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.