Proverbs 22:6: Promise or Principle?

January 6, 2020 at 10:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: I’m a parent and I would like to claim Proverbs 22:6 as a promise from God, that if I train my children to follow Christ and to do what’s right, then, as they get older, they will continue on that path and not depart from it. But I’ve heard at least a couple of preachers say that Proverbs 22:6 is a principle and not a promise. Is that true, and how can I tell?

Answer: First of all, I want to commend you for thinking Biblically, and therefore correctly, about your responsibilities as a parent, and for your desire to take hold of promises from the Word of God.

The Proverbs are part of the Biblical genre known as “wisdom literature.” They are often described as a collection of “wisdom sayings” gathered by King Solomon and other writers, that are intended as guidelines to help people live God-fearing and God-pleasing lives because they are generally true. Since the Bible must be read in context in order to apply it correctly, it helps to know that the Proverbs are expressions of wit and wisdom designed to be memorable and evocative, while still being inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore inerrant and infallible. This tension has caused problems of interpretation for many Bible scholars and commentators. Before I get to your specific question, let me give you a couple of examples.

Proverbs 21:19 says, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” Is this a promise or a principle? The promise is that living with a quarrelsome and browbeating woman will always be a miserable experience, and, while living in the wilderness can be rough, it is actually better than the alternative. However, it is not a “blanket promise” in the way that a verse like John 3:16 is. For instance, there might be a rabid grizzly bear roaming in a particular area of wilderness. THAT would not be preferable to sharing a house with even the orneriest, big bad mama we can imagine. So, for this reason, we are tempted to use verses like this to support the argument that the Proverbs are only situation-specific promises, and are really more like principles.

However, look at Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Have you ever heard a preacher say, “That’s just a principle, and not a promise. Most of the time we should trust in the Lord and His direction for our lives, but not always?” I doubt it, and if you have, then I want to meet that preacher. No, we are quick to latch onto certain Proverbs as promises and to dismiss others are mere principles, when the Bible does not authorize us to be that cavalier with the Scriptures.

So, what does all this have to do with Proverbs 22:6? I’ll tell you what. The interpretation and application of Proverbs 22:6 is fraught with situational temptation.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it

Proverbs 22:6

Imagine you are a preacher preaching to a congregation where an older couple is present, and they have served faithfully in church for many years, having brought up their son from his birth to be faithful right alongside them. This couple was consistent with discipline. They attended services faithfully. They gave sacrificially. They weren’t hypocritical. They glorified God in church and out of church, and they did their dead level best to bring up their child in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. However, once Junior moved out on his own, he stopped going to church, got into trouble with the law, took up drugs, alcohol, and fornication, and is now living like the devil’s disciple. What does the preacher say when he gets to Proverbs 22:6? He can’t say God was wrong. The more political spin is to say it’s a principle and not a promise, and that, even though Dad and Mom did a fine job raising Junior, they can’t really be responsible for his choice to deviate from the general principle of Proverbs 22:6.

So, I think the most common answer to your question is that, while it is admirable that you want to claim a promise from God, you had better not be too hasty. You’re just a young parent, and you should do your best, but don’t count on your little tyke growing up to do what’s right. In other words, hope he falls under the general principle, but don’t blame God (or yourself) for breaking a promise if he goes astray.

I am not going to give you that answer, because I really don’t think it’s the right way to read or apply that verse, for two reasons.

1. We have to be careful about importing our modern word-usages into Bible verses that were translated a long time ago. We have a tendency to read “Train up a child in the way he SHOULD go” and place a moral value judgment on the word “should.” If I say, “We SHOULD treat people with respect,” then it is clear that I mean we ought to treat people with respect because it is the morally right thing to do. Likewise, we read Proverbs 22:6 and we automatically think that it means that the way a child SHOULD go is God’s way, and to go another way is the morally wrong way to go. That is a true statement, but I do not think that is the way the Holy Spirit intended for us to use “should” in that verse.

