This is part one of five devos featured on The Morning Ride with Mark Elfstrand.
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart.”
For most Christian parents, this verse in Proverbs 22:6 is a foundation stone of their home. But it’s a verse that often brings guilt rather than inspiration. Guilt that stems, I believe, from an unbiblical interpretation.
At first glance, it seems to offer an ironclad promise. Raise your children “the right way” and they will automatically “turn out.”
But here’s the problem. It doesn’t always work. We all know people who were raised in godly homes, yet have abandoned the faith in their adult years.
So what happens to Proverbs 22:6? Because we have been taught that this is an ironclad guarantee, we then assume that parents must have failed somewhere. Racked with guilt, parents travel back through the child-raising years, searching, looking, and sleuthing for their big mistakes.
Is this right? I don’t think so. You see, Proverbs 22:6 was never written to be the stand-alone, foundation verse for the Biblical model of parenting. It is merely one verse in the entire comprehensive model of parenting found from Genesis to Revelation.
Furthermore, the common interpretation of Proverbs 22:6 as a promise or a doctrine is faulty. Students of the Bible understand that Proverbs, while inspired Scripture, are just that, Proverbs. They represent the best collection of the wisdom anywhere in the world. They rise above all other literature, both classical and contemporary.
But the proverbs are not doctrine and they are not promises.
We don’t apply the other proverbs this way. For instance, Proverbs 15:1 suggests that a soft answer turns away wrath. And this is true, the majority of the time. A kind word often diffuses an angry confrontation. But not always.
But there are also moments when a soft answer will inflame. I’ve had a soft answer land me an uppercut to the jaw.
Do you see the folly of reinterpreting the Proverbs as promises? To be sure, God does include many wonderful promises in the Scriptures. Promises that are ironclad guarantees that rest on the unchanging character of God.
But not Proverbs 22:6.
The problem with making this verse the foundation of our parenting is tends to move parents away from a biblical, faith-based approach to a humanistic, results-oriented approach.
Putting all the pressure on parents to execute and then blaming entirely them for failure is both unbiblical and impossible. Unbiblical because it removes the work of God and brings glory to man. Impossible because human parents cannot manufacture what only the Holy Spirit can produce.
We forget that every child is an individual human soul, created with their own accountability before God. Worse, we ignore the work of the Holy Spirit in the shaping of a child’s soul.
So what is the job of a parent? Faithfulness. Parents are given the task of creating a culture of faith that intentionally uses all of life to point their children toward a lifelong relationship with God. We’re to equip them for life.
Parents are both evangelists and disciple-makers, continually retelling the story of Creation, man’s sin, Jesus’ offer of redemption, and the promise of the Holy Spirit in guiding them toward their God-given purpose.
Children are a divine stewardship. They are not for us to own, but to carefully guide, love, and then release to God’s provident care.
We apply a biblical model of parenting, not because we are assured of success. We do it simply out of faithfulness to Him. Leaving the outcomes to Him.
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