Saturday, January 5, 2008

Godly Children Guarantee? Yes or No?

I said I would address each of the guarantees that people say they see in scripture in subsequent posts. Here's the first. Others will follow.

Guarantee #1: If you raise your kids right, they will always follow God.

How many times have we heard quoted and have we quoted: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

I've heard this quoted in seminars on how to raise children. I've heard parents weepingly quote this verse in despair because they "trained" but the child "departed."

The question then arises: is this a promise? is this a guarantee? Or, is this verse a proverb, which is a wise saying that generally holds true for life?

Remember, this scripture is in the book of Proverbs. It is a proverb and cannot be translated as an absolute promise or guarantee, which some people erroneously say it is.

Claiming this scripture as a guarantee in life has other major problems, one problem being we can't claim promises for other people. Along this line of thinking I would like to delineate between a goal and a desire.
  • A goal is something I can accomplish by myself with God's help. 
  • A desire is something I would like to accomplish, but cannot by myself because another person is involved. 
I am to work toward meeting my goal, but I am to realize my desires depend on another person's decision and go on my prayer list but off of my responsibility and action lists.

From these definitions, let me ask you two questions:
  1. Is it okay to have as a goal to have a godly marriage?
  2. Is it okay to have as a goal to raise godly children? 
The answer to both is: no! 

I cannot have as a goal to have a godly marriage because that depends on another person, my husband. The goal I can have and accomplish is to be a godly wife. I can have as a desire to have a godly marriage, but my actions and responsibilities are toward my goal of being a godly wife, no matter who or what my husband is. God and I can meet that goal.

Now, let's apply that same principle to having godly children. No, I cannot have as a goal to have godly children because it depends on my unique children and their choices. I may have a sincere and strong desire to have godly children, but my goal has to be that I am a godly mother, no matter who or what my children choose to be and to do.

Now, why is this so important? Because we work to accomplish our goals and one of the greatest causes of anger is a blocked goal. Think about it. Are you angry because your children are not your trophies of meeting your goal of raising godly children? Have they or are they disappointing you?

Many parents quote Proverbs 22:6 incessantly to their children and use this as pressure to try and make them shape up and become godly children. Don't we all run from outside pressure that others put on us to make us into something they think we should be? I do!

I taught this at a seminar and afterward a mother came up to me crying and said I had helped her immensely. Her story: years ago she had heard a radio sermon on how to raise godly children and from that day forward that was her goal. Her daughter was now in complete rebellion, and no matter what she did, the daughter continued in anger and rebellion.

The principles above, when presented, opened her eyes and she was broken, yet excited to change her goal to being a godly mother and let her daughter make the decision whether she would be a godly person or not. She realized that much of her anger toward her daughter was her blocking the mom's goal of raising a godly daughter, which she had promised God she would do.

I have been amazed at how a simple thought process of separating goals from desires (using the definitions above) has changed my thoughts, actions, and feelings. The phrase that emanates over and over is, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Free indeed! 

To conclude: I do not believe Proverbs 22:6 is a guarantee in scripture. It's a wise saying that's generally true, a proverb, but the final verdict lies with the individual (the child) whether or not he or she will be a godly person. I hope these thoughts will help us not misuse or abuse scripture, but hold and practice all scripture in grace and truth.


SF said...

"I am to work toward meeting my goal, but I am to realize my desires depend on another person's decision and go on my prayer list but off of my responsibility and action lists."
This is great and I love you pointing out the difference between a goal and a desire. That is most helpful.
Now, regarding this quote, I am assuming, hopfully, I have learned truth and applied it according to truth. From time to time as I am reading, I will come across a scripture that jumps out and hits my heart. I might use that scripture as a prayer for myself or someone I care about or a situation. The key is praying it as a desire, but totally leaving the outcome to the Lord. It is the claiming and expecting that gets us in the anger mode. Just seeking a reality check!

Wade Burleson said...

No guarantees at all. Just look at your eldest son. (wink).

I am off for a mission trip to China. Before we leave on Monday I will be posting a link to your site on my blog since mine will be shut down for two weeks.

I will tell my readers to not venture over here if they have a problem with a woman teaching men spiritual truth, because they will be taught.


Rebel4Reality said...

I knew you were headed to China, but forgot it was so soon. Be careful, have fun, and we'll be praying for you a productive and safe trip.
Thanks for the vote of confidence in the referral. We'll see what, if anything, happens.
And regarding your (wink) remark, reality results are far better and greater than any supposed guarantee.
Take care.

Glen Woods said...

I appreciate your thoughts. As a children's pastor, I often tell those who ask me about such things, "The only person you can control--assuming self-control is functioning--is yourself. You cannot control others." Keep writing. I look forward to learning more. :)

glenn said...

This passage is abused frequently by church leaders.

My Hebrew professor in seminary said that the Hebrew used here could also be..."Train up a child in the ways of a (child)."

If this were the case, this has proven true.

(Train up a child in the ways of a child and when he is old he will not depart from it.)

How many adults do we know that act like children?

2 Chronicles 7:14, Jeremiah 29:11, John 12:32,and Philippians 4:13 are some additional examples of abused passages.

Maybe you could write a post on these verses that are sometimes referenced as guarantees?

Debbie Kaufman said...

Mary: I learned something from this post today. Thank you. I am glad to find you blogging.

Rebel4Reality said...

Thanks for writing. Interesting comment by your professor. And thanks for more suggestions on writing about supposed guarantees in scripture. I'll add them to my list for possible subjects in the future.

What a compliment; you learned something from what I wrote. Thank you. I enjoy reading your posts and comments. I especially like your support of Wade. Blesses a Mom's heart!

Bryan Riley said...

Great stuff. I'm glad Wade shared that you are now blogging!

I think it is also important to remember that we often think we have "train[ed] up a child in the way that [the child] should go" but we really aren't capable of assessing that very well ourselves, particularly when we focus on the child's relationship with God to the detriment of our own.