Can Godly Parents Rear Godly Children? Part I
Scripture: Proverbs 22:6
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”
Can you have assurance that your child will go to heaven, or is the decision to bring a child into the world a gamble with a never dying soul?
Is there any guarantee that if you properly train your child, he (or she) will practice the religious values and lifestyle you taught him once he is grown and out of the home?
If we allow statistics to answer the question, the outlook is bleak. Look around you at all the parents with grown children who have abandoned their parents’ values and lifestyle. Such children are a grief to godly parents.
Is Proverbs 22:6 a promise to parents? If properly trained, will children embrace that training and never depart from it? Most of the people I talk to and many of the “authorities” I read on parenting say, “No, Proverbs 22:6 is not a promise.” When asked, “Why not?” they usually cite one or more of the following four reasons why godly parents may fail to rear godly children:
- You cannot guarantee parental success in child-rearing because a child has the God-given ability to reject truth as well as
- Too many godly parents have done their best and failed. Take, for example, Adam and Eve and their son Cain, Abraham and his son Ishmael, Isaac and his son Esau, Jacob and most of his sons, Eli and his two sons, and Samuel and his sons. All of these had a least one rebellious, ungodly child;
- God, as a “parent” to Adam and Eve, and as a “parent” to Israel, did not succeed with all His “kids”!
- Proverbs 22:6 is a general truth (a proverb, not a promise) to which there are notable exceptions.
There is no guarantee that your children will serve God faithfully. Conclusion?
Most people believe Proverbs 22:6 is not a “promise” in the normal sense of the word. Besides, if we say that it is a promise, would that not classify most parents as “parental failures” and increase the guilt and pain they already feel?
To compound the problem, let’s take a look at the “raw material” proud parents hold in their arms at birth. Every baby inherits a depraved (fallen) nature at conception (because of Adam’s sin) that begins to express itself in self-centered ways at birth (Psa. 51:5; Rom. 5:12). By definition, self-centeredness seeks to get its own way (Isa. 53:6) and continually tries to find methods to accomplish it.
Therefore, every child is born with built-in selfishness. Add to this the fact that your baby will find lying as natural as breathing (children go astray from the womb speaking lies—Psa. 58:3).
Factor in the startling truth that foolishness”—that lack of foresight and stubbornness of heart that prompts a child to rebel against authority—“is bound up” in the heart of your baby (Pro. 22:15). If you include the vastly differing range of mental abilities, emotional make-ups, and spiritual proclivities possible, then you have a veritable Pandora’s box of potential havoc.
And, in light of all this, God pronounces a blessing upon those who have children!
“Children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psa. 127:3).
What response can one make to this? Will it surprise you if I tell you, contrary to the majority view and as foolish as it may seem, that I claimed Proverbs 22:6 as a promise from God!
Even though I accept the following five premises, I believe there is biblical hope for rearing godly children.
Five premises underlying my belief
- Your child has the God-given ability to accept or reject Jesus as Savior.
- Nothing predetermines that choice.
- You can greatly influence the choice your child will make.
- God wants your child to love and serve Him.
- Satan will use every means at his disposal to keep your child from serving God.
In light of these five premises, I still believe it is possible to surround your children with earnest prayer and to provide a happy and holy home environment so as to rear godly children. I see within Proverbs 22:6 three important truths one must follow:
- There is the mandated training;
- The timing of the training is crucial.
- There is a promised triumph.
I. The Mandated Training: “Train up a child in the way he should go….”
The command “train up” indicates the seriousness of the parental assignment. The Hebrew literally reads “train a child according to his way, when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Are we to understand “his way” to mean
- allow a child to have his own way, and when he is old he will not depart from it; or
- to tailor the training to fit the child’s unique temperament and abilities, and when he is old he will not depart from it; or
- train a child according to God’s way and when he is old he will not depart from it?
Although the first translation is possible, a combination of the second and third viewpoints is more likely.
I understand this Scripture to mean: “Train up a child according to God’s way, taking into consideration the child’s unique temperament and abilities; and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
By its very nature, training involves many things. Some of the most important of these are dedication, desire, discipline and drill.
A. Be Sure to Dedicate Your Child to the Lord.
It comes as no surprise to a Christian that everything he has belongs to the Lord, including himself (1 Cor. 10:26; 6:19). Therefore, like Hannah with Samuel, we should view our child as “on-loan” to us by the Lord.
Dedication involves more than a special service at church. It should demonstrate itself by our ongoing carefulness to stay in tune with God about the training of our children.
Much prayer should be offered on their behalf from their earliest days, not waiting until rebellion begins to show itself. Since children are God’s gift to us, we should ask God to give us special discernment and wisdom to train them according to His will.
B. Be Sure You Cultivate Spiritual Desires in Your Child.
Each child is born with different gifts, abilities, potentials, and weaknesses. Some children will give early evidence of spiritual interest and sensitivity. Others will display a lack of interest, and some, a resistance to spiritual things. Parents must be alert to detect the presence or lack of spiritual desires in their child.
This involves paying attention to your child’s response to singing, prayer, and preaching in church, as well as interest or resistance to family prayers. A lack of spiritual awareness or sensitivity in children may indicate the presence of spiritual strongholds Satan has erected as a result of the sins of their fathers being visited upon them (Eph. 4:26; Ex. 20:5; 34:7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 5:9; Jer. 32:18).
These must be torn down through fasting and intercessory prayer. To develop spiritual desires, surround your child with spiritual music. We used to put our children to bed every night to the music of classical hymns of the church. Avoid the music of the world. Shield them from the powerful influence of television.
Because we did not know what propensities toward sin our children inherited from their forefathers, we chose not to have a television. We substituted carefully-chosen character-building audio tapes and exciting Christian literature. Included in these were thrilling missionary stories.
We wanted our children to admire missionaries, preachers, and successful Bible-believing Christians rather than admiring actors, actresses, and sports figures. Take note of whom your children admire. Help them to choose heroes of the faith, not heroes of this fallen, sinful world.
C. You Must Incorporate Discipline into the Training.
Discipline begins with the parent. You must model the attitudes and actions you want your child to follow. Much is “caught” by your children as they observe your attitudes and your actions. If you wish them to be submissive to their authorities, you must demonstrate your submission to your authorities, including your employer, your pastor, and your civil leaders.
Consistency in enforcing your word and fairness in your requirements is essential. Be careful of what you say in front of your children. Do not criticize or talk negatively about professing Christians in their presence. You never know whom God might use to influence your child toward Him.
Through unwise comments, you can short-circuit God’s plan to use another person to help your child.
Granted, you will have to shield your child from some people because of potential negative impact, but do it in such a way that your child does not detect what you are doing.
Dr. Allan P. Brown teaches such courses as Christian Beliefs, Doctrine of Holiness, Wisdom Literature, Hebrew, Preaching Holiness, Romans and Galatians, and Letters to the Hebrews.
He has been on faculty at GBSC since 1996 and is the author of several books and articles.
Dr. Brown also speaks at churches, camp meetings, revivals and more.