His Way

‘Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.’

Proverbs 22:6

Our Senior Pastor is teaching a weekly class on ‘Godly Parenting’, and this week we covered the passage above.

Intimidated? Does this mean that I and my wife are solely responsible for ensuring that our son stays on the straight and narrow? Well, that’s not very reformed, now, is it? Thankfully the Bible isn’t as simple as we, and God makes up for our failings.

So what does this passage mean? I have no idea. But here’s an imperfect summary of the discussion.

Dr. Doriani says that, in Greek, the phrase ‘the way he should go’ is literally ‘his way’; and considering the source, I’m fine with taking his word for it. His way? Whose way?

God’s way? Well, of course. We should all learn and teach the ways of God, as best we can; this goes without saying. But in this context, and grammatically-speaking, ‘God’s way’ doesn’t make sense. We have the pronoun, ‘his’ (or ‘he’), the antecedent of which can only be ‘child’. (Though I like to think that God is always implied in scripture.)

If ‘his way’ refers to the child’s way, we’re left with two options. First, ‘his way’ could mean our child’s wants. We could teach our child to follow his desires and impulses. That just sounds like a bad idea; I can understand why this would be translated as ‘the way he should go’.

Second, and finally, ‘his way’ can be taken to mean the child’s tendencies and preferences – his distinctiveness. Dr. Doriani used the example of a student he knew who preferred to sleep on the floor. That was simply the young man’s way. Teach my son the ways of God, and to follow them in his way. Neither mine nor my wife’s, but his way.

I like this interpretation. We are all unique, and God has given each of us our own special talents. Why these gifts if we aren’t intended to use them for His glory? This interpretation teaches us to celebrate the blessing of diversity, and to help our children develop their own special relationship with God.

What does this passage mean to you?

2 Responses

  1. Jungle Pop
    Jungle Pop at | | Reply

    One of the problems with this passage (if you can say any of God’s Word has “problems”) is that too many parents claim this proverb as a rock-solid, unbreakable promise. It’s a proverb, folks – a general truth of life. No guarantees, just “probabilities”, in my opinion.

    That being said, I think I prefer the interpretation you’ve settled on. We as parents need to be in tune with how our kids tick, and raise them accordingly. Nice post.

    [4/8 – Thanks for bringing that up! Proverbs is a book of wisdom, not laws.]

  2. grace
    grace at | | Reply

    I agree with you completely in this. Furthermore, when we do not celebrate and affirm their individual proclivities, gifts, and talents, we can wound them severely. I could go on and on about this very thing. But I won’t! ;) While we can’t possibly be “perfect” as parents, we can certainly do what we can not to bring about additional struggles…raising them with regard to their individual “bent” is a giant step in the right direction.

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