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A Little Ocean Ambiance
MISSING THE PROMISE
OF PROVERBS 22:6!!
Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will
not depart from it."
One of the most encouraging and helpful verses in the Bible has become
one of the most controversial among Christians in our day! Couples have
claimed Proverbs 22:6 over many years, as they brought up their children
with the hope that following God's plan would produce positive results.
Yet now almost everything written or said about it serves to debunk this
verse and rob it of its significance. People are saying that it does not
mean that godly parents can train a child to turn out right, even though
that is exactly what it seems to say! Bible teachers haven't always taken
this approach to Proverbs 22:6. Many of us were encouraged by preachers
of the past to claim it as a promise, and to rear our kids on the basis
of the idea that if we train them God's way, they will serve the Lord as
adults. One wonders why so many have abandoned this hopeful
interpretation of what the verse says. Some assert that Proverbs 22:6 is
not really a divine promise, and some go farther to tell us that there
are no real promises in the whole Book of Proverbs! Very little
application of Proverbs 22:6 is going on today, and the results are
hurting God's people badly.
It is important that we all see what the verse says. "Train up" is a good
English translation of the Hebrew word chanak, which has the idea of
initiating a person or getting him off to a good start. In the original
language, Proverbs 22:6 says that if we start a child on the right path
he'll end up there! Proverbs has a lot to say about "the way" or path a
young person follows. Chapter one warns him of the consequences of
following sinful "ways" (verses 15-19, and 28-32). Chapter two commends
"the paths of judgment" and "the way of his [God's] saints" (verse 8),
promises God's help in understanding "every good path" (verse 9), offers
protection from "the way of the evil man" and "the ways of darkness"
(verses 10-15), and points to "the way of good men" and "the paths of the
righteous." The importance of what path one follows is repeatedly
emphasized (See Proverbs 3:6, 17, 23; 4:10-19, 25-27; 6:20-23; 7:24-27;
8:20; and 9:6). The message of Proverbs 22:6 is that if parents will
"train" their children according to "the way" that is right for them,
parental influence will direct their wills to such a great extent that
the pattern will be followed throughout life! The Old Testament scholar
Delitzch said that such training establishes a pattern that is
"imprinted, inbred, becomes accustomed." The verse says that if you train
them right, children will turn out right!
To say this, however, is worrisome to many. They seem to fear for God's
reputation since many who were reared in Christian homes have grown up to
live wickedly. In a sense, these re-interpreters of the verse are
well-meaning, although one might suspect that they are more concerned
about protecting parents than protecting God! The popularity of the
disarmed explanations of Proverbs 22:6 has grown as the number of
preachers' kids gone astray has grown. Several speakers on the subject of
Biblical child-rearing have altered their "take" on this verse as their
own offspring have taken disappointing directions. But the arguments
against the plain meaning of the verse are empty.
It has been asserted that while Proverbs 22:6 does present a valid
principle, it does not really contain a promise. The principle is good,
but there are no guarantees. But does not every valid principle contain a
certain degree of promise? Notice the principle in Proverbs 22:8.
"He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger
This principle is found in the New Testament, too.
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that
shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh
reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit
reap life everlasting." (Galatians 6:7-9)
Since "you reap what you sow" is a valid principle, can we not expect
that sowing to the Spirit will eventually bring a good harvest, and that
sowing to the flesh will bring a bad harvest? Is there not a promise in
Let us consider the principle in Proverbs 22:9.
"He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his
bread to the poor."
This principle is also found in the New Testament.
"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and
shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For
with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you
again." (Luke 6:38)
If this principle is valid, then cannot one who gives expect to be "given
unto"? Does not the principle contain a promise? Every valid principle
implies a promise. If the principle of Proverbs 22:6 is reliable, cannot
we expect a child who is trained right to follow the right way, even when
he is old? If not, then what on earth is the principle of Proverbs 22:6?
In what practical way does it work if not in Biblical child-rearing
producing positive, predictable results?
This verse is not saying, as some claim, that children brought up under
the influence of Christianity will sometimes stray from their moral and
spiritual roots but will always come back to them, at least when they are
old. One problem with this interpretation is that you would never get it
by reading the verse in the original language. Another problem is that,
if it were true that the strays will always come back by old age, then
God would be promising old age to them! Of course, the Lord has made no
such promises to rebellious children, and actually He seems to say the
opposite in Ephesians 6:1-3!
Actually, very much in the Book of Proverbs is based on the concept that
parents who are diligent in following God's child-rearing plan can expect
their children to go the right way!
"A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of
Here in Proverbs 10:1 we are taught that the future happiness or
heaviness of parents is conditioned upon how their kids turn out. The
same truth is taught in Proverbs 29.
"The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth
his mother to shame." (verse 15)
"Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight
unto thy soul." (verse 17)
Now if a person's future well-being were conditioned on an outcome
determined largely by chance, life would be a frightening thing, would it
not? If our children's manner of life were strictly a matter of their
personal choices and if the influence of their parents can have no
deciding effect, parenting would be a terrifying business, would it not?
To think that our "senior years" will be blessed or cursed by our adult
children more than by any other factor, but that there is nothing we can
do to ensure the positive outcome, is an idea that would discourage
Christian couples from becoming parents! Is it not? And it is an idea
foreign to the book of Proverbs.
"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rood of correction
shall drive it far from him." (Proverbs 22:15)
It sounds as if God's plan will work, does it not?
