March 11: Proverbs 22:6

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

This is a forever popular verse in parenting discussions, because as much as it is a command, it is also a promise. The idea that there is anything that we might do that can direct our children for life is hugely appealing. But I think that parents often go at it in a weird way. The way your child should go is not an abstract thought. It is not about presenting the right way in flashcards or on a white board. It is not about laying out for them the basics of a life that you imagine would be good for them.

Of course this is all very appealing. It does seem like something that we could achieve. It seems like we just need to sit our kids down and fire a bunch of planned righteousness at them. We have an idea in our heads about what the ideal Christian life looks like, and we think that if we point it out to our children, shazaam, when they are old they will stay on that path. 

But this is not the point of the verse. Train them up in the way they should go. Train them up in your obedience. Train them up in your thankfulness. Train them up in your faithfulness. Train them up in your self sacrifice. Train them up in your repentance. The way that they should go should be the way that you are going. You are not to be pointing out some mountain path in the distance and saying, “Do that kids!”

The point of this verse is that your children are learning the path because they are walking it with you. We ought to be able to say to our children, “This is how it is done.” The misconception here is often that if you didn’t do something right a long way back, that you are not on the path, and thus cannot teach your children by example. Parents disconnect themselves from the teaching because they want better for their children. But what kind of nonsense is this? If you have Jesus, you have the Way. You have the Truth. You have the Life. If you are walking in fellowship with God, you are walking in the way.

I think that the temptation to point elsewhere is strong when we are not especially proud of our own past performance. But the Christian life is not about our living sinlessly, it is about Christ living sinlessly. We need to see that our own failings, brought to God in repentance, are the very things that qualify us to teach our children. The human heart is full of sin. Your children, even though they are growing up in a Christian home, will struggle with temptation. But if they have grown up in a life that is full of the sweet air of repentance, the sweet water of life, the bread of sacrifice, and the presence of a savior, they will not ever want to depart from it. When the fellowship is sweet no one wants to leave.

On the flip side, we can easily drive our children away from the faith by pretending that whatever the righteous life is, it is to be found out there somewhere. We think that the way that they should go is far removed from the way that we have been. We want them to control themselves around the internet while we look at our phones under the table at dinner. We want them to keep themselves pure before marriage, but we go ahead and watch smutty shows. We tell them to control themselves, but we don’t discipline our emotions, we indulge our every pity party. We want them to be joyful, but we forget the source of our own joy.

Walk in the way as parents. Walk in Christ with your children. Bring them along. Let them see that you repent, that you have joy, that you love. If we are faithful to God and our children in this way, we will be walking together the length of our lives.

Train your children up in the way of life. Train them up in the way of obedience. Train them up in the way of Jesus Christ. And when they are old, they will certainly not depart from it.


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14 thoughts on “March 11: Proverbs 22:6

  1. I totally agree with the sentiment of this post. We as parents need to hear this! I do wish we would be more careful though when we speak of the book of proverbs, because although they are commands, they are certainly not promises. I just feel it can give parents a false sense of security in what to expect out of there children in life. As Richard Pratt says, “But excellent wives, faithful husbands, and conscientious parents often endure terrible hardship in their homes because proverbs are not promises. They are adages that direct us toward general principles that must be applied carefully in a fallen world where life is always somewhat out of kilter.”
    I love you blog, keep sharing your wisdom!

  2. Love it. Especially love this, “The point of this verse is that your children are learning the path because they are walking it with you. ”
    Thanks so much for these continued great devotional posts. So much goodness.

  3. Thank you so much for this reminder! It’s so true, the kids will do as we do more than what we say. I need to remember to walk in love, peace and wisdom so my children do as well!

  4. This was a very encouraging and humbling post for me! In keeping with the theme of raising our children in the way they should go, do you have any recommendations for good Scripture-accurate bible story books for youngsters? Obviously the Bible itself is the best source to go to, but my kiddos with shorter attention spans seem to absorb and remember the stories better in the form of those Bible story books that your brother used to write.

  5. I had a hard time reading the rest once I read that this proverb is a promise- it’s not. Rather, it’s a principle! God’s sovereignty outweighs our performance as parents.

  6. I absolutely loved your ramblings!! 🙂 Ramble on!! Its funny how there are so many views on this verse… and we do seem to bend & twist it to fit our family’s situations, don’t we? But I think you’re right on… Oh my, how true discipleship is typically lacking in our lives & in our families! I see it in me!!… I have wonderful intentions & ideals, and do love getting truth-filled books & music for my boys to listen to… and all of that is great & helpful & the Lord, in His grace, may use it… but I am KEENLY aware that my example will do more to set my boys’ course than I give weight to. Yes, the Lord is sovereign – and thankfully, He sovereignly reaches down & saves kids from all sorts of families. And for those of us who know Him, He can graciously cover our mistakes. He alone can save our kids; we can’t! But we know what His will is – for us to faithfully believe, follow, trust, and obey Him, and teach our kids to do the same. It seems that, if we are prayerfully doing that, clinging to His desire & power to save our kids, then it just might be just fine to take Prov. 22:6 as a promise! 🙂

  7. “But if they have grown up in a life that is full of the sweet air of repentance, the sweet water of life, the bread of sacrifice, and the presence of a savior, they will not ever want to depart from it. When the fellowship is sweet no one wants to leave.” love, love, love! Thank you!

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