Proverbs 22:1-21 – Teach and Train the Children

Priest teaching children the catechism by Jules-Alexis Meunier, 1898

Choose a good reputation over great riches;
    being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.

The rich and poor have this in common:
    The Lord made them both.

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.
    The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

True humility and fear of the Lord
    lead to riches, honor, and long life.

Corrupt people walk a thorny, treacherous road;
    whoever values life will avoid it.

Direct your children onto the right path,
    and when they are older, they will not leave it.

Just as the rich rule the poor,
    so the borrower is servant to the lender.

Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster,
    and their reign of terror will come to an end.

Blessed are those who are generous,
    because they feed the poor.

Throw out the mocker, and fighting goes, too.
    Quarrels and insults will disappear.

Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech
    will have the king as a friend.

The Lord preserves those with knowledge,
    but he ruins the plans of the treacherous.

The lazy person claims, “There’s a lion out there!
    If I go outside, I might be killed!”

The mouth of an immoral woman is a dangerous trap;
    those who make the Lord angry will fall into it.

A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness,
    but physical discipline will drive it far away.

A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor
    or by showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.

Listen to the words of the wise;
    apply your heart to my instruction.
For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart
    and always ready on your lips.
I am teaching you today—yes, you—
    so you will trust in the Lord.
I have written thirty sayings for you,
    filled with advice and knowledge.
In this way, you may know the truth
    and take an accurate report to those who sent you. (New Living Translation)

As a pastor, I have seen my share of parents broken over their particular son’s or daughter’s lifestyle and/or behavior. In some cases, the parents have a great deal of work to do with their own shortcomings. In many other scenarios, there are godly mothers and fathers experiencing the heartache of a wayward child through no real fault of their own. 

Yet, some of them feel tremendously guilty because of a famous (or infamous) verse tucked away in our Old Testament lesson for today, to train children in the way they should go, and when they are old, they won’t depart from it.

Keep in mind, there are many different literary genres in Holy Scripture. Narratives, parables, gospel, epistles, poetry, and even apocalyptic literature all occur in the Bible. The book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom sayings. 

A proverb is a short pity statement of experiential truth. 

In other words, a proverb expresses a general truth in which, all things considered, a particular outcome will likely occur. Proverbs were never designed to be ironclad promises of how things always are or will be. Rather, they are meant to teach wisdom, to give guidance in how to apply reality to a range of life circumstances.

So, when it comes to directing, guiding, and training children, it cannot be claimed that if a parent does a certain set of practices or disciplines that the child will always come out living a certain way. Neither people, nor Scripture, operates in that manner. 

Biblical proverbs on parenting are designed to place emphasis on the necessity of intentional training and instructing children in the ways of God. And, more than likely, all things being equal, that training in the law of God will kick-in when the child is an adult, living on their own, needing wisdom to navigate a difficult world. Yet, remember, it is not a guarantee.

Even God, as the perfect parent, had rebellious children. 

Adam and Eve disobeyed and went their own way. The ancient Israelites, God’s people, were often fickle about their commitment and obedience to the God who consistently showed them steadfast love.

Proverbs encourage us to put significant effort into developing children to be responsible people who live into their full humanity. We teach, train, exhort, live by example, and discipline our kids. We do it all because we love them and seek to be faithful in our own faith commitments.

And we live with the hope that our maternal and paternal efforts are not in vain. So, it is good for parents, teachers, and all who work with kids to have a gracious, wise, well-thought-out plan for training those children. 

As we do so, we trust God, the One who ultimately does the needed renovations of the heart, and transformation of the mind.

Lord of life, you shape us in your image, and by your gracious gift the human family is increased. Grant to all parents everywhere the blessing of teaching and training children. Fill them with wisdom and love as they care for their family, so that they and their children may know and love you. Give us all, whether parents or not, wisdom so that we might always pray intelligently, live circumspectly, and speak lovingly to all the children in our lives, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 22:1-21

            As a pastor, I have seen my share of parents broken over their particular son’s or daughter’s lifestyle and/or behavior.  In some cases, the parents have a great deal of work to do in their own lives in order to deal with shortcomings.  But in many other scenarios there are godly Moms and Dads who have experienced the heartache of a wayward child through no real fault of their own.  Yet, some of them feel tremendously guilty because of a famous (or infamous) verse tucked away in our Old Testament lesson for today:  “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
 
            It must be borne in mind that there are many different literary genres in Scripture.  Narratives, parables, gospel, epistles, poetry, and even apocalyptic literature all occur in the Bible.  The book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom sayings.  A proverb is a short pity statement of experiential truth.  In other words, a proverb expresses a general truth in which, all things considered, a particular outcome will likely occur.  Proverbs were never designed to be ironclad promises of how things always are; they were meant to teach wisdom.
 