Anyone who reads the Proverbs can see that it is about a father imparting
wisdom to a son. Simply stated, the Biblical formula for training a son
to be a wise man combines three essentials: delight (Proverbs 3:11-12,
4:3-4), instruction (Proverbs 4:1-2, 5:1-2), and correction (Proverbs
13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13-14). Implementing this plan will require time,
sacrifice, prayer, effort, consistency, and cooperation. It is a big
task. Training up a child in the way he should go is much more than just
taking him to church or enrolling him in a Christian school. It is more
than teaching him Bible verses or sending him to summer camp. It involves
the dedication and focused energy of both parents, but its reward is that
it works! Christian parents must learn to have family Bible reading
daily, to spank effectively, to live as good examples, to pray for their
children, to maintain Biblical standards, to respect God's authority
system, to teach the right things, to have the right priorities, to love
their kids, and to aim them down the right path. Certainly the "children
of godly parents" often go astray, but not the ones that are trained the
Bible way! Godly people often do not know how to bring up their kids, but
people who practice godly child-rearing get results.
Notice the principle taught in Proverbs 29: 21!
He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him
become his son at the length."
Apparently the method of bringing up a child taught in Proverbs will be
effective even with a youngster not related by blood!
Since the proper training of children can be expected to send them down
the right path, parents are held responsible in the Bible for the
behavior of their kids.
"And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;
seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and
all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him,
that he will command his children and his household after him, and they
shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD
may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." (Genesis
"In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken
concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have
told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he
knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them
not." (I Samuel 3:12-13)
"A bishop then must be . . . one that ruleth well his own house, having
his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how
to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) . .
." (I Timothy 3:2, 4-5)
It is not only Proverbs 22:6, but actually all of Scripture, that says
there is a way to train children to live God's way.
Denial of this truth has had several serious consequences.
Christian parents have become less diligent in learning and implementing
the Biblical plan for rearing their kids. With every excuse for a child's
misbehavior now being supported and accepted by their brethren and their
teachers, they have less concern and feel less responsible for how their
kids are turning out. Couples are missing out on one of life's greatest
ventures of faith: rearing children based on the Bible, and believing
that what God says will work! The Christian family is suffering because
the promise of Proverbs 22:6 has been lost to so many.
Christians have become too dependent upon "the system" as the means to
see their children live for the Lord. The Bible teaches that parents who
implement properly the three aspects of Christian child-training can
influence their children's wills so thoroughly that they will choose the
right path. Yet most parents still think that the character of their kids
will be shaped to a large degree by influences outside their family.
Christians took their kids out of the public schools because "the system"
was not working. It was the right thing to do, but not for the reasons
many had for doing it. The new "system" for many families was to keep
them in church, get them into the Christian school, put them in the youth
group, and send them to a Christian college. This "system" was supposed
to turn them out right. However, very often even the new "system" failed,
So now many are scrambling to devise a new "system" to turn out
godly children. Maybe it will involve home-schooling, and maybe even with
home-churching. The bad kids at church or school must be corrupting our
kids! Maybe the new "system" will take them out of Sunday School or youth
programs and keep them in the family pew. The Sunday School teachers and
youth leaders must be misguiding the children. The public school "system"
didn't work; the Christian school "system" failed; therefore we must try
a new "system" for the kids' sake. Yet the main problem in all of this is
the thinking that credits any school or church system with bringing up
the kids! Church and school have important roles to play in
child-rearing, but successful upbringing always centers in the home.
Church or school problems that undermine Biblical training by parents
must be addressed, but to think that any "system" outside the home is
responsible for successes or failures with youth is to miss the point of
Proverbs 22:6. Changing "the system" is not the answer; parental
Spiritual problems of every kind in the churches have been caused by the
neglect of Proverbs 22:6. People learn to respect authority, to resist
temptation, to love the Lord, and to work with others at home! Homes
without the faith that children can and should be trained to do right are
failing to give us the kind of young people and adults that our churches
need. Both school and church discipline problems come ultimately from bad
upbringing. Rebellion in kids and in church members results to a great
degree from failure at home.
Older Christians are neglecting to influence their wayward adult children
because of false ideas about Proverbs 22:66. It's hard to take
responsibility for wrong things our children do, but it's the right way
to handle the problem of sinful kids. "Senior saints" find in their
hearts the humility it takes to admit that they didn't eat right,
exercise enough, save enough money, or make correct career decisions when
they were young. Why can they not admit that they failed in some aspect
of the training of their children? To deny responsibility for the
behavior of an adult child often leads one not to take responsibility to
try to influence that child now! The misinterpretation of Proverbs 22:6
is often seen as an attempt to protect God, when it is usually really an
attempt to protect ourselves. Yet if we failed our children while they
were young, this is no reason to fail them now. They need the influence
of their godly parents all of their lives! Admit your mistakes, and do
all you can to bring them back to God.
We really must revive faith in Proverbs 22:6 among God's people!
Rediscovering this promise should not lead to cockiness among young
parents. It will not take long for them to realize that nobody does
everything right all the time. We do not sustain perfection in other
areas of Christian living, and we will not avoid mistakes in Christian
parenting either. Christian parents must lean on the Lord for the power
to follow the Book of Proverbs. They must pray hard for God to overrule
their weakness and work mightily in the lives of their kids! Godly
offspring are not strictly the products of their parents' hard work. The
secret is God working through the faith of their parents, and through the
commitment to His plan that results from this faith in the promise of
DID YOU KNOW?
The new book by Dr. Rick Flanders is available from Preach the Word
Ministries (P.O. Box 242, Menominee Falls, WI 53052). The title is BACK
TO NORMAL: Understanding Revival, and the cost is $7.00.
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church|
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data
Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)
- Articles published in the;
- Sword of the Lord
- Baptist Preacher,
- Christian View of the News,
- Pulpit Helps,
- Maranatha Watchman
- Church Bus News,
- and other national periodicals.
His Majesty's Service
In His Service,
Teaching the Word
To Glorify Our Lord
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