Question:

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

Given the fact that this is the word of God, He knows all, I think we overlook how and in what a child should be well trained. We try to bring our kids up how we feel, yet when they go away from Scripture we think it's completely the child fault, but we failed in that we didn't do as God said: "in the way he should go." So is it not correct to say once you train your child right, he will not depart from it?


Answer:

Let's turn this around a moment. I've known some really good people who were raised in the most horrible environments. Somehow they overcame and rejected the ways of their parents and siblings to become outstanding Christians. So do we credit their bad parents for still managing to train them properly?

"Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.

"But if a man is just and does what is lawful and right; if he has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, nor defiled his neighbor's wife, nor approached a woman during her impurity; if he has not oppressed anyone, but has restored to the debtor his pledge; has robbed no one by violence, but has given his bread to the hungry and covered the naked with clothing; if he has not exacted usury nor taken any increase, but has withdrawn his hand from iniquity and executed true judgment between man and man; if he has walked in My statutes and kept My judgments faithfully - he is just; he shall surely live!" says the Lord GOD.

"If he begets a son who is a robber or a shedder of blood, who does any of these things and does none of those duties, but has eaten on the mountains or defiled his neighbor's wife; if he has oppressed the poor and needy, robbed by violence, not restored the pledge, lifted his eyes to the idols, or committed abomination; if he has exacted usury or taken increase - shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.

"If, however, he begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and considers but does not do likewise; who has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, nor defiled his neighbor's wife; has not oppressed anyone, nor withheld a pledge, nor robbed by violence, but has given his bread to the hungry and covered the naked with clothing; who has withdrawn his hand from the poor and not received usury or increase, but has executed My judgments and walked in My statutes - he shall not die for the iniquity of his father; he shall surely live!

"As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, robbed his brother by violence, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.

"Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?' Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:4-20).

Upbringing can influence a child, but it is not a absolute guarantee of what a child will decide to do. Well instilled habits are hard to break, but we do not conclude that habits are unbreakable. Each person is personally responsible for his decisions.

Many of the proverbs are not hard fast rules. They express tendencies; they give principles that are generally true, though exceptions may exist. For example, "The fear of the LORD prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened" (Proverbs 10:27). Righteous people tend to live longer than wicked people. They tend to make fewer poor decisions that can lead to a shorter life. They don't get involved in drugs, alcohol, fights, stressful relationships, etc.; thus, their lives aren't often artificially shortened. But sometimes good people die young; sometimes wicked people live to a ripe old age. "For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm" (Psalms 73:3-4). The two passages are not in conflict. Asaph's psalm is about a perception problem -- seeing things at the moment and not in the long run (Psalms 73:15-19).

Consider, "When a man's ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7). Does this mean that righteous man has no enemies? Or that if you do have enemies, it is because you aren't as pleasing to God as you should be? Again, while the statement is generally true, there are some exceptions, Jesus being most notable but also Stephen and Paul. People generally like the righteous, but there are people who find righteousness itself to be irritating.

What Proverbs 22:6 is saying is that when a child is raised properly, the odds are that the habits instilled in him will keep him on the straight and narrow throughout his life. When a child is raised poorly, the odds are that the habits he develops will encourage him to stray from the Lord. The idea is captured in the English translation of this verse: "Train up a child in the way he should go ..." There is no guarantee that the child will remain on the path he ought to follow, but the tendency is there.

We see this in the Scriptures. Isaac managed to raise both profane Esau and generally righteous Jacob. Jacob managed to raise a good son in Joseph, but Reuben committed incest, Levi and Simeon murdered a town, and the brothers plotted to kill their own brother Joseph, but settled for selling him into slavery. Given how wicked his brothers were at times, it is a wonder that Joseph came out so well. Isaac and Jacob were not ideal parents. Reading the Scriptures, you can see many mistakes that they made. But what we notice is that the same parent can have different outcomes. A parent points the direction, but the child is still responsible for whether he follows his parents teaching or ignores them.

That is why there are numerous encouragements in Proverbs for a son not to forget what he was taught. "My son, keep your father's command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck. When you roam, they will lead you; when you sleep, they will keep you; and when you awake, they will speak with you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life" (Proverbs 6:20-23). The reminders are there because even the best training can be tossed aside for the clarion call of sin.

Thank you for your scriptural explanation of my question, God bless you.

Some claim that in Proverbs 22:6 the portion which states "in the way" does not refer to the spiritual but firstly to the child's personality and disposition. Is that correct? Still a bit troubling to me.

"The way" refers to the direction the child takes in life. "Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; he who guards his soul will be far from them. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:5-6).

You can see this throughout Proverbs:

"The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the LORD" (Proverbs 19:3).

"The way of a guilty man is perverse; but as for the pure, his work is right" (Proverbs 21:8).

"A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead" (Proverbs 21:16).