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Wise Words on Childrearing

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). This verse is a proverb. What is a proverb? A short, general statement of truth. It tells us what happens generally speaking.

A few verses earlier in this chapter we read: “By humility and fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life” (Prov. 22:4). Is every humble, God-fearing person rich? Of course not. Christians are sometimes “the poor of this world” who are “rich in faith” (James 2:5). But when someone fears God and does what He says, things will go better. He will work instead of stealing or wasting or ending up poor because of laziness. Generally speaking, he will work and save and have more than enough of the things of this world.

A few verses later we find these words: “He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend” (Prov. 22:11). Are rulers friends with everyone who is pure-hearted and gracious? Definitely not. Jesus never sinned, but Herod mocked Him when Jesus refused to play His game (Luke 23:8-11). But generally rulers appreciate citizens who are honest and pure in heart. They see all kinds of deception and are often guilty of it themselves. Still, it is such a rare thing for them to see someone who is not driven by greed and power that they respect a sincere person who tells the truth.

These are just a few examples. A proverb is not intended to cover every situation. It is not designed to deal with exceptions to the rule; other verses elsewhere in the Bible do that. A proverb is not always a blanket statement or a universal description of what it describes.

Generally speaking, when parents train a child right, that child will comply. But there are times when parents have taught a child right and set the right example before him and he goes astray. Solomon himself who wrote this proverb did this very thing. His father taught him right (Prov. 4:1-9). Yet the Bible says, “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods” (I Kings 11:4).

We must not take verses out of their biblical context and we must always remember that every person has free will. Ezekiel 18 is very plain. It shows that a good man can have a bad son (vv. 5-13). It also teaches that the same bad son can have a son who “sees all the sins which his father has done, and considers but does not do likewise” (v. 14). Our own familiar proverb “Like father, like son” is still a proverb. It is true generally speaking.

Proverbs 22:6 is a great encouragement to parents. Teach them all you can while you can. A poem in the Gospel Advocate of February 26, 1936 called “The Potter” reads:

“I took a piece of plastic clay,

And idly fashioned it one day;

And as my fingers pressed it, still

It moved and yielded to my will.

I came again, when days were past;

The bit of clay was hard at last,

The form I gave it still it bore,

But I could change that form no more.

I took a piece of living clay,

And gently formed it day by day,

And molded with my power and art

A young child’s soft and human heart.

I came again, when years were gone;

It was a man I looked upon,

He still that early impress bore,

And I could change it nevermore.”

These are difficult times for Christian parents. May the Lord bless each one to bring up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.


West End church of Christ bulletin for December 3, 2023


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