a burden to them! Avoid them until late in life. Avoid them or even abort them because they might get in the way of one’s fun and career. Wait until one is financially set before having them.
In contrast to this, the Biblespeaks of no greater earthly gift than the joy and satisfaction children can bring. Although to a man and his wife who are not able to have children God also gives contentment and joy in life found in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, these can have their struggles. Why? Because children give great satisfaction to a godly man and his wife. And if that is true of our children, then even more is it true when our children bring forth grandchildren. Children’s children—grandchildren—are the crown of old men! They bring the blessing of children to the highest possible glory. The word for “crown” used here by Solomon is that of a diadem, the crown of a king, a royal crown. The crown of a king was usually made of gold and decked with all kinds of precious jewels. It was a piece of beauty and dignity that signified the royalty of that king.
What a fitting picture: an elderly man sitting in his house sharing in blessed fellowship with his children while around his feet play his grandchildren. That man may be a “nothing” in this world, but in his home he is a king! And his wife is his queen! Look at all those precious jewels in his crown! He sits back—and grandfathers do that, you know—he sits back as proud as a peacock of the riches God has given him in his family. God has beautified his home with children and children’s children. That is a family! That is what God wants us to see and appreciate in order that such a family not be lost in the church. It is too late for the society in which we live. They have long perverted the family unit by their sin and unbelief. No wonder we see the increase of domestic violence in society. The wicked world follows after its idols in Hollywood who make no qualms about perverting the family unit. Certainly, all of this gives rise to the perilous times in which we live (II Tim. 3:1-5), and to the lawless society of our world (Matt. 24:12). But the church must remain faithful in these times. We must, at all costs, preserve the sanctity of the family.
This is only half the picture that this passage in Proverbs 17:6draws for us. There is also the last half of the verse: “the glory of children are their fathers.” That too says much concerning the covenant family. This we will pursue in the next article.