Train up a child in the way he should go...
Proverbs 22 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
On Life and Conduct
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth,
Favor is better than silver and gold.
2 The rich and the poor have a common bond,
The Lord is the maker of them all.
3 The prudent sees the evil and hides himself,
But the naive go on, and are punished for it.
4 The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord
Are riches, honor and life.
5 Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse;
He who guards himself will be far from them.
6 Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
The proverb says: Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. I wonder how many parents have held onto that verse concerning their children who have seemingly departed from the way they were taught. Unfortunately for some, we must remember that this is a proverb, good and practical wisdom from the Bible, but not necessarily a promise. God created us each with a free will, an ability to choose for ourelves the way we will go. In Ezekiel 18:20 God says: "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” A parent’s best efforts cannot assure that their child will not wonder from the way they should go. Still, it is good, logical and sound advice. In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 God says: These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And again in 11:18-19: “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” So, more than just advised, we are commanded to teach our children, even if the results are not fully guaranteed. If we learn anything from the technology of today, we should learn that a computer is only able to process and work with the programs that have been put into it. If it has received bad or inaccurate files and information, that is what it will process and produce. We then should not be surprised at the results of the training of our children, if we have turned it over to a godless educational system. Even more, what should we expect if we have allowed our children to be taught and trained by Hollywood or by the television, music and video game industries?
For parents who have tried to teach their children and still are uncertain of the results, we need to recognize what the proverb says: when they are old they will not depart from it. It does not mean that they will never depart or wander. Each one has been given a free will. The training and teaching that we instill in our children is like seeds. Hopefully we have planted seeds of righteousness. We need to understand though that the seed which we plant often does not resemble the fruit it will produce and certainly the plant when it grows does not look like the fruit it is meant to produce. The plant itself, until it matures, may take on different forms. There may be little or no beauty in the appearance of the plant. It may have thorns. Consider tomatoes, the fruit is lovely to look at, has a sweet aroma, is wonderful and pleasing to be used for food in many ways. The vine however may cause a rash and is actually toxic if ingested. When we see things that don’t look like what we thought we planted, we should hold onto the hope and promise of the fruit that will come.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable that should also give us hope for children who have wandered from the way. It is the familiar parable of the prodigal son. Perhaps the most important thing we can learn from the parable is found in verse 20, when the son decodes to return to his father. It says: So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. The father had to let the son go and make his own choices, to choose his own way. He never though stopped waiting. He never stopped having love and compassion. Even when the son looked and smelled like the filth of the world, the father waited, watched and believed that he would return to what he was taught and given. We too, as parents need to look compassionately down the road, believing our prodigals will also return and bear the fruit of what has been planted in them. Even if we made mistakes and perhaps sowed some bad seed into the lives of our children. We still should be encouraged and have confidence that they have a heavenly Father who is perfect. They were created in His image and likeness. God does not cause the negative things that they themselves may choose or be exposed to. But as it says in Romans 8:28-29: We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. God can and will use even the negative things in the lives of our children to work together for their good. They are not only our children, but they are also God’s children, brethren of Christ, redeemed, reconciled, restored; perfected by the cross to what God intended.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; forgive us where we have shirked our responsibility to train up our children. Redeem the seed that was sown so that it will produce fruit according to the Spirit rather than the world. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Just as You heavenly Father waited compassionately for us, may we also wait and believe for those who we love until You have perfected them in Christ. Amen.