Prov. 14:26; 20:7; 13:24; 19:18; 23:13-14; 22:6
Now we get to one of the toughest jobs that God has ever given to a human being: Parent. I just love how women who are employed outside the home are called “working mothers,” don’t you? If a mom stays home with the kids, then I assure you that she’s a “working mom.” And just to be honest, being a dad is a job that I’m looking forward to with fear and trepidation.
Let’s go ahead and get the objection out of the way, shall we? I don't have a lot of experience of being a parent—yet. So everything I say today is coming from God’s word (as best as I can interpret it) and from my understanding of human nature. You can dispute the second without getting me upset at all, but if you take issue with what Scripture plainly says, then there’s a problem.
First, you might have noticed, if you’ve read Proverbs all the way through (which I can’t encourage enough), that Solomon repeatedly addresses the audience as “my son.” This could have been a case in which a teacher was calling his students his “son” or “sons” in a metaphorical way (like Paul did with Timothy). I’m pretty convinced, however, that this is Solomon teaching his literal sons on how to live a wise life and avoid the dangers of a foolish one. It really doesn’t affect the application of it, but I’ve always envisioned the book of Proverbs as being first addressed to teenage boys, since it’s so focused on things like sexual purity, the importance of good friends, and the dangers of alcohol. This doesn’t negate the usefulness of the book to anyone else, but I'd certainly make sure that my son (and daughter) was really familiar with it.
So what are some recurrent themes for parents? First, let’s take some promises. Now, I have to remind you that these aren’t ironclad promises like the ones that promise salvation if we trust in Christ. Each person has to make the choice to follow God’s way, so it’s possible that children can turn away from their parents’ teachings. But in general, parents can influence their children towards godliness. Look at 14:26 and 20:7. I'd like to remind you that fear of the Lord is shorthand for healthy and balanced relationship with him, and keep in mind that "righteous" and "blameless" don't mean "sinless." So I'd ask you: What lessons are your children learning from your example? Do your children see that the Lord is your secure fortress? Are you blameless in your business dealings and in how you treat outsiders?
Then we get to the sticky issue of corporal punishment. There is disagreement among Evangelicals as to whether or not the “rod” in 13:24, 23:13-14, and other passages refers to actually spanking the child. I’ve heard people try to convince me that it’s not, and they haven’t succeeded yet. But that’s not central to the point I’d like to make about this.
When I go head-long into parenthood, probably the tallest hurdle I’m going to have to conquer is to avoid becoming the “passive” parent. And I’m going to have to do this. It’s not an option. The language is pretty strong here: If you fail in this regard, then you “hate” your child and are a willing party to his death. A child left undisciplined is abandoned to “Death” (literally Sheol, the place of the dead). Most parents would never abuse their child. Even the ones who exercise corporal punishment would never strike him in a way that would really harm him. But Solomon couldn’t be any clearer that you’re not doing your child any favors by shirking your duty.
And finally we get to 22:6. Of course, there’s only one “way they should go”: God’s way. If you provide the proper teaching, proper discipline, and proper example, then you’ll be setting them on the path of life. This includes reading the Bible with them, praying with them and over them, and modeling our Father for them.
Children are like wet cement. You can influence them only for a few short years, and then they’re set for life. If you didn’t have reason enough to cry out to the Lord for his grace to work in you, then this is it. Go to our Father, the only perfect Parent, and he’ll help. I promise.
Father, for all the parents out there, please give them an extra measure of your grace and wisdom. For those of us who aren’t parents yet, please remind us that little eyes are still watching us.