Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
In the 1960s-era TV series The Andy Griffith Show, a man tells Andy he should let his son Opie decide how he wants to live. Andy disagrees: “You can’t let a young’un decide for himself. He’ll grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it. Then, when he finds out there’s a hook in it, it’s too late. Wrong ideas come packaged with so much glitter that it’s hard to convince them that other things might be better in the long run.” He concludes that it’s important for parents to model right behavior and help “keep temptation away.”
Andy’s words are related to the wisdom found in Proverbs: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (22:6). Although many may read these words as a promise, they’re really a guide. All of us are called to make our own decision to believe in Jesus. But we can help lay a biblical foundation through our love for God and Scripture. And we can pray that as the little ones under our care mature, they choose to receive Christ as Savior and walk in His ways and not “in the paths of the wicked” (v. 5).
Our own victory over “flashy things” through the Holy Spirit’s enabling is also powerful testimony. Jesus’ Spirit helps us to withstand temptation and molds our lives into examples worth imitating.
Why is it helpful to remember that Proverbs 22:6 isn’t a promise but a wise principle? Who can you help to “train up”?
Dear Father, help me to instill Your values into the hearts of the children You’ve placed in my life.
The book of Proverbs frequently emphasizes the importance of adults providing wise guidance and discipline for children. In Proverbs 29, parents are warned that “a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother” (v. 15), but if they discipline their children, “they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire” (v. 17).
But these general principles on the wisdom and necessity of adults providing children guidance don’t imply that parents carry all the responsibility for their children’s choices. Other sections of the book nuance the picture. Proverbs is addressed to the young (1:4–7), emphasizing the importance of every person choosing to humbly listen to the voice of wisdom (v. 20; 2:2–5) and to rely on God for the wisdom only found in Him (2:5–6). Ironically, the man who wrote those words, Solomon, would stray from the paths of wisdom as an adult (1 Kings 11:9–11).