            So, when we come to the verse about training children, it cannot be claimed that if a parent does a certain set of practices and disciplines that the child will always come out living a certain sort of way.  Neither people, nor Scripture, operates in that manner.  What the proverb is designed to do is place the emphasis on the necessity of training children, and instructing them with intentional focus in the ways of God.  And, more than likely, that training will kick in when the child is an adult and living on their own.  But it is not a guarantee.
 
            Even God had rebellious children, and he was the perfect parent.  What Proverbs wants us to do is encourage us to put significant effort into developing children to be responsible people.  Like God, we teach, train, exhort, live by example, and discipline our kids.  We do it all because we seek to be faithful, and we live with the hope that our efforts are not in vain.  So, it is good for parents, teachers, and all who work with kids to have a plan for training those children.  As we do so, we trust God who is the One who ultimately does the needed renovations of the heart, and transformation of the mind.
            Gracious God, you are the Lord who alone can change lives.  Give me wisdom so that I might always pray intelligently, live circumspectly, and speak lovingly to all the children in my life for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Proverbs 22:1-9

            The Bible is not a flat one-dimensional piece of literature.  Throughout its contents, from Genesis to Revelation, it is chocked full of various literary genres.  From poetry and narrative stories to apocalyptic accounts and exhortative epistles, Holy Scripture provides a many-sided look at the unfolding drama of God’s redemption toward humanity.  Included in this is the book of Proverbs, a collection of wise sayings to help people navigate God’s big world.
 
            The chief reason we must know that the Bible contains different types of literature is so that we can read it and interpret it well.  A proverb is a short pithy statement of experiential truth.  It is not the same as the commands of the law.  In other words, a proverb is designed to point out, all things being equal, that this is how the world works.  So enter one of the most misused verses in the Bible:  “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Many a parent has been made to feel unrelenting guilt over a wayward son or daughter, believing that somehow they have failed.  The reason they have such feelings is that they treat the book of Proverbs as clear promises to claim.  Biblical proverbs simply were not meant to be stretched in this manner.
 
            Rather, the proverb is meant to communicate to us that if we as parents are diligent and faithful in raising our kids that in all likelihood this training will never leave them; it will always stick with them in some way, shape, or form.  It is also true that many a parent has rejoiced over an adult child coming back to his/her faith after a sojourn in the muck of the world.  Important to that return is the foundation laid years ago.
 
            So, this proverb is meant to encourage us, not with an ironclad promise, but with the hope that all the blood, sweat, and tears that parents put into their children will someday likely bear much fruit of a responsible life that contributes to both church and world.  Therefore, do not give up; keep persevering knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
            Wise God, for Whom all things are known, encourage me today and always in the knowledge of your ways so that I not lose heart in training my kids and others in the way of Jesus, my Lord.  Amen.

Judges 2:6-15

            The Old Testament book of Judges is, frankly, a depressing piece of literature.  It is an account of a downward spiral into degeneracy and ignorance as God’s people forgot his laws and embraced foreign religious practices.  The Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament, often referred to as The Law) is filled with admonitions to teach children and to be careful in passing on God’s covenant to future generations.  But no sooner did the Israelite leader Joshua die that the people rested on their laurels in the good land God gave to them.  The Israelites simply failed their children.  They neglected their God-given duty and privilege to teach about the LORD and the great work he had done in delivering them from Egypt and giving them the Promised Land of Canaan.  And as a result, the people began experiencing the curses of God’s covenant instead of the blessings.
 
            We in Western civilization live in an extremely fast-paced and busy culture.  The gods of our age are effort, efficiency, and effectiveness.  We rise early and rush to get to work.  We move at the speed of light to get things done.  Then, at night, if we do not bring a stack of work home with us, we fall into our favorite chair with no energy left except the ability to watch TV.
 
            But what happens to the kids and to the family?  With such a lifestyle there is no space for relaxed time around the Word of God; no ability to pass on some instruction of Scripture; nothing left in the tank to give to the people who need it most.  It is no wonder an entire generation of people in the age range of 18-29 are leaving church in droves with a neglect of the Bible and its life-giving message.  Since it was not important enough for parents to pass it on to them, they simply ignore Christian redemption and the community of the redeemed who worship Jesus.
 
            We must, for God’s sake, rearrange our crazy lives so that God and his Word become valuable enough to be top priority in our families.  It is high time to stop the excuses and start the instruction.
            O God, I confess that my busy life has pushed out the people for whom I care most about.  Give me the courage to make a fierce moral and spiritual inventory of my busy life, and the care and conviction to act upon what you reveal to me so that my family may know your Holy Word through me.  In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.