The Desire of Every Parent.
“Direct your child onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” – Proverbs 22:6 NLT
This verse has been taught at every parenting seminar I have ever been to. It has been held up as a promise from the very Word of God that offers us a virtual guarantee of success in child-rearing if we just do our part well. But as a parent of six and as the youngest son of my own parents, I have found that this verse, while promising, is not exactly a promise. In fact, it is NOT a promise at all. Like all the other proverbs written or collected by Solomon, it is a universal truth. It is how God intended the world to work. But because of the fall and the presence of sin, things do not always turn out the way God intended or as we might want them to – regardless of how well we do at raising our children. But this does not change the reality that the best way is always God’s way. As Christ-followers, we are to raise our children according to God’s will and direct them on to the one path that leads to true life. In most translations, the first part of this verse uses the words, “train up a child.” The Hebrew idea behind this is that of dedication. It is used in the context of dedicating a house to God. So, in essence, we are to dedicate our children to God and give them over to Him for His use – teaching them to walk His path and live according to His will. This includes not only teaching them well, but modeling Christ-like behavior and obedience in front of them. It isn’t enough to simply teach them Bible stories and moralistic platitudes about honesty, sharing, truthfulness, and humility. As the old saying goes, when it comes to teaching more is caught than taught. Our kids will pick up the “godly life” by watching us live it more than they will by hearing us talk about it. When this verse says, “Direct your children onto the right path,” it is encouraging us as parents to live our lives in such a way that our children instinctively know which way to go from having watched us and followed us.
According to the Book of Proverbs, there are only two paths to life. There are only two ways for our children to go: The wise way or the foolish way. The way of righteousness or the way of wickedness. The way of the godly or the way of the godless. Because Proverbs uses the metaphor of the path so often, it fits in well here. It helps us understand that this verse is about a way of life, not just lessons for life. It is about a lifestyle choice. And it is a lifelong job. As parents, we are always training our children – even long after they are out of our house. We are still modeling godly behavior and directing them onto the right path long after they’re grown and gone. The verse says, “and when they are older, they will not leave it.” This conveys the idea that our job is never over and that the impact of our efforts are lifelong, not temporal. We may see our children wander off the path for a time, but we may also live to see them discover their way back our of the high weeds and into the light of God’s will. Our job is to keep training, modeling, and directing. We have to leave the results up to God. At the end of the day, if we have truly dedicated them to God, we must realize that it is He who will determine the outcome of their lives. Only He can reach their hearts and transform their character from the inside out. And while this Proverbs does not guarantee results, it does give us the assurance that if we are faithful to do our job, we can trust God to do His part. We can leave our children in His capable, loving, merciful hands.
Father, give me the stamina and determination to direct my children on to the right path and to do it faithfully, all throughout the years of their lives. Don’t let me take shortcuts or fail to model the godly lifestyle in front of them. Forgive me for taking complete responsibility for the way my children turn out and forgetting that only You can save my kids, and redeem, restore, and protect them. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men