Tag Archives: Proverbs 22:6

A Father’s Responsibility to his Children

     The Bible has a great deal to say about parenting: both positive and negative. It is complete with examples and details galore as to what God considers to be effective parenting and what will leave us lacking as we bring forth the next generation. It is sad that our world considers the role of fathers to be a largely unnecessary one. Everyone knows a child needs his mother, but few seem to believe that the child equally needs his father. While many in our world would limit the father’s responsibilities to his children to such things as money, food, and clothing, the Bible is very explicit that his responsibility goes far deeper than these surface issues. Look at what God considers to be a father’s responsibility to his children.

     Train them. Most are familiar with Solomon’s admonition to, “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Pro. 22:6), but have you ever considered the greater structure of that statement? The book of Proverbs is written as wisdom handed down from a father to his son (Pro. 1:8). It is a father’s work to “train” his son in the wisdom needed for life. The word translated “train up” is the Hebrew term chanak. It means: to dedicate or instruct. Fathers need to be seriously focused on dedicating their children to the path they need to take with time, care, and preparation.

     Raise them. In our world the mother is the parent generally considered responsible for the raising of the children. Studies are showing that more than 60% of American children are being raised in single-parent homes and the overwhelming majority of them are with their mother. Yet, even in homes where both parents are present, it is most often the mother who is given the responsibility of raising the children. On more occasions than I care to count I have heard phrases such as: “I leave the raising of the kids to their mother,” proceed from the mouth of a father. Fathers are often deemed too busy, or maybe more accurately, too disinterested to be bothered with such a “woman’s responsibility.”

     But God does not consider it to be the mother’s responsibility alone. When God said: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), he did not make a mistake. Consider the words translated as, “bring them up.” In the original language it is ektrephete auta, meaning “nourish them” or “nurture them.” God has placed the responsibility of nurturing and nourishing our children in the commandments and training of the Lord squarely on the shoulders of fathers. Most of the problems our families and society encounter today is rooted in the dereliction of duty when it comes to fathers raising their children. If our children are untrained, unruly, and unprepared to serve God or benefit man, it is the father upon whom God places the blame.

      Lead them. It is high time fathers started stepping back up to the plate in leading their families, especially in the spiritual realm. For far too many generations the mother has been forced to be the spiritual leader in the home. She has been the one making sure everyone is there for services, reading her Bible with the children, and striving to be at every church event she can. Meanwhile, dad can’t hardly get out of bed on Sunday morning, would rather be hunting than serving, and has not read the Bible to his children since who knows when. Dads, if I had a dollar for every time a Christian wife told me that she wished her husband would take the lead in serving God and teaching the children about Him in their home, my savings account would be vastly improved.

      God said of Abraham, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18:19). Abraham was the leader of his household and God respected him for it. Have we earned the same respect from God?

     I do not write these things as a perfect father. There is no such thing on this physical world and I fall short far too often for my own liking. Nevertheless, dads, these are our responsibilities. These are things God has put on our shoulders. They are also things our wives need us to place on our own shoulders and stop trying to add extra weight to their already heavy loads. Let us, as husbands and fathers, fulfill the expectations of God and bring glory to Him by letting our children see His love in us.

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God’s Guarantees

Most of us tend not to trust guarantees. They sound good, they look good, but rarely are the guarantees all they are cracked up to be. Unfortunately, we also tend to take that skepticism and apply it toward our application of Scripture as well. We take absolute statements that God makes with “a grain of salt” and then rationalize our skepticism with statements like, “there are always exceptions to the rule.” Consider two guarantees God made in Scripture that many Christians will not accept as fully factual.

“For if you do these things you will never stumble” (2 Pet. 1:10). We often treat our relationship with God as though we are on the cusp of failure, in danger of falling off the cliff of faith, and balancing on the pinhead of righteousness. We see no guarantee of salvation and answer questions about our eternal security with statements like, “I hope so.” Yet, God made a guarantee. It is possible for us to live our lives in such a way that we will never fall, never turn from him no matter what happens. Some Christians argue that you can never know what you will do in a situation until you are there; God disagrees. He says you can prepare yourself so that you will know exactly what you will do in any given situation: it’s called training.

However, this guarantee is not universal, it is conditional. It is predicated with the phrase, “if you do these things.” The things under consideration are what we commonly call the Christian Graces (2 Pet. 1:5-8). Do you want to know how to make sure you will never fall? Learn what the Christian Graces are, how they interact within your life, and make it your life’s pursuit to implement them fully in every respect. If you fall away from God, it will only be because of your failure to implement the recipe God placed before you. He has given us the means to ensure we will never fall, but it is up to us to utilize them by the ways and means he has detailed.

The second phrase is: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Pro. 22:6). I’ve seen so many parents automatically qualify that by saying, “but that’s not guaranteed.” God did. He said if you train your children in the way they are to go they WILL NOT depart from it. The problem is in the way we have commonly explained the word “train.” We have taken that to mean “tell them,” or “teach them” and it will automatically be ingrained in them. Such is not the intent or meaning of the statement.