The other way to use “should” is to say, “A round ball placed at the top of a hill SHOULD roll down the hill.” This is not a moral judgment. It’s an expression of a natural tendency. I believe that this was the intention of the translators in Proverbs 22:6 (and the meaning that best matches the original Hebrew text). In other words, the verse is telling what happens if parents train their child in the way he has a natural tendency to go. I would never presume to correct the King James translators, but I think the modern wording (versus the 1611 wording) would sound more like, “Train up a child according to his way…”

This changes the whole dynamic of the principle vs. promise question. Because now we are talking about a couple of additional options for understanding the verse. For one, it could be telling parents to watch our children to see what sort of natural tendencies and talents they appear to have, and then to encourage them along those lines. Then, when they are “old” they won’t “depart” from doing what they love to do and have been naturally gifted to do. Or (and this is the option I really think is correct, although it is admittedly the minority view among Bible scholars), because children are naturally sinful, the way they “should” go (apart from our correction), or the way they have a natural tendency to go, unless they are changed by God, is toward evil and sin. Therefore, the verse would be both a promise and principle, but primarily a warning for parents of the consequences of reinforcing children in their own sinful ways, until they get to the (“old”) age when it would be too late for us to influence them to change.

Now, I will admit that, while I do not hold to the “moral value” interpretation of “should,” in Proverbs 22:6, nearly all other Bible teachers historically HAVE held to that view, and if you are inclined to agree with them, I would only caution you not to adopt a casual view of dismissing what seem to be God’s promises. If Proverbs 22:6 is TRUE (and it certainly is, regardless of whether it is a technical promise or a technical principle), then no parents of grown, and yet wayward, children can shake a fist at God, and accuse Him of not keeping His Word. God’s standards are always higher than ours, and even the best parents in the world have been far from perfect, and need God’s wonderful and amazing grace if they are to even have a hope of bringing up children that glorify Him.

The Early Bird Gets to Wait

March 25, 2011 at 9:07 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting, Biblical Teaching, Selected Psalms | 6 Comments
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Teaching our children to begin each day by seeking the Lord sets the tone for the rest of the day. It will keep them focused and motivated, and will help to keep them from being distracted by non-essential things.

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Proverbs 13:24

If we love our children we are to chasten them “betimes” – early and often. That principle applies not just to corporal discipline, but also to the teaching of Scripture and Biblical principles. Doing something early shows that we think what we’re doing is important. Many people disagree with me on this point, but logically it is better to plan on being early than on being right on time. If I’m planning to be right on time, I might end up being late, but it’s very unlikely that I will wind up being accidentally early. If I plan on being early, then my “late” could end up being the objective “right on time,” but it is far less likely that I’ll end up being late.

One of the problems with time is that it is beyond our control. What is often in our control, however, are the self-created problems that commonly prevent us from being early.

Here is some practical advice from the Bible that will help you be early.

When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.

Proverbs 3:24

Try to get a good night’s sleep. If you are reluctant to go to bed early because you feel like you won’t be able to sleep, focus on the Scriptures and pray for a good night’s sleep. (Or you can read my blog – that’s sure to make you sleepy!) One of the things that interferes with our sleep is fear, but we know that God wants our sleep to be sweet.

God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places.

II Samuel 22:33-34

Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.

Psalm 25:4

Another very practical tip for when you have to go somewhere is to pray for guidance on the best way to get there. “Hinds’ feet” refers to the feet of deer, and we know how fast they can move!

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.

Proverbs 4:26

Ponder = seriously consider
Established = made strong or solid

Planning the night before makes for smooth sailing in the morning. Take some time to think about and plan your morning routine. There are some things that, even the night before, we just know we are going to need in the morning. (Shoes and hair brushes are safe bets!) We can control more than we think by how seriously we take our commitment to be early.

One of the things that people fear about being early is that they will have to sit and wait. We are conditioned in our hectic society and culture to think that “sitting around waiting” is one of the worst tortures imaginable!

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Biblical “waiting” isn’t sitting around doing nothing. It’s not loitering or just taking up space. “Waiting on the Lord” is waiting with expectancy – believing that something is going to happen. When you are early you can focus on the Lord. Be early to please Him, and He will meet with you while you wait. You can soar like like an eagle even when you’re merely running, and even plodding. That doesn’t sound logical to us, but obedience opens the door for divine intervention. People sometimes say that God helps those who help themselves, but really God helps those who want to be used by God.

Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.

Psalm 143:11

Discipleship Lesson 4: The Bible

December 20, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Discipleship Lessons | 107 Comments
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We have the revealed WORD OF GOD. Therefore, as Christians, we must let its principles guide our lives.

