Proverbs is full of principles of living that are generally but not always true. Work hard and you will prosper, says Proverbs, but be lazy and you will become poor. Control your tongue and you will make peace, says Proverbs, but talk too much and you will get into trouble. Tell lies and you will eventually get caught and face punishment, says Proverbs, but speak truth and live with integrity and God will protect and honor you. These are general principles of life that even nonChristians must admit are usually true. However, as we saw in yesterday’s post (“Trust in the Lord and Do Good”), God is sovereign and His plans are not always what we would expect. God may allow sinful, foolish people to be successful and allow godly people to suffer. The purpose of Proverbs is not to guarantee what will always happen in life, but to encourage us to be wise and choose God’s ways no matter what. We will often see rewards in this life for godly character and actions, but not always in the ways that we hope or expect and not always in our timing.
Today’s pair of verses from Proverbs 22 show us that godly parenting will usually (but not always) lead to children becoming godly adults. Verse 6 is well-known to Christian parents and teachers: “Train up a child in the way he [or she] should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The concept here is simple to understand but takes lots of hard work over many years of faithfulness to apply. The Bible is saying that Christian parents should teach their children to love and obey the Lord from infancy into young adulthood. This includes modeling the Christian life, leading family devotions, talking with children throughout daily activities about the Lord and His ways, bringing children to church, and overall just communicating a biblical worldview while living for Jesus in the home and the world.
Verse 15 then shows us that training up a child includes correcting or disciplining him or her when they disobey: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him [or her].” The Bible is saying here that all children are born with a sin nature, an inherent tendency to worship self instead of God and a desire to want to be independent of authority. But parents must start training this out of the child through communication and consequences as soon as the child is old enough to respond to commands with some version of that awful two-letter word: “No!” Once the child is old enough to consciously choose to disobey what they know their parents are telling them to do or not do (definitely by age 2, usually even sooner), it is time to begin correcting. As Christian child psychologist Dr. James Dobson has famously said (paraphrase), “There is a battle of the wills between the child and the parent. The parent must win this battle, and win it decisively. Otherwise the child will grow up to be a little tyrant who thinks that he or she can do whatever they want.” By learning to obey their parents in childhood, children are being prepared to learn to obey God as adults.
As a parent, I know that what the Bible is telling me to do in today’s verses is very difficult. But I also know what the statistics have been saying for decades about the importance of the parents in forming the faith of the children. If the mother is a practicing (Bible-reading, praying, church-attending, growing) Christian, there is a 50% chance that the child will grow up to become a practicing Christian. If the father is a practicing Christian, that chance rises to a whopping 90%! That tells me that I have a big job to do in leading my family spiritually. I know that I have made many mistakes as a husband and father, but I also know that God will keep giving me the grace to do the job if I keep seeking His help each day. God is more concerned that I am moving in the right direction than with my past failures. I cannot guarantee the spiritual success of my daughter and son, but if they don’t follow Christ as adults, it won’t be because I didn’t try my best to show them the way.
For you as students, there are two key points of application from today’s verses. First, if your parents are following the Lord, then let them train you up to follow Christ. Listen to their teachings, do what they say the first time, and accept their discipline and correction as God’s good for your life. Be thankful for your Christian parent or parents and do not try to buck their authority. Second, if your parents are not practicing Christians, do your absolute best to model Christ to them. Honor and obey them from a submissive heart. Read your Bible and pray and seek Christian fellowship. If they won’t take you to church or let you go with a friend or neighbor, then listen to online sermons on the weekend. And determine in your heart that when you grow up, you will beat the statistics and be a practicing Christian husband and father or wife and mother. God will give you a legacy of faith if you really want it.
The Text (Proverbs 22:6,15)
6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.
Questions to Think About
- How are you doing with honoring and obeying your parents right now? Is it hard or easy for you to submit to their authority? Why?
- What are you doing right now to prepare yourself to be a godly Christian parent and spouse when you have your own family one day?