How can it be that one of the greatest joys can also be one of the greatest challenges a man and woman face? So it is when it comes to parenting! Self-appointed experts have written thousands of books over the last century on child rearing. Psychologist, psychiatrists, educators, counselors, pastors, neighbors, friends and family all have opinions about how you should train and discipline your children. It is amazing how many of us were experts on the art of rearing children—until we had children of our own!
Proverbs 22:6 is one of the best known and most quoted verses in Proverbs. It is the aspiration of godly parents and the club of discouragement for parents wrestling with the will and path of a rebel. Solomon writes:
Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up [initiate; inaugurate; dedicate; consecrate] a child in the way [road; path; journey] he should go: and when he is old [aged; “hair on the chin”], he will not depart [turn aside; withdraw] from it.”
Many parents languish in the throes of discouragement and heartbreak when a child they love rebels, turning away from his parents, church and God. Believing Proverbs 22:6 is an absolute guarantee, they bear guilt (often heaped upon them by the judgments of others), which drives them to despair. They confess they were not perfect parents and feel the sinful path their child has chosen is due to their failures [or the failures of others]. Even the rebel, raised in church and following his parents’ rationale concerning Proverbs 22:6, is quick to throw the responsibility for his wickedness onto his parents and other authorities in his life.
Herein is the problem: A proverb is a proverbial expression, a wise saying and a general truth. It is not a guarantee. In other words, Proverbs 22:6 is not a “parenting guarantee” because it is subject to a child’s individual free will. A child can choose to embrace or reject parental instructions and commands.
“Train up” carries in its original meaning, long before there were supermarkets selling processed baby food, the practice of a mother chewing food for a suckling child and placing the masticated food on her child’s palate. The mother was encouraging her child to develop a taste for solid food as he or she matured.
The prayer of every godly parent is that their children will have a taste and desire for righteousness, having been raised in a godly environment and around godly influences. However, I remind all my readers that Adam and Eve had a perfect Creator/Father who placed them in a perfect environment (the Garden of Eden), but the first man and woman rebelled and chose to sin.
Mom and dad, the wicked influences of this sinful world and its philosophies are battling for the heart of your child. You will not be a perfect parent; however, I urge you to do all you can to set a godly example, teach your children the truths of God’s Word, expose them to godly influences and insulate them from the ways and wiles of sin…and pray earnestly!