This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: Proverbs 22:6 ‘Train up a child in the way he should go.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: Proverbs 22:6

‘Train up a child in the way he should go.’


    One of the best known passages, or verses, from the Holy Word of God, is this verse six of the twenty-second chapter of the book of Proverbs where we find this exhortation, or instruction, from this book. The fullness, the completeness, of this fascinating verse, is stated here:

Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.—Prov. 22:6 [ASV-1901].  

This is, perhaps, as good a place as any, to insert the alternate rendering offered in the American Standard Version-1901, as well as in others. That is, in the margin, we are informed; Train up a child according to his way. There is a remarkable, and hugely important, distinction between these similar lines. The one seems, at least on the surface, to constitute the parenting skill most popular, may we submit, among more conservative Christians, while the alternative, according to his way, smacks more of modernity, suggesting, at least, the approach more popular in our own day, that of allowing the child to ‘find out for himself which is the right way,’ rather than some ‘archaic’ set of rules gleaned from some archaic book. It does seem, does it not, that without the ‘should’ the nature of the verse changes. It’s more about allowing your children to go their own way, and not the way that they ‘should’ go. One writer has put it this way, saying, “the verse is not likely a general promise of blessing [as we may suppose] consequent of godly training and parenting, but a general warning consequent of letting a child live according to his/her natural selfish desires.” 

    Jehovah God has given to parents sufficient instruction with respect to the raising of children. In the Older Testament, the directions are admirably given in that fifth book of Moses, Deuteronomy, which word implies, the ‘second law,’ or the ‘law repeated.’ Hear what God has said through the pen of Moses, in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah: and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Now, as New Testament believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have been carefully taught, first by our Savior, and following Him, by His apostles in their teachings found in the epistles left to us; particularly in the epistles of Paul and Peter. Jesus’ interest in paying careful attention to the law is evident in the Sermon on the Mount. In the first place, Jesus has powerfully affirmed that He came not to abolish the law, but rather, to fulfill it. We desire to understand that when Jesus has said, with respect to the laws He was dealing with, “You have heard it said, but I say unto you,” He is not contradicting the law of God, but He is contradicting serious misunderstandings of the law of God. And chief among the misunderstandings of the law, not only for the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, but among the modern ‘Pharisees of our own day; teachings that suggest, or imply, or directly state, that we may be saved by our faithful keeping of God’s law. In the Sermon on the Mount, we see that the Law of God requires more of us than only external obedience. 

    In this land, this country, of immense freedoms, and sometimes called democracy, that there is a great inclination among our people, to surrender the child to this concept; that the child should learn to make up their own mind in all matters.

On the surface, this may appear to be legitimate. Yet, it is obviously giving the reins to the child’s ‘way,’ and discontinuing the parenting demanded in Scripture. Giving instruction ought to involve the giving of information regarding the differing ‘ways’ which are being set before the subject; explaining the right and the wrong, or even perhaps, the smart and the dumb; but seeking to inform the mind and heart of the child, and for the Christian parent, to set before them the guidelines of the Word of God, before calling upon them to arrive at a conclusion. In other words, Train up a child in the way he should go. In his commentary upon the book of Proverbs, the Scottish clergyman, George Lawson [1749-1820], has given, we believe, good counsel in this matter, when he wrote: “Satan will soon address himself to your children, to bespeak them for his service. Their reason will no sooner begin to operate than he will take advantage of that foolishness which is bound up in their hearts, to fix them in his service. Endeavor therefore to be beforehand with him. Instruct them in the knowledge of God, of their own fallen condition, of the way that God hath provided for their recovery, and the way of holiness wherein they should walk. Convince them, by methods suited to their tender years and weak minds, that religion is pleasant, and necessary for them.” 

    If we need an example of failure in training up a child in the way he should go, even from the Word of God, there are numerous such examples granted us through the activity of God the Holy Spirit, the very One delegated to inspire men of old to pen the Word of God; and His sovereign words regarding fathers, who abdicated their God-given, God-commanded, roles as the leaders of their households. The first such example is that found near the very beginning of the books of Samuel. We recall the account given of Eli, the priest, along with his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who are sadly, but accurately, described in 1 Samuel 2:12, where we may read; Now the sons of Eli were base men; they knew not Jehovah. And these were not only men of the chosen people of Jehovah, the God of Israel, but priests, under the supposed ‘management’ of their father, Eli, who through neglect, trained them ‘according to their way.’ The record given of the result of this is found in verses 22-25; Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons did to all Israel, and how that they lay with the women that did service at the door of the tent of meeting. Does this seem a light thing? It was no light thing in the eyes of Jehovah. His denunciation of the house of Eli is recorded in 3:12-13; where we read, In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from the beginning even unto the end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever, because his sons did bring a curse upon themselves, and he restrained them not. He did not restrain them; would you allow your offspring to bring a curse upon your house? All you need to do, is nothing. But, and if, you seek and desire blessings toward your offspring, we commend this to you; Train up a child in the way he should go. 

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church    


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