There are those who curse their fathers
and do not bless their mothers.
There are those who are clean in their own eyes
but are not washed of their filth.
There are those—how lofty are their eyes,
how high their eyelids lift!
There are those whose teeth are swords,
whose fangs are knives,
to devour the poor from off the earth,
the needy from among mankind. (Proverbs 30:11-14, ESV)
The passage begins in the King James Version, “There is a generation.” In the English Standard Version above, the word “generation” is placed in a footnote and is translated, “There are those who…” Sadly the translators missed an important point of the passage, that of the common shared values of people in any society of a generation can become ungodly. It reads in the ESV as though the inspired author was only speaking of a few random people here and there, and not to a generational trait. The Hebrew word is dor, and was commonly used in scripture for a generation. For example, Genesis 7:1, God spoke to Noah and his household, admitting them into the ark because they were “righteous in this generation.” It is more often used to describe the people of a certain era than time itself. The Hebrew word dor seems related to the word dur which means “dwelling.”
My academic background is in world missions and we study social anthropology and culture. It is a well established fact that we each are influenced by the thoughts and values of our generation. None of us can escape this reality entirely. Though we may, as Noah did, go against the predominant values of our generation and dedicate our hearts to the Lord, we cannot help but pray, as did Daniel and Isaiah, for God’s deliverance and mercy to us for our sins and because we “dwell amidst a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). We must acknowledge the temptation, the lure and pull of this world on our own hearts.
The scripture speaks of a generation that rises whose hearts are far from God. Many times in history we have seen such generations that rose against God, whose hearts were characterized by the traits described here. In later generations God sends revival, or He sends pestilence, or He sends both, and a new generation rises with better values.
It seems to me that we are here today - that this generation described here has risen in the West, and continues to rise throughout the world. Four ungodly traits are described:
- Disrespect for parental authority - we presume this means that all other authorities they also challenge.
- Denial of personal responsibility - they are clean in their own eyes and do not take responsibility for their own sins and problems
- Pride - they feel entitled to everything, even though they have not earned it.
- Greed - they have no pity for others and devour others to fatten their own pocketbooks.
These four traits - disrespect of authority, denial of personal responsibility, pride, and greed - run rampant in our current generation. They are destroying the fabric of our culture. We need a revival of our souls to lead us back to God.
The biblical values that they have supplanted are:
- Respect for authority - Ephesians 6:1-3 and Romans 13:1-7
- Acceptance of responsibility, leading to repentance and the confession of sins - 1 John 1:9-10
- Humility of heart - James 4:7-10
- Generosity - 2 Cor. 9:6-15
The age-old question is whether or not we will bow our hearts to the Lord or whether we will follow the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit who is now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). We must live in this world but we must also live apart from it in our hearts and values. Jesus prayed to the Father that we recognize our divine origin as His children:
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:14-18, ESV)
We need to realize our divine origin in our salvation - as Christians we are not of this world but of God. We need to be sanctified by the Word of God. We need to be protected from the evil one, or the devil. If we walk with God daily in fellowship and in knowledge of the Word, if we also fellowship with spiritual believers, we will find His strength to live above the values of our fallen generation.