The word “train” means, in the Hebrew, “to dedicate, inaugurate.” Parents have taken it to mean that you tell them what to do, then let them make their own decisions because it’s “their life.” God says do not just tell where the path is, take them down the path. Do not wait for them to make the right decisions as children, make the right decisions for them. I know it goes against conventional wisdom, but you are the parent. You decide what they watch, listen to, buy, consume, read, do, and say. God says if you “train them,” in the truest sense “indoctrinate them” (Indoctrinate actually means “to instruct in rudiments or principles”), in the paths of God by placing them on that path and taking them down that road: they will not depart from it.

If our children leave the road, we did not train them properly; and as much as we hate to admit failure, the blame will lay at our feet. It is why we must take so seriously the admonitions to not be of the world, to transform our lives, to be separate from the world; because we do not want our children to leave the path for the world.

God makes guarantees. If our lives do not fit the mold of the guarantees made, then we need to re-examine our own lives; for the failure will not be with God, but with us. However, let us never try to demean the promises of God because of our own failures, for then we make God a liar. Let us instead put our trust in the guarantees he has made and then implement the standards that carry his stamp of approval. For when we buy his goods, his guarantees are always accurate.

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“Train up a Child”

The wise man Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Pro. 22:6). Parents have heard this verse and bestowed it upon their children for generations. However, the more I have studied and contemplated this passage of Scripture, the more I believe that we do not really understand the wisdom Solomon was presenting. Let us examine each section of this verse and understand the implications of it.

Train up a child

Most parents consider the word “train” to mean teach or prepare, but that is not the meaning of the word used here. The Hebrew word is chanak and it means, “to initiate, dedicate, discipline, or train up” (Strong). Of the five times it is used in the Old Testament, every other occurrence is translated “dedicate” or “dedication.” The emphasis of “train” is far more than simple teaching, it is a dedicated regimen that directs, regulates, and impresses upon the child, in every manner of life, the path to be taken.

The word for “child” in this verse is the Hebrew word na’ar and it defines a child as a boy or girl from infancy through adolescence. This training is not intended to start at age 5, 10, or 13, but instead from the moment the child leaves the womb. It is the same form of reference to a child that Paul makes concerning Timothy in Second Timothy 3:15. Therefore, this dedication is to begin at birth and continue to adulthood.

In the way he should go:

The term, “the way” is defined as a road or the path of a journey. It is not a simple direction toward which to be pointed, but a specific path to be chosen. This goes against the grain of many parents’ philosophy whereby they point their children in the general direction and then allow them to “choose their own path.” The manner of direction Solomon dictates is a singular devotion to a particular path of life, thereby removing all others.

Additionally, the phrase “he should go” is an interesting one. Of the more than 500 times the Hebrew word peh is used in the Old Testament, this is the only time it is translated with this phrase. The word carries with it the basic meaning of “the mouth” or “the instruction of the mouth.” In other words, Solomon is not stating that parents are to point their children in the direction they want them to go and let them be on their way; rather, they are to take them down the path instruction dictates they must go.

And when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Parents have often argued from examples of children who were raised in “Christian” homes and did not follow the path of their parents that this is not a one-size-fits-all statement, and that it would be more proper to state “and when he is old, he SHOULD not depart from it.” The only problem with that is, the statement is emphatic in the Hebrew, without exception or exemption. Also remember the statement is given by the inspiration of God; therefore, man should not be trying to change the validity or intention of the statement as given. Solomon’s statement is absolute; thus, if a child does not turn out as he should, the problem lies not with the truthfulness of the statement of Solomon, but with the application of the parents in enacting the instructions. God is emphatic that if we enact this principle, our children will follow the path dictated.

Applying the Proverb

What is Solomon, by inspiration, telling us? Let us put all the facts together. Parents need to dedicate their children to the path instructed from the time they are infants. This dedication means to focus on this singular path above all else, and if any part of life leaves that path, that part of life is left behind. Dedication requires full devotion to the path selected.

Is this what we do with our children? Unfortunately, for most parents, it is not. They take their children, point them in a direction and hope they do not get distracted, meanwhile they bombard them with every distraction and side-track imaginable that could veer them off the pointed direction. Parents state they want their children to be Christians, but then constantly place before them athletics, school activities, entertainment, worldly fashion, peer-pressure, and all other forms of distraction that pull them away from the stated goal; then the parents wonder what went wrong when the child follows those things instead of following God.

As parents, our responsibility is not to “point them in the right direction,” but from their earliest moments on this earth to place them on the proper path, by means of example, instruction, and guidance, and to ensure that there is never any deviation from that path as they are growing up. This does not mean no accessory activities can be a part of life; but from the beginning it must be understood that when those activities leave the path of service to God, those activities are left behind.

The instruction must be absolute, unwavering, and unapologetic. The parent’s responsibility is not, as most in today’s society believe, to allow the child to try everything and see what they like; instead it is to give them constant doses of the right thing so that everything else is in perspective. It also means the parents must live a life of example before their children. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can be allowed to stand between the parent and God. God must come first in all things. For the parent cannot direct the child down a path the parent is not walking. When the parent veers off the path, he gives the child cause to do so as well. For this dedication to be complete, it must be absolute both in the parents and the children.

This method of child-rearing is not popular, nor is it fashionable, but it is godly, authorized, and acceptable. God has told us that if we fully and completely dedicate our children to the path of service to him, without deviation or dilution, the outcome will be faithful servants of God. Are we willing to take God at his word?

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