Monday, January 2, 2023

A Parent's Duty (Proverbs 22:6)


Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. [Proverbs 22:6, ESV]

Ever since I was a little kid, I have dreamt of being a father. My father has been a wonderful role model for me, and his love for his children has given me a desire to have children of my own. I remember being in highschool and going to see my new cousin, and I remember the way holding him in my arms brought a joy to my heart that I struggle to accurately describe. I was a teenager, I had not come to know Christ in the way that I know Him now, but even then I could feel the joy that God gives to us through children. Even thinking about being a father makes my heart race. I thought that I would need to wait for a while before I would become a father, but one of the things that I have learned as I have been seeking the Lord regularly is that God’s plans for me will come to pass far sooner than I had expected them to. In preparation for the children that God will bless me with some day, I want to discuss Proverbs 22:6.

I have explained the excitement that I feel about being a father some day, but I must tell you about one of the greatest fears that I have about becoming a father. Ever since I felt the Lord call me to serve Him in ministry, I have felt a burden for the souls of those around me. Billions of people have never received the free gift of salvation, and if we do not work to share the Gospel with them, they will not be with us in Heaven. The idea of anybody going to Hell disturbs me to my core, and I have felt the desire to share Christ with everybody, no matter what it takes. Some people will think that my desire to share my faith is a sign of me being crazy, but I know that other Christians feel the same way that I feel about the souls of people around the world. Christ is coming soon, and He will return like a thief in the night.

While I care immensely about the souls of people around the world, I care especially about the souls of my family. I cannot describe the grief that I would feel if I arrived in Heaven, only to find that some family members are not there. How much worse would I feel if I never saw my children in Heaven? The fear of my children turning from God used to make me wonder whether or not I should even have children. What if I was not good enough to raise them to love the Lord? What if my children are turned against God by the increasingly anti-Christian culture that we live in?

For years, I thought about whether or not I should have children. I have explained the desire that I have always felt to be a father, so when I say that I was thinking about not having children, the severity of my fear should be obvious. I was terrified, and I let that fear rule me.

Since I rededicated my life to Christ, I have seen God deliver me from my fear, from my anger, and from my anxiety. Suddenly, the ways that the devil had been working in my life were illuminated, and I saw how much I had been deceived as a teenager. I pray that this essay helps those of you have the same fear that I once had about having children. Do not be deceived any longer, my friends. I am not a parent, but I have felt that excitement that comes with seeing a life brought into the world, and I can confidently say that life is a gift from God, and that every child is a testament to the goodness of our Savior. 

As I was praying for direction from the Lord regarding what to write about, Proverbs 22:6 kept coming to my mind. Each time I thought about the verse, I felt a new idea come to me, and I felt an excitement growing in my spirit that can only come from the Lord. God bless you all, and I pray that this essay blesses anybody who reads it.

Proverbs 22:6 tells us exactly how we must raise the next generation, and the verse addresses the fear that I used to have.

Train up a child in the way he should go…

The first part of Proverbs 22:6 reminds us of what it means to be a parent. Being a parent is not about being the best-friend of our children, nor is it about ensuring that our children succeed in their education (though education is important). After all, what good will education serve when the body dies and the mind goes with it? Parents are not called to supervise their children, nor are they called to make them happy, they are given the enormous responsibility of training their children so that they love the Lord, so that they show the love of Christ in every area of life, and so that they can go and make disciples of all nations.

Notice that this first part of the verse says nothing about how we should train our children, nor what that way he should go looks like. This verse reminds parents of their greatest duty as parents, but it does not give them a plan. No two children are the same, and each parent must use his or her discretion. I will not venture into the controversial waters surrounding corporal punishment, as the subject is not very important to this verse, nor would it be worth alienating some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. What I will say is that, as a child, I would get a swat on the rear end when I deserved it, and I know that the way I was punished as a child was the correct way of dealing with my poor behavior. However, for many children, corporal punishment would not only be ineffective, it would be harmful for their developing minds. It is the job of the parent to discern how they should discipline their children, and I believe that parents should regularly ask God for wisdom in how to go about raising their children. Parenting is incredibly difficult, and a failed parent will cause a child to fail in adulthood. No matter what they believe in, every parent should be able to say that the most important part of raising children is that the children grow up to be better than their parents. Regardless of how you feel you should raise your children, your job is to raise them in the way that “they should go”.

Regarding what it means to train a child in the “way he should go”, there is less discernment required. The Bible makes it very clear how we are supposed to live, but the Bible does not address every situation. As an adult, I have to discern what God wants me to do, and I cannot discern God’s will if I do not know Him. Therefore, I believe that parents should raise their children to love the Lord, so that they walk with Him. Wisdom is useless without application. When we gain wisdom (which we should regularly pray for), we feel a burden to share that wisdom with others. Parents should pray for God to give them wisdom, and parents should share that wisdom with their children. As children develop wisdom, that wisdom will guide them, and that wisdom will lead them to pursue Christ with enthusiasm. The best way to raise a child to love God is for the parent to love God first.

…even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The latter half of Proverbs 22:6 is what really comforts me. When we raise our children according to God’s Word, and we regularly seek wisdom from the Lord, we can rest assured that our children will not depart from the values that have been instilled in them.

Conversely, when a parent fails to raise a child correctly, that child will likely repeat the errors of his parents. When a father is a bully, his son will become a bully. When a father abuses his children, his children will abuse his children. When a father mistreats the mother, the child will learn to mistreat the mother of his children. There are certain responsibilities that require a type of lifestyle that may not appeal to everybody. As somebody who wishes to preach and teach the Word of God, I know that I will be judged more strictly [James 3:1]. I know that, if I wish to be a leader, I must be loyal to my wife, I must be hospitable, I must be able to teach others, and I must be able to manage my household well [1 Timothy 3:1-7]. The more responsibility that one has, the higher the standard he must live up to.

When a man and a woman are given the gift of a child, the parents are required to live up to a higher standard than those without children. If you do not think that you can live up to what God requires, then I would strongly encourage you to refrain from having children. Just as some people could never be a chef, or some people could never be a police officer or a firefighter, some people could not be a parent. If you cannot do what is in the job description, do not bother applying for the position.

I did not realize how much I would end up writing for this essay, but I do not think that I wrote too much. There was a certain burden on my heart to write this essay, and I am glad that I was able to actually write it. I pray that you have been blessed today, and I pray that you see the Lord working powerfully in your life.

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