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All Scripture citations are to the Authorised King James Version



Question: Does Proverbs 22: 6 express an absolute truth?


Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.


Answer: No.

The Book of Proverbs contains general exhortations to wise and godly behaviour for the Jewish people and, by extension, for Christians.

With most of the Proverbs the observed truth lies in the likely result of a particular action.
One might say, for example, that crossing a busy road without looking both ways will get you killed.

This is undoubtedly the best advice, though it is possible that one might cross without looking and not be killed.


In other Proverbs, an unimpeachable principle is stated, couched in poetic language, for example: ‘rob not the poor . . . neither oppress the afflicted in the gate’ (v. 22). This is a truth which is absolute and applicable under all circumstances.


But to interpret each proverb literally is to devalue the importance of the book as a whole. It is not true, for example, that every slothful man believes there is a ‘lion in the streets’ (v. 13), as an excuse for idleness; or to claim, as does v. 29 that all diligent men ‘shall stand before kings’. The real meaning, however, is apparent.


Lads and Lassies

Proverbs 22: 6 exhorts the parent to train the child from the earliest point (Heb., ‘the opening of the way’) to impress good character and behaviour during childhood and on into adolescence. Under normal circumstances the resulting adult will be guided by these early influences into old age. The  exhortation is thus intended to encourage mother or father.


But it is not uncommon for the grown children of Christian parents to abandon the faith in which they were raised. Indeed, many young people are leaving church altogether, despite a godly upbringing. Parents often berate themselves when their children do not ‘turn out right’. And while the early upbringing is crucial, there is no iron-clad guarantee that one’s offspring will grow up to be identical copies of the parent. This fact is demonstrable by the opposite case: one may be the product of a secular but otherwise exemplary family and yet be drawn to the Christian faith.


Differences of temperament, the making of good or bad choices, and varying circumstances all shape the pattern of one’s life, and it is impossible for parents to dictate the outcome.



Copyright February 2011


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