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.)
What does this scripture mean to you? To me, I have always believed God’s word is breathed out by God, inspired by God, and truth. So when I read the following bit in a book, it caused a hint of discomfort in me.
The proverbs are not conditional promises; they are wise maxims. When we fail to understand this form of literature and build our lives on them as a guarantee, we end up with a philosophy akin to that of Job’s comforters.(Fitzpatrick, Elyse. Give Them Grace. Illinois. 2011. Pg. 61.)
I know and understand God alone saves souls. There is nothing I can do for myself or others. I get that. I believe, in part, what the author stated above in that “The proverbs are not CONDITIONAL promises...” Agreed. However, I still hold true that God keeps His promises and His word is truth. So what does this mean for me? If proverbs are just “maxims”, a “general rule of conduct” then is it wrong for my faith to be in the Lord and His promise…i.e. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I never saw this as I have to do something and then God is obligated to reward me. I have always seen it as, God is incapable of lying. If He says, “Train your children up and they will not depart from it.” Then, I believe Him. No ifs, ands, or butts about it. My hope is in the Lord and Him alone. I never equated it to whether or not I parent well will decide the fate of the children God entrusted to me. I love God. Because I do, I follow His word and obey His commands. I do the best I can. I fall short at times but I feel that does not mean I will ruin my children. (Well, maybe not completely.) Gosh, how do I put my heart into words. I am so thankful I have the Holy Spirit to mediate for me, to God.
Maybe it’s like, “Look both ways before crossing the street so you do not get hit by a car.” Or, grace alone by faith alone. Or the Great Commission! God calls me, I have faith, and He saves me by grace. Then He tells me to go out and spread the word. Similarly, God saves me, I love God, I raise my children according to His word (Matthew 28:19-20 “making disciples”), and they never depart from it (or ultimately will be called by God, have faith (which they learned while being trained up), and receive God’s grace. So the problem in my head is, if proverbs 22:6 is (according to the author of this book) a “maxim” then what about Matthew 28:19-20? I personally feel proverbs 22:6 is an instruction from the Lord like Matthew 28:19-20. Do this. My response is, “Yes, Lord,” because I love Him not because I expect anything in return. I am “teaching them [my children] to observe all that [God has] commanded”. And ultimately I believe God will save them. That is my prayer. My faith (and hopefully that of my children) is in the Lord.
David Mathis from Desiring God Ministries wrote the following,
Now, we need to be clear here. The proverbs commend certain paths to family members because they reflect the ways God ordinarily distributes his blessings. But ordinarily does not mean necessarily….Parents who train their children in the fear of the Lord follow the path that frequently brings children to saving faith.
But excellent wives, faithful husbands, and conscientious parents often endure terrible hardship in their homes because proverbs are not promises. They are adages that direct us toward general principles that must be applied carefully in a fallen world where life is always somewhat out of kilter.
As the books of Job and Ecclesiastes illustrate so vividly, we misconstrue the Word of God when we treat proverbs as if they were divine promises. (Mathis, David. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org. http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/a-spectacular-and-scary-promise-assurance-suffering-and-our-great-inheritance.)
Fabulous. I guess I have a lot of thinking to do. And praying. If proverbs 22:6 is not God’s promise then I need to sort that out in my mind.