Here are some questions that have been suggested to me by a friend.
Prov. 22:6 is a very interesting verse but what does it mean?
I think it means exactly what it says. It is not a promise and should not be read as such. It is merely a proverb. But it is an inspired proverb. My interpretation of this proverb is not novel and can be supported by many scholars from many sources.
Does it mean that if parents do mostly what is right, then so will our children?
Of course it does not promise this. A proverb even though it is inspired is not a promise. It’s a proverb. (I think I’ve said this already). But it is a general rule and is therefore generally true. An inspired proverb, like the Law, is not useful to anyone outside of Christ because the ultimate goal is salvation and glorification. What the Law cannot do because it is made weak by the flesh (Romans 8:2), neither can the Inspired Proverb, especially because it is a proverb and not a command. It is — if I may say it this way — even weaker. But in Christ it is a reasonable general rule.
Does it mean that if parents ALWAYS do what is right, then so will our children? If I train my son to be a carpenter, then he will be a good one? He will never depart from being a carpenter. If I train him to play hockey . . . or in the case of Tiger, golf?
Of course not. No. No. And, um, no. But is it unreasonable to think that Tiger’s son may turn out to be a better golfer than my son? Would anyone be shocked that Tiger’s son loves golf because his dad loves it so much? Rather, we would all be shocked if he hates golf.
Does it mean that I can offset my child’s depravity by my righteous living?
This is a tricky question. My knee-jerk answer was a solid no. But, wait! “Offset?” To offset means to diminish the effect of something and, yes, righteous living does offset the effect of depravity. It doesn’t do miracles. It doesn’t change a heart. But if I refuse to let my daughter go out alone with her boyfriend (hypothetically speaking), my righteous commitment offsets her depravity. The Scriptures are loaded with examples of righteous living “offsetting” depravity. It does not save. It does not sanctify. The effect of salt and light in the world is to offset depravity. Offset, yes. Negate, no.
Even the Apostle of Grace was not afraid to employ a general rule/proverb. “Be not deceived. Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). I can just hear people clamoring, “But Paul, shame on you! You know that corruption is in the heart. How can you dare say that bad company ruins good morals? You moralist!” But Paul is merely citing a general rule. He does not say it will happen every time. But it is a general rule even for Christians that their morals could be corrupted by evil company.
But this does not mean that if a child is rebellious that his parents were necessarily not living righteously. I have never said that.
It is the Gospel that bears fruit. “Of this you heard before in the word of truth, the gospel, which is bearing fruit and growing” (Col. 1:6). In Christ, training up a child (Pr. 22:6) becomes “training him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) and that means the Gospel. It is reasonable, my friends, to expect the Gospel to bear fruit where even nature works in favor of the evangelist to prepare the soil like no other place he could evangelize: his own home.
Since this is a public document, I want to go on the record right now — again — that my trembling prayer is that the Gospel will bear good fruit in my children. I hope I can see it. I’ll still hope for it if I die before I see it. And if it doesn’t happen, I’ll not be so presumptive as to assume my “bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” was without blame. But I believe that where there is a home where unbelieving children are the product, the gospel was not at work in that home like it could have been.
Filed under: Parenting