Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. (
What does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and loses his own family? When I get to heaven, I want to see every member of my family there. Succeeding in every area of life, but home life is failure. It is true that no matter what we do, every individual must make their own decision about following Christ. We cannot do it for them. Sadly, sometimes even the best parents see an adult child become a prodigal. Yet, our hope is to apply the principles in God’s Word that show us God’s way to productive parenting.
Observe THE DISCIPLINE OF PRODUCTIVE PARENTING, “Train up….” The Hebrew term refers to the mouth. In the verb form, it was used for the training of a wild stallion. Before the fiery steed could be directed, its stubborn will must be broken, as a bit is put into the mouth and the animal is taught submission. Another way the term was used was when the Jewish baby was born, the midwife would dip her fingers into the juice of crushed dates and rub the sweet liquid on the baby’s gums. The infant would begin to suck and brought to the mother to nurse him or her. Thus, there is a positive and negative dimension of discipline. The corrective element is to curb godless drives, like a wild horse that needs to be broken. Scripture says much about correction (
Prov.3:11-12; 5:11-13; 10:17; 19:18; 20:30; 22:15; 23:13-14). There is also, the constructive element meant
to cultivate good desires, like the midwife creating a desire for milk in the
baby. We want to inspire a hunger and
thirst for righteousness in them by the example in our walk and their education
from the Word.
Consider THE DURATION OF PRODUCTIVE PARENTING, “a child…when he is old….” From their birth until adolescence, we have a brief window of opportunity to shape the clay while it is still pliable. The word, “old” in Hebrew is, “bearded,” indicating that by the time a youth reaches puberty the window for significant impact will close. This requires effort. We have to be taught to drive a car, study to gain an education, train to be an athlete, and labor to develop a skill. Nothing worthwhile in life comes easy. Parenting requires education, effort, and endurance. Our job isn’t done until we push them out of the nest and they can take flight. This is not an easy task. Do you not think the only perfect parent—our Heavenly Father—doesn’t have a challenge with children like us? He faithfully works, however, to bring us into maturity.
Note THE DIRECTION OF PRODUCTIVE PARENTING, “in the way he should go….” Not in my way, or the world’s way, but in God’s way—that is the direction we chart for the child. The word means, “according to,” and suggests the uniqueness of each child—their own aptitudes and personalities—requiring flexibility in our methods. We can’t use a cookie-cutter. Children are not clones. We develop them to achieve all their God-given potential. They are God’s possession on loan to us (
Ps.127:3a). They are God’s prize rewarded to us ( Ps.127:3b). They are given as a power to be unleashed by
us ( Ps.127:4-5),
and they become productive in following us ( Ps.128). We lean
on the Lord to found and fortify the family ( Ps.127:1-2) or our efforts
will be in vain. God help us!