I. What does the Bible do for a lost person?

It is active in his salvation.

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

I Peter 1:23

The Word of God is active in bringing about the new birth.

For by grace are ye saved through faith…

Ephesians 2:8

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

James 1:21

There is an emphasis on the Word of God in the Gospel:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

I Corinthians 15:1-4, emphasis added

Believing what the Bible says about the Gospel is necessary for salvation.

II. What does the Bible do for a saved person?

A. It is the Owner’s manual. If we don’t follow the Owner’s and the Manufacturer’s plans, we won’t “work” – we won’t be successful Christians.

NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

B. It equips us for service.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

II Timothy 3:16-17

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Ephesians 6:17

C. It sustains us.

Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

Job 23:12

Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.

Jeremiah 15:16

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

I Peter 2:2

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24

Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.

Proverbs 7:2

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Proverbs 25:11

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Luke 4:4

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Hebrews 5:12-14

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

I Corinthians 3:2

D. It cleans us.

That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

Ephesians 5:26

BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:9-11

Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

John 15:3

E. It makes us pleasing to God.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Psalm 119:165

III. Is the Bible ever wrong?

No, it is a “more sure word,” even than the audible voice of God.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

II Peter 1:16-21

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Hebrews 11:3

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

Psalm 138:2

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

Psalm 12:6-7

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Psalm 33:6

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis 1:3

IV. What is the best way to study the Bible?

Compare Scripture with Scripture – not our own intellect or experiences.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 14:26

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.

John 16:13-15

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

I Corinthians 2:9-16

V. Questions

A. Was the Bible created by men or by God?

It was created by God. It contains 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament. God used over 40 human instruments in writing it, but it fits together perfectly because the Holy Spirit is the real Author. It was written over a time span of 2000 years. It is totally accurate in history, prophecy, and life application. It contains no contradictions.

B. Is the Bible too hard for a Christian to understand?

No, it is not. However, there are difficult passages, and one of the key things for a Christian to remember is to live what you do understand, and God will reveal to you in His time what you do not yet understand.

C. Is there any value in memorizing Scriptures?

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:11

VI. Memory Verses

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

II Peter 1:21

BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

Psalm 119:9

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

II Timothy 3:16

The Bound Heart

March 4, 2010 at 9:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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In Old Testament times Hebrew men would sometimes place passages from the written Word of God into containers, and bind these containers around their necks, across their foreheads, or on their upper arms.

These contraptions were called “phylacteries,” and were designed to remind the wearer at all times of the importance of remembering God’s commands. In modern English we have come close to taking the idea of a “phylactery,” and making it into something lewd by combining it with the prefix “pro,” meaning “before.” The idea is that a “prophylactic” is something that prevents the consequences of an immoral act before it occurs.

In contrast, Proverbs 3:3 describes God’s plan for preventive measures against sin. “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:” A Christian who wants to please the Lord will keep his head down in the Bible on a regular basis to prevent his neck from swiveling around to gaze at every worldly temptation that passes by. He will also go to the trouble (and pleasure) of memorizing Scripture so that it will be written on his heart when he encounters temptation.

Rather than tying actual pages to his arm, a Christian will show forth his true love for Christ in open and obvious ways, thereby wearing his “heart” on his sleeve.

The Know-It-Alls that Don’t Know Much

September 1, 2009 at 7:22 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 16 Comments
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The Book of Proverbs is a good place to find wisdom in all areas of life, including the area of child-rearing. When parents want to know what the Bible says children should grow up to be, they should start by finding out what the Bible says children already are.

Children are simple (Proverbs 7:7), in the sense of being unwise, and – not to put too fine a point on it – simply foolish (Proverbs 8:5). The simple, foolish, and unwise are marked by a list of very fundamental things about which they are ignorant, or, in other words, things about which they do not know.

Children do not know about danger.

A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.

Proverbs 27:12

Children do not know about discernment.

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.

Proverbs 15:17

Children do not know what is truly to be desired.

The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.

Proverbs 21:25

Children do not know what is truly to be despised.

A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.

Proverbs 15:5

Children do not know what is truly to be denied.

Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

Proverbs 30:7-9

Children do not know what is truly to be devised.

He that deviseth to do evil shall be called a mischievous person.

Proverbs 24:8

Children do not know what is truly to be destroyed.

