“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NKJV).
The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings intended to convey general truths, and heeding these words of wisdom will surely help guide one’s life in a positive direction. But the plethoric variables and uncertainties of this world preclude taking each proverb in an absolute sense as though the wise sayings were meant as inflexible rules with definitive outcomes and no possible exceptions.
Note, for example, Proverbs 10:4, which states, “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.” While this principle is generally true, mitigating circumstances could result in a lazy person being rich (by way of inheritance) and a diligent person being poor (via drought or stock market crash). Nevertheless, potential exemptions do not discount the wisdom of the stated proverb.
Proverbs 22:6 affirms a general truth that ought to be heeded, although the free-will choices of each individual child means there will almost certainly be exceptions (cf. Genesis 4:1-7; Isaiah 1:2). Remember that the Bible is comprised of a variety of literary genres (historical, instructional, legislative, poetic, etc.), and not all are meant to be read and applied the same way. The books of Proverbs and Leviticus, for instance, represent very different types of literature and should therefore be interpreted accordingly.
Parents, let us ensure that the Lord's ways are always upheld and observed in our homes and that our children are brought up in his training and admonition (Ephesians 6:4) as we encourage other parents to do the same. May the seeds of truth planted with discipline and love in impressionable hearts conquer stubborn, rebellious spirits. Let us be grateful when our children cooperate and the words of Proverbs 22:6 play out in our families. And may we be sympathetic and supportive of mothers and fathers and grandparents and guardians whose hearts are otherwise broken, praying that implanted seeds take root and guide straying loved ones back to the faith (Luke 15:11-32).
--Kevin L. Moore