May 14, 2012

Why Proverbs 22:6 is Not a Guarantee

"Train up a child and when he is old he will not depart from it."  Proverbs 22:6

This is one of the most often quoted verses about raising children.  I have heard people use it as a guarantee that if a parent or church raises a child correctly, they will grow up to love and serve Jesus. 

But I do not believe it is a guarantee.  Here's why... 

Kids have a free will.  The word "train" means to coach.  We can coach children how to live for Jesus...but we can't do it for them.  At the end of the day, each person must decide for themselves if they are going to follow Jesus.  God doesn't have any grandchildren. 

Good parenting doesn't guarantee kids will grow up to love Jesus.  God is the perfect parent...and look how many of His children make poor choices, go their own way, and don't follow what He has taught them in His Word.  A lot of good parents are beating themselves up because of the poor choices their adult children are making.  Stop blaming yourself.   

Look at life.  I have seen children who came from terrible, ungodly, abusive home situations grow up to be passionate followers of Christ.  And I have seen children from the best of homes walk away from what they were taught.

Environments and influences play a huge role in a child's life, but they do not have the final say.  Friends, parents, family, home situations, teachers, and surroundings all contribute to the decisions a child makes...but they are not the final, deciding factor.  It's the personal choices of the person. 

We must pour everything we can into children's lives.  We must love them...teach them...train good examples for them...pray for and with them...surround them with good God's Word with them.  The more we pour into them, the better opportunity they have to grow up to love and serve Jesus.  

But there is no guarantee.  The only guarantee we have is that Jesus loves them and wants a close relationship with them. 


Hallelujah. Thanks for this post Dale. It is a great leveller to what I often read on family and kids ministry sites. Yes we should train our children in the way we want them to go, but we have to accept that every person makes his/her own choice. After all this is the gospel we preach and teach. We need to stand beside, and pray with, the parents who have children who have chosen not to be followers of Jesus.

I wish life could be that easy, as a parent, it'd be wonderful if there was a guarantee like that...if I do my best then my kid will be okay. You are right, they must choose for themselves who they will serve. Makes me even more aware of my needing to trust God, that He will intervene in the lives of my kids, and my church kids, to draw them to Himself.

I do not necessarily disagree, but what does the verse say then? It sure sounds kinda like a garuantee. I have 5 kids. So far only 1 has left the nest. He has not left the 'way'...yet. I am sure enough worried about the remaining 4. Thing is, I think when kids leave the path it is failure on the patents part for the most part. They may point them right, direct them some, correct them a little, but I think they fail to really train them in the way they should go. I am prepared to admit failure if mine leave the 'way'. I think the it is my responsibility to train them and the verse seems to indicate that if I do that right they will stick to it for the most part. I just don't know what else to do with the verse. It'd been fine with me if it were not in the text, but it is. It's a bummer, 'cause there are some really good people that have some really bad kids. But I would not want to diminish the truth of scripture to accomodate my experience with good people.

Mat, whenever reading Scripture, it is important to understand the context of the passage in order to understand what that passage means. Is it part of a historical narrative such as in Genesis or one of the Gospels? Is it prophecy such as Ezekiel or Revelation? Is it a letter written to a specific group of people like Galatians? I would encourage you to check out this link to better understand why Prov. 22:6 is not a promise. I believe the writer does an excellent job of explaining the nature of proverbs.

The book of Proverbs is presented in the Bible as Wisdom for living. If God presents us with wisdom for living we should accept that as truth! What we perceive (seeing Christian parents with children who go astray) should not change what the Bible says. If you remove Proverbs and say
"well, they must be state elsewhere in scripture in order to be considered precepts"
Then you take away ALL references to parents using the rod or correction... Is that something you want to do? Saying "well, they must be state elsewhere in scripture in order to be considered precepts" is putting the book of proverbs on the same level as writing on a bathroom wall.
Let me Explain; If writing on a bathroom wall says "God loves the world so much that He gave His only Begotten Son" we, as Christians, know that that is in the Bible and know it is truth. If you say about promises in the book of Proverbs that it is only true if it is found elsewhere in the Bible, you are taking much of the book and saying, "God breathed this word, He spoke it through faithful men of old, but I don't believe He really meant it. Let God be true and man a liar. There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD. but then that's a Proverb... God is great, let us praise Him for it rather than doubting it based on what we have seen/experienced.

I am commenting some 7 years after the comments I am responding to, but it bears noting that if your theology is based on human cooperation with God in salvation, you are left with being unable to handle the dilemmas this proverb creates. One thing to consider is that this proverb does not explicitly mention salvation. If you train your child up to be responsible, he is likely to remain responsible, although he could reject the way of salvation. If, however, you decide this verse has to mean salvation, then you need to go read Romans chapter 9 (many, many other supporting references in the NT)and understand that God's election of his own children would contradict this proverb....unless it does NOT refer to salvation. I am not being "heartless". I have raised eight children. Six are walking with the Lord; one is clueless, and the last one has openly rejected the Word of God and the gospel. Why are 6 walking with the Lord (and one is a pastor, and another preparing for the mission field) and two not doing so when they were all raised by the same parents?

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