For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

Proverbs 1:32

Children do not know what truly brings disgrace.

He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach.

Proverbs 19:26

Children do not know what truly brings despair.

A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.

Proverbs 17:25

Children do not know what causes true disrepair.

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

Proverbs 25:28

Children do not know what is truly disgusting.

A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.

Proverbs 13:5

Children do not know what is truly deadly.

Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.

Proverbs 15:10

Children do not know where to find direction.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:6

Children do not know from what to depart.

Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

Proverbs 3:7

Foolishness comes naturally to children. It is bound up in their hearts. Parents face a tough task in trying to extricate, from the hearts of the little ones they love so much, ignorance of all these things: danger, discernment, desire, despicability, denial, devices, destruction, disgrace, despair, disrepair, disgust, death, direction, and departing. Thankfully, the Lord has given us clear instruction on one other thing that children do not know, but that will drive the foolishness from their hearts: discipline.

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Proverbs 22:15

What to Be for Your Kids

June 17, 2009 at 11:43 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 23 Comments
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Praise the Lord for kids! I have three of them myself [now four!; updated Sept. 2014]. As my wife likes to say, “I just love kids – but I couldn’t eat a whole one!”

The fact is that the three kids who call me “Daddy” are not really “my” kids. They are the Lord’s.

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Psalm 127:3

Children are a reward, and a blessing, but they are also given to us as a deposit. We are to manage them, put them to use, protect them, and help them to grow – like an investment… an investment for the Lord.

And, when you have an entrusted investment, the Owner will one day want an accounting.

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

Psalm 127:4

How are children like arrows? Both arrows and children must be “straight” in order to work right – not crooked, not “perverse.” Bent arrows are no good.

Second, arrows are made to be shot – they are made to go where the archer cannot reach. Arrows go into the quiver first, but they are not meant to stay in the quiver forever.

If you are a Christian parent, there are three things you should BE for your kids:

BE an encourager.

When a child does something good, tell him about it. When a child has something to say, listen to her.

Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4

Most parents are pretty good at the admonition part. Admonishing comes in when kids do wrong. We are often quick to tell them about the wrong, but not so quick to tell them when they do right. That’s the “nurture” part – the “building-up.”

The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.

Proverbs 23:24

Do your children bring you joy? If so, let them know about it!

There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.

Proverbs 12:18

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 4:29

Parents can encourage their children by talking to them, and they can encourage their children in how they talk to them.

Sarcasm is prevalent in our culture today. If your kids have been exposed to school or television at all, you have heard these phrases come out their mouths just dripping with sarcasm: “Yeah, right;” “Whatever;” “That’s just great.”

Sarcasm can be contagious. Kids bring it home from school or their friends’ homes, and before long the parents are doing it, too. We may think sarcasm is funny, but the Bible says it is corrupt communication. The purpose of sarcasm is to make the other person feel like they’ve said or done something dumb. It tears down; it doesn’t build up, and it doesn’t encourage. God wants parents to be encouragers, not discouragers. God wants children to honor their fathers and mothers – to speak to them respectfully – to not talk back. Children should never speak to their parents in a way that indicates a belief that their parents do not know as much as they do.

Parents should BE encouragers, and parents should BE enforcers.

Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.

Proverbs 23:19 (emphasis added)

Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.

Proverbs 23:22 (emphasis added)

It is very important for Christian parents to teach their children to listen – to hear.

Listening, hearing, and obeying do not come naturally to children. In fact, doing what is right in general does not come naturally to children. Do you know what does come naturally to children? Foolishness.

What makes a child carry a full-to-the-brim glass of red Kool-aid onto beige carpet? Foolishness.

What makes a kid who has 3 hours to clean her room spend 2 hours and 45 minutes listening to music, and then try to do the cleaning in 15 minutes? Foolishness.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child…

Proverbs 22:15

When I think back to my earliest memories, I have to admit that no one ever had to sit me down as a little child and teach me to lie. No one ever had to teach me to be selfish and greedy, or to hit my brother. No, those things came naturally to me. I did not jump up and down, and say, “Can I go to church now? Please!”

As Christian parents we need to encourage our children to listen when they are in God’s house, and especially when God’s Word is being read or taught. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17; Galatians 3:5).

