“Train a child in the way that he should go, and he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Often, we think this means that if we raised a child to know Jesus, he will return to his roots if he goes wayward. But notice, the proverb specifically says the child will not depart from his training. It is much easier to place the burden upon the child for his waywardness, but what if what is truly at issue is the training. If a child is trained right, he shall go right, but if he is trained wrong, he shall go wrong.
This is not to say that there is not redemption for a child poorly trained or for the mother or father failing to train well. God certainly forgives and redeems us from our errant ways. But do we want to miss all the time it takes for us to get back on the right road by not being on that road from the beginning?
I hear so many parents complain that their minor child is doing something undesirable and yet there is an overall helplessness to do anything about it. When they get the gumption to do something, they often enforce the rules in such a way as I am bigger than you and I will make you obey me because I’m showing you just how angry I am at you for not being a good child. The child complies, and the parent feels powerful and the cycle repeats itself.
There is another kind of power. A power that comes with truth, love, and authority, and not from leaning on the fact that you are bigger than the child. It is training the child in the way that he should go. That means the parent trains the child into adulthood starting at a very young age. The child is raised step by step into a life that honors God. For some this is simply the way things are done, but for others this is not something that has been attainable.
A child is to be given responsibility appropriate to their maturity. As they grow, they gain more responsibility. Consequences follow when the child exhibits rebellion or poor decisions. The Mother is not the child’s housekeeper. She is the trainer of how that child will keep a clean room, will clear their place at the table, and do their laundry. The Father is not mowing the lawn when he has a young son who is capable of the responsibility. The children learn how to take out the trash, rake leaves, clean the garage, etc. There are expectations for maturity, responsibility, and growth into putting away childish things. Video games do not become a career path and a chief aspiration in life.
The child is taught about the importance of education and the family trains towards attaining education. Thought and instruction is given about college, careers, family, and becoming a good contributing member of society. Children are to be trained in the importance of not forsaking church life. They are in church every week with their parents. It is what the family does. It is normal. If they are trained in the way that they should go, they do not join the young people leaving church, they become the young people who are leaders in church among their peers.
When I got my first job, I told the hiring manager in my interview I would not miss church for work. I could not work Sunday mornings, and soon I amended that to I would not work Sundays. I also did not work instead of going to home group. I made these decisions right away because I was raised knowing that church is that important and I have never departed from it. People will tell me about nursing and first responders and those who must work some Sundays, and I get that, but that’s not the entire population of Christians. We are to structure our lives around what is important and that may be saying no to late night employment on Saturday or employment on Sundays. It is saying no to whatever keeps you from following the Lord’s way of doing things. It’s protecting your Sundays as a family.
Tithing is another big one. I learned to tithe with my allowance. I gave ten percent to church, ten percent to savings, and then I saved the 80% until I especially wanted to spend it on something. I made sure to order checks as soon as I got my first job so that I could write a tithe check. I was eager to participate in tithing as an adult for I had learned it as a child. It is what you do as a Christian. I don’t have to struggle with doing it, because it is trained into me.
When we train up children in the Lord, they know the way to go and do not depart from it because it is engrained in their upbringing so completely. Consider when we train up a child in the way they should not go how difficult it becomes as adult to begin to learn new ways of life. It is important to know that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus so that we can face the facts of our poor choices and repent of them.
Repentance is changing the way that you think and putting that new thinking into practice. It’s not just, “sorry God I really should be doing such and such, but you know how little time I have.” No, it’s, “I know I am going the wrong way and I will now choose to go the right way and to think rightly about my life and put that thinking into practice.”
It’s not too late. Start today. Train on purpose.