The UK Bible Students Website
Christian Biblical Studies
Q. Proverbs 22: 6: ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.’ (NIV-UK, 1984)
Does this text teach that the children of Christian parents will never go astray?
A. It has always been difficult to be a good and effective parent. How much control to exert over our children, when to loosen the strings a bit, when to clamp down, and whose values to teach?
The Christian parent is not insulated from such anxieties. There is no perfect strategy to employ in raising one’s children, and our role as Christian parents comes with no guarantee that we will be entirely successful in the endeavour. Each of us brings our own failings and imperfections to the enterprise, and the uncomfortable knowledge that our own lives may have been less than exemplary. Each of us, mother or father, has made decisions that we are ashamed of and would not want our children to repeat. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous Baptist minister of the late nineteenth century, expressed it succinctly when he observed that you should try to raise your children in ‘the way you wish you had gone yourself’.
For the Christian, parenthood may be no less difficult than for the unbeliever. However, Christian parents have the desire to impress on their children the advantages and necessity of godly living. By influencing the way our children live in this world and fostering in them the virtues of a sound character, we prepare them to be responsible citizens and men and women of integrity. In short, the ultimate goal is to instil in our children the love of good principles. With this rooted in their minds, our children will be well-shielded against many of the temptations that await them.
Proverbs 22: 6 declares a general truth, and informs us that the direction in which we steer our children will have a lifelong positive effect on his or her future. A good parent is a parent long after death, the early wisdom and advice augmenting the developing conscience, which our children will recall in their later years.
In his commentary on this text, the Bible expositor Adam Clarke puts it this way (‘he’ referring to either female or male):
“Initiate the child at the opening (the mouth) of his path.” When he comes to the opening of the way of life, being able to walk alone, and to choose; stop at this entrance, and begin a series of instructions, how he is to conduct himself in every step he takes. Show him the duties, the dangers, and the blessings of the path; give him directions how to perform the duties, how to escape the dangers, and how to secure the blessings, which all lie before him. Fix these on his mind by daily inculcation, till their impression is become indelible; then lead him to practice by slow and almost imperceptible degrees, till each indelible impression becomes a strongly radicated [rooted] habit. Beg incessantly the blessing of God on all this teaching and discipline; and then you have obeyed the injunction of the wisest of men. Nor is there any likelihood that such impressions shall ever be effaced, or that such habits shall ever be destroyed.
Individual free will, of course, plays its part, and beyond a certain age, each one of us makes choices, good and bad, and we reap the fruits accordingly. The adult mind is powerfully shaped by early upbringing, and the lingering effects are difficult to ignore in later years. And so our children will follow the examples we set at home, and regardless of the instructions we give or the edicts we lay down, our overall behaviour will be the unspoken rule they notice. So if we do not intend to bequeath our bad habits to our children we must watch ourselves. If we are quick to acknowledge where we fall short, we model humility, too.
External pressures will exert an influence on the minds and hearts of our children, as they grow up and away from us. The competing claims on their attention come in forms that can undermine the lessons we as parents strive to teach. Our children are the targets of self-serving or corrupting propaganda of one sort or another. As Christian parents it is our responsibility to ensure that message of Christ and godly living comes across the loudest.
Dec. 2016. No copyright. ukbiblestudents.co.uk