In the Way They Should Go
1063 words, read time 3-4 minutes
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. “(Proverbs 22:6)
Recently, I began a study in the Proverbs on parenting and started with this familiar and often quoted verse. As I took an in depth look at the meaning of this verse, I was surprised to find how much wisdom and depth of knowledge came from researching and meditating on God’s Word.
The words translated as “train up” come from a Hebrew word that literally means “to narrow”. Figuratively speaking it can mean to initiate or discipline, to dedicate or train up. If we were to take the literal meaning of the word, we would likely translate this verse to read, “Narrow the way in which your kids go”. The idea here is that you are bringing your child down a narrow path of life, not letting them go off to be wild and reckless on a path of destruction. This concept is very similar to the teachings of Jesus.
Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it. How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
It is our obligation as parents to guide our children in ways that are right, true, noble and good. We are at the same time to keep our children from ways that are destructive, harmful, false and evil. We cannot delegate this responsibility to the Sunday school teacher, church or any other institution. God calls us as parents to perform this function. We also cannot expect our children to know the way to go or figure it out on their own. Children must be taught and even trained to live a godly lifestyle.
The word “child” in the Hebrew covers the ages of infancy to adolescence. The training and molding of our children begins at a young age. In the youngest years children are most impressionable providing us as parents a prime opportunity for developing their ways of thinking and behavior. Obviously, the training and development of our children does not stop after their toddler years, but the idea here is that we are to start young and continue on throughout their adolescence.
Some Bible scholars have suggested that training a child in “the way he should go” implies that each child has been given by God a unique set of gifts, talents, traits, abilities and personality that we as parents must be sensitive to guide them in following individually. Any parent with more than one child understands that no two children are alike in temperament or skills, so it would only make sense to guide and encourage our children to flourish in their God-given abilities.
The word “way” in the Hebrew means a road, and figuratively means “a course of life or mode of action”. We are teaching our children the way in which they are to live, how they are to treat others, how they are to love God and interact with Him, how they are to be in character and conduct. And what is “the way” that we need to train our kids? In the New Testament, Jesus teaches us that He is the way.
I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
If we begin to get confused about the model or style of parenting we should follow, it’s always wise to default back to Jesus. When facing a dilemma in parenting, it would be helpful to ask questions like, “What would Jesus think of my child’s attitude?” “How would He respond?” “What would it look like for my son or daughter to be more like Jesus?” And most importantly, we need to pray to the Lord on our children’s behalf and for His guidance, help and wisdom for us as parents.
As we guide our children in the ways of Jesus, we are hopeful that they will one day choose for themselves to follow Him. This proverb does say that “when (our child) is old, he will not depart from (the way)” which at times has been used to guarantee parents of their child’s salvation or future as a Christian. It is true that as we train and disciple our children in God’s ways, we lay the foundation for them to make the choice to follow Christ when they grow older.
This verse does not say that by simply being a Christian ourselves, our children will also become believers in Jesus. Parenting is a process. It happens day after day, night after night, year after year. Over time, if you are consistent in living out your faith, your children will learn the way to go.
If we desire to maximize the impact we have on our children, we need to start by examining our own walk with God and ask the question, “How well am I modeling Christianity to my children in my attitude, actions and words on a daily basis?” And when we fall short, which we inevitably and frequently do, are we willing to admit our shortcomings to our kids and ask their forgiveness.
The clearest commandment in the Old Testament on parenting may just about sum up all we need to do and be as parents who raise God loving children.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-8
Our ultimate goal as parents is first to love the Lord our God. We are to be examples to our children of what it means to live a life of loving and following God. We are to model that love to our children everywhere we go with them. We are to be consistent in teaching, instructing, and training our children in the love of God. And as they observe and learn the ways of God through our lives and witness the faithfulness of God to us, they will be convinced that there is no better way to live.