Being a Crown of Glory to Our Family

Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.

Proverbs 17:6

It is possible for a person to bring honor and glory to his family. 

It is also possible for a person to bring shame and humiliation to his family. 

There are fathers and mothers who have brought shame and disgrace to their children through sinful living. There are fathers and mothers who have brought honor to their children by being examples of godliness.

There are children who have brought shame to their parents through rebellion and great sin. And then there are children who have brought honor to father and mother by their godliness.

What do you bring to your family? glory and honor? or shame?

This is the subject of the proverb before us. 

Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.

This proverb speaks of a crown.

Crowns served a number of different purposes in Bible times. When we think of a crown, we usually think of a king. A crown was worn by a king as a symbol of his royal position. The highpriest also wore a crown, although not the kind of crown we usually think of. Fixed to the front of his headpiece (mitre) was a gold plate on which were inscribed the words, "Holy to Jehovah." This was his crown (Ex. 39:30, 31). It served the purpose of consecration, i.e., setting him apart for special service to the Lord. Finally, the crown was used to exalt and honor someone. Crowns were given, for example, to honor the victors in athletic competitions. Crowns of honor were given to those accomplishing great feats in war. Crowns were also given to honor special guests, who were also given seats of honor at feasts. 

It is this latter idea that we find in this proverb. This is evident from the fact that the idea of glory appears in this proverb as a parallel thought. Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers. On the basis of this parallel we can speak of a crown of glory, a phrase that appears often in Scripture. A crown of glory is a crown that gives honor and glory to those who possess and wear it.

Our proverb speaks of various family members who serve as a crown of glory to the rest of their family. 

Mention is made of children's children along with old men. These are grandchildren and their grandparents. Then again mention is made of children and their fathers. This gives us three generations: children, parents, and grandparents.

The family mentioned in this proverb is a covenant family. The perspective of the book of Proverbs is that of the church and covenant as it comes to visible manifestation in the world. The covenant of God is not with isolated individuals here and there but with families in their generations (Gen. 17:7). So in the covenant family described in this proverb there are children, parents, and grandparents.

The point of our proverb is that within the covenant family grandchildren are a crown that brings honor and glory to their grandparents. This is true with respect to children and their parents too. But the point is that covenant children are crowns of glory even to their grandparents. In turn, covenant parents are a crown of glory to their children. This is also true of grandparents. Parents and grandparents serve as crowns to covenant children, crowns that give them honor and glory.

How is this true?

Many consider a family member to be a crown, bringing honor and glory to the family, when that family member accomplishes greatness in the sight of the world. Our society, for example, places a great value on athletic ability and feats. What an honor it is to have a son or daughter excel in sports in high school. Better still it is if he or she goes on to star on the college level. And what glory there is for the few (and their families) that make it to the professional ranks. The same is true for position and wealth. What an honor to those parents whose son has made it big in the business world. What an honor to have a parent who is a congressman, a judge, a lawyer, a doctor....

Members of the household of faith are often influenced by this kind of thinking. They tend to consider great those who have attained greatness in the eyes of the world. They also are inclined to consider those in their families who attain such greatness to be a crown giving honor and glory to the family. Sometimes covenant parents even push their children in this direction.

But this ought not to be. The measure of greatness is not athletic achievement, riches, power, position in society. The proof of this is that these will mean nothing to the Lord in the day of judgment. If all we can show the Lord in the day of judgment are great athletic achievements, riches, position, and the like, we will perish eternally. This is not to say that these accomplishments are wrong. But it does mean that they are not the essence of true greatness and honor. Nor must we consider one a crown of glory to us and our family simply because of these kinds of earthly achievements.

One is a crown of glory to his family only when he lives in godliness.

Godliness is living that is in harmony with the Word and will of God. This godliness involves both a negative and a positive. Negatively, godliness is to avoid the sins and corruption of this present age. Positively, godliness is to do the work God has set before us in His Word. This involves meeting our responsibilities in marriage, in the home, in the church, in every part of our life, and doing so in the loving service of God.

Such godliness is glorious. Those who conform their lives to God's law in godliness reflect the very goodness and perfection of God. What is more glorious than that? In addition, such godliness has a great and eternal reward — the glory of eternal life in heaven.

One is a crown of glory to his family only inasmuch as he lives and displays this godliness, whether he be child, parent, or grandchild.

Such crowns of glory are found in the covenant home and family.

In a covenant home are found believing parents (and grandparents) who by reason of their faith live in godliness in Jesus Christ. By reason of their faith they also train their children in this godliness. They do so in word and by example. In a covenant home you will also find children who by God's grace are receptive to the training of godly parents. And through the work of their parents these children come to know the Lord, live by faith in Him and walk in the godliness of their parents (and grandparents).

Thus do children in the covenant become crowns of glory to their parents and grandparents. No, parents cannot boast of what they have accomplished; for all that their children become in Christ is of God's grace. Every godly parent acknowledges that he is at best only a weak means in God's powerful hand. Nevertheless, it is a great honor to be privileged in God's grace to bear covenant children, train them, and see the glorious fruits of godliness. What crowns of glory such children are.

The same can be said for godly parents and grandparents. They are crowns of glory to their children and grandchildren. What a distinction of honor for children of the covenant to have God as their father in Jesus Christ. This is a crown of glory. So too is the earthly parent who reflects this same heavenly father, a crown giving glory to every covenant child.

The glorious reality set forth in this parable is not always found in the church and covenant of God as they come to visible manifestation in the world.

The sad fact is that sometimes family members, even members of covenant families, can be crowns of thorns, bringing shame and disgrace rather than honor and glory. There are many examples of this in Scripture. Think of the ignominy brought upon old Eli by his two wicked sons, Hophni and Phineas. Think of the grief but also shame that Abraham had to endure because of his wicked son Ishmael and profane grandson Esau. In turn, what a crown of shame the wicked King Ahaz must have been to his godly son Hezekiah. 

There are reasons for this kind of thing in the covenant.

First, not all who are born into the covenant as it comes to visible manifestation in the world are true members of the covenant. Born within the covenant is a carnal, reprobate seed that will never come to know the Lord Jesus. These will never come to godliness but will live their whole lives in the wickedness of sin, often abounding in sin. 

Secondly, the true members of God's covenant do not always walk in godliness. This is the case, for example, with regard to children and young people of the covenant whom God does not convert until later in life. There are also believing adults who backslide and sometimes stray far into the sins of the world, even for long periods of time. For the duration of their sin they become crowns of thorns to their families, bringing shame and humiliation.

This leaves us with a calling. 

Our calling is to walk in all godliness in the power of Jesus Christ, in order that each one of us may be a crown of glory to his family.

This calling comes first to parents and grandparents. Live in godliness so that you are crowns of glory to you children and grandchildren. In that godliness teach your children and grandchildren what the glorious life of the covenant is.

And to children there is this calling: receive the instruction and example of your parents and grandparents. Walk in the godliness of your faithful parents and grandparents, in order that you too may be a crown of glory to them.

To those, young and old, who find that they are crowns of shame to their families there is the calling to repent and in Jesus Christ live in godliness that they may become crowns of glory. 

How urgent is this calling?

There is more involved than the honor or shame you bring to your family. 

There is also the honor and shame you bring to the family of God and to your Father in heaven!