Getting children to hear the Word of God, whether they think church is boring or not, is a heart issue – not an entertainment issue. In Bible times, children were expected to come to church to hear the Word.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.

Joel 2:15-16 (emphasis added)

God’s will in the Old Testament was for children to be in even the most serious of church meetings – and for people of all ages to be together in the congregation.

When the letter to the church in Ephesus was read in the church – in the assembly – it was read out loud to grown-ups and children alike. Ephesians 6:1 is directed straight at children, whom the Apostle Paul knew would be listening: “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

Children have to be trained, and this includes being trained in how to behave in church. Training involves an enforcer, and parents are the God-ordained enforcers of their children. Being an encouraging parent is a not always an easy job, but being an enforcing parent is even tougher.

Proverbs 22:15 starts off by saying that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and the rest of it does not say that a good talking-to will drive it far from them. It does not say that being grounded will drive it far from them. It does not say that a “time-out” will drive it far from them. It does not say that sending them to their rooms will drive it far from them. It does not say that taking away their X-Box will drive it far from them. It says that the rod of correction will drive it far from them. I know this may sound archaic, but if I’m not enforcing discipline, then I don’t love my children.

For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Proverbs 3:12

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Proverbs 23:13-14

As a father, if I do not discipline God’s child, placed in my trust, with a rod of correction, then I am placing that child’s life in danger.

Parents should BE encouragers. Parents should BE enforcers. And parents should BE examples.

Being a Godly example may be the toughest thing that parents have to be for their children.

The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.

Proverbs 20:7

Integrity” is living what you believe. It is inconsistent for me to encourage my children with principles I don’t really believe. And it is inconsistent for me to enforce rules on my children I am not willing to follow myself. Parents need to be careful about saying one thing and doing another. As Pastor John Wilkerson says, what I allow in moderation, my children will practice in excess. What I dabble in, my children will dive into.

If you are reading this, and you happen to be a child, however, I want you to know this: When a parent places a rule on you, but does not follow that rule himself/herself, this is not an excuse for you to be disobedient.

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Matthew 23:1-3

The Pharisees appointed themselves to be the ones to tell people what God said they should do – they had authority. Jesus told people to do what they said, but not what they did. As a Christian child, you may be under an authority figure who is less Godly than you are. But there are blessings in obedience. Generally, God will not fight a battle for you that you are trying to fight on your own in the flesh. If you try to make your parents miserable through showing them disrespect, you may get what you want, but God may see to it that you do not want what you get. One of the worst judgments God can place on you is to let you have your own way.

Having said that, you must also realize that parents and adults know more than you think they do. If you are young – especially if you are a teenaged child – guard against thinking that you know everything. I have heard this attributed to Mark Twain, although I do not know for sure if he actually said it:

“When I left home at age 17, my dad was a complete fool – a total idiot. He didn’t know anything. After being on my own for a while, I came back home at age 21, and I couldn’t believe how much the old man had learned in 4 years!”

Parents should not be Pharisees – teachers who teach falsely. We will give an account for any little ones we lead astray. There is no shortage of terrible role models out there for children to follow: rappers, rock stars, movie stars, athletes, rich and famous people. People scream and follow them, and pay hundreds of dollars to get near them at a concert. People beg for their autographs. They wave their arms for a touch, and worship them. Many of these celebrities are about as big as a big-shot can get. But they don’t do anything for the Lord.

You won’t see many Godly pastors, children’s workers, nursery workers, Sunday School teachers, or Christian fathers and mothers on MTV or the E channel – but they are on God’s TV screen – they are before His sight. Children need to follow those who have God’s approval, more than those who have the world’s approval.

As a dad, do my kids ever see me praying? Do they see me singing to the Lord?

As a mom, I hope you would not put up with your kids using bad language. But when your cell phone goes off, do they hear a rap song or a country or pop song that glorifies sin?

I believe God wants faithful, humble parents – parents who do what’s right when no one else is looking. I believe He wants parents who are different, who are distinct. Parents who are going to stand out, and stand up, for Jesus even if it means being unpopular.

I believe God wants kids who don’t laugh at dirty jokes, and who don’t make fun of teachers and those in authority, even when everyone else is laughing and mocking.

Parents, we don’t have the choice to opt out. Our kids are watching us. Even if I am just one person in the world, I am the world to one person.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:6

Next time: What to do for your kids.


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