Is It Possible?
Christians are familiar with the responsibility of parents to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph.6:4). As a result of their love for the Lord and their children, many are very conscientious in this area. And, many are ultimately rewarded with godly, mature, devoted offspring.
On the other hand, there are godly parents who do exactly as described and get the opposite results. It’s tragic, heartbreaking and discouraging.
The discouragement is often compounded when a certain proverb comes to mind: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6 - KJV throughout). The conscientious parent sometimes reasons from this passage that he/she must have done or failed to do something in the child-rearing process that caused their child’s departure from the truth. Otherwise, they reason, their child would have remained faithful. So, guilt is added to discouragement.
Is it possible that in these cases only the grown child is at fault? Is it possible that this proverb is not to be taken as an absolute? Let’s examine two lines of reasoning.
If it is impossible for one to depart from “the way” once he/she has been so trained:
- How is it that the strange woman of Proverbs 2:17 is said to have departed “from the guide of her youth?”
- It must be equally true that those who have not been trained up in the way they should go can never go in that way. It seems that what is absolute in one case would also be absolute in the other.
- Parental upbringing would be stronger than the gospel, since we can depart from the gospel but not from godly training.
If there are no exceptions to Proverbs 22:6, it seems the following proverbs would also have no exceptions:
- “None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life” (Prov. 2:19). Could this be the sin unto death or could “none” have exceptions?
- “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord” (Prov. 18:22). Solomon also says it is better to dwell on the housetop than with a contentious woman (Prov. 21:9; 25:24). Such a wife would definitely not be a “good thing.”
- “He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread…” (Prov. 28:19). Always?
Just as there are exceptions to these proverbs, there are exceptions to Proverbs 22:6. This should not surprise or disturb us. Such is the nature of proverbs. They set forth general principles.
Perhaps the preceding thoughts will be a source of consolation to those who are struggling with the unfaithfulness of their grown children who were brought up properly. Additionally, these thoughts remind us of the ever-present need to take parental responsibilities seriously. If we do our best in this area, and even that is not always enough, what chance do our children have if we do less than our best? It’s something to think about.