Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
While this verse seems simple, it’s actually very complicated and often misunderstood. It’s often seen as a guarantee; if a parent does this then it’s promised their kids will always follow God. The problem is there’s numerous examples of godly parents who trained up their children and despite that, the kids walked away from God.
We often misunderstand what this verse is actually communicating. So in this blog post we are going to dive into the Proverbs 22:6 meaning and see what it holds for us today.
What “Train Up A Child” Doesn’t Mean
Many have taken this verse as a promise. If you raise your children right and teach them to love God they will always stay on the right path. If you teach your kids about Jesus they will always love Jesus.
The problem is it doesn’t always work that way. As a pastor I’ve seen many incredible parents that love God and raise their kids in a loving home that teaches them about God. And yet, sometimes one, or more, of their kids walks away from God.
The problem with taking Proverbs 22:6 as a promise is that it discounts our free will to choose to follow God or not. A parent can do everything right, and their kid might still walk away from their faith. And that’s their choice. Nobody can force them; it’s a choice God has given them.
The other problem with this view is it ignores the context of the book it’s written in. Proverbs is a book of wise sayings, not a book of promises. This wisdom centers around general observations about how life typically works. There’s a ton of incredible truth in Proverbs, but we shouldn’t take it as a direct promise. Rather as general wisdom about life.
So when Proverbs says, “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” we shouldn’t take this as a promise that our kids will always love God. Rather we should take it as wisdom for helping our kids build a firm foundation. And with a good foundation they are more likely to understand what God has done for them and follow him.
The Proverbs 22:6 Meaning
Now that we know what this passage doesn’t mean, I want to dive a little deeper into the Proverbs 22:6 meaning. There’s some powerful truth in this passage that will help parents understand what their role is.
Train Up A Child In The Way He Should Go Meaning
The word “train” in this passage is the Hebrew word ḥānaḵ. It means to dedicate or inaugurate. What Proverbs is saying is that we should be channeling our behavior and energy into the path of wisdom. This includes both training our children to love God and preparing them for the future responsibilities of childhood.
“In the way he should go” carries with it the idea that training should be based off each child’s life stage, personality, struggles, and temperament. In other words, as parents we should direct them in the way they ought to go, but we should tailer our training because each kids is unique.
Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, is saying that parents should train up their children in wisdom and the fear of the Lord.
For more about what it means to fear God check out: What It REALLY Means To Fear God (5 powerful truths)
Even When He Is Old He Will Not Depart From It Meaning
The first part of Proverbs 22:6 makes sense to most of us. But the second part can be challenging. Many godly parents have had their kids depart from what they’ve been taught. This makes it seem like the meaning of Proverbs 22:6 is a broken promise. But we must remember that proverbs are not absolute guarantees, but general truths. Though proverbs are generally true, there are occasional exceptions.
In the case of this proverb we must remember that though parents have great influence in who their children become, their children still have free will. When a child is grown they must decide for themselves what they will do and who they will be.
The Proverbs 22:6 meaning is clearly not a promise that if we train our kids to love God that they will do it. God allows each person to make their own decisions and never forces them to do what is right. Rather this verse is a general truth; most kids that are brought up in a home that lovingly trains their children in the wisdom of God will continue to live that way in their adult life.
3 Lessons From The Meaning Of Proverbs 22:6
Now that we’ve looked at the Proverbs 22:6 meaning, I want to look at how this verse plays out in our everyday life. Here’s 3 principles that we can pull from this verse about how we raise our kids.
1. What You Do As A Parent Makes A Difference (good or bad)
Nobody makes as much of an impact in a child’s life and development as their parents. Children pick up not just what parents teach them, but also what they do. They are sponges that soak up everything, good and bad.
As a parent we don’t get to decide IF we are going to make an impact. We get to decide what kind of impact we want to make.
This isn’t to say that nobody else influences children. Teachers, pastors, coaches, and others do make a difference. But the role of a parent can simply not be overlooked; they are the primary influencers in a child’s life.
Being a parent is a huge responsibility. What we do makes a difference. The message of Proverbs 22:6 is to make sure we are instilling what’s most important into our kids.
2. A Parent’s Primary Role Is A Trainer
Many parents act like their job is to be their kid’s friend. Or simply to keep them alive. And while we certainly should have fun with our kids and of course we should strive to keep our kids alive, those aren’t our primary roles as parents.
A parent’s primary role is to train their kids. It’s to prepare them for adulthood and all that comes in life. And for a Christian parent they train them to love and serve God.
It’s been said that more is caught than taught with kids. If we tell our kids to do something we are not doing, then they will see it’s not really important to us. It’s like if a dietitian tells you to not eat fast-food, but you see them going through the drive-through every week. You will start taking their advice less and less seriously.
In our parenting what we do is just as, if not more, important than what we teach. If you want your kids to love God and follow him, then we need to be living that out in our own lives.
This is our primary job as parents. To train up a child in the way he should go means that we teach them about God’s wisdom through our words AND actions.
3. Training Up A Child Gives Them A Firm Foundation
As we’ve seen, the Proverbs 22:6 meaning is not a promise. But if we follow what it says our kids will have a firm foundation to build their life and faith upon. They will still have to decide for themselves if they want to follow God, but they will have the necessary tools to do so.
If we neglect to train our child they will enter into the world not prepared. They will struggle in the trials that will come, and many will walk away from the faith of their parents.
This verse implores parents to take their role as trainers seriously. To teach and model the wisdom of God so that their kids have all the necessary tools needed.
If you are looking for a great resource to help in your parenting check out: Parenting: Getting It Right (Book) and 21 Essential Parenting Resources (article)
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