Train Up Your Children

Proverbs 22:6 RSV
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

From the Associated Press (Garland, Texas):An essay that won a 6-year-old girl four tickets to a Hannah Montana concert began with the powerful line: “My daddy died this year in Iraq.” While gripping, it wasn’t true — and now the girl may lose her tickets after her mom acknowledged to contest organizers it was all a lie.

The mother had told company officials that the girl’s father died April 17 in a roadside bombing in Iraq, company spokeswoman Robyn Caulfield said. “We did the essay and that’s what we did to win,” Priscilla Ceballos, the mother, said in an interview with Dallas TV station KDFW. “We did whatever we could do to win.” (c. 2007 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

All of us are beginning to recover from the recent Christmas celebrations. We’re throwing out mounds of crumpled and used wrapping paper, freezing leftovers, packing away decorations, and helping our children gram their new toys in with their already closets-full of older toys. Yes, in the scheme of things, the ones that come out the “winners” of the present-fest are usually our kids (grandkids, nieces, nephews, etc.).

I was thinking about that last night when I saw again this report from the AP about a mother who was justifying her lie so that her daughter could win Hannah Montana concert tickets. I was thinking about it when a friend of mine said, casually as dinner, “Well, if you have children, then you have this (product) in your home.” I was thinking about it as I watched neighbor kids ride their new ATV’s on private property (without permission).

“We did whatever we could to win.”

Is that really what our children need? Do they so need the stuff, the happiness, the rush that we are willing to sacrifice anything (including our own morals) to give it to them?

I think that as a Church, we have become so entrenched with our society that we have failed to learn to ask: “Is this what’s best for our children?”

What’s interesting about Proverbs 22:6 is that the word translated into English as “train up” literally means “to narrow.” A related Hebrew word means “to strangle” (as to strangle someone in an attempt to kill them). Wow! Those words are extreme and yet, perhaps, God wants us to use extreme measures to help our children learn self-discipline and self-sacrifice. Certainly the mom who wrote the essay for the Hannah Montana tickets wasn’t “strangling” her own desires. She saw something that she wanted (for herself, for her daughter) and she did whatever was necessary to get it.

She admitted that.

Is that what we do? Do we so want our children to be happy, successful, popular, _________ (fill in the blank), that we are willing to do whatever it takes, including forfeiting their spiritual upbringing?

Now, I seriously doubt that most Christian parents would lie or cheat for their children.

Or would they?

When I was teaching third grade (many years ago), I had a proclaimed Christian father write an essay for his son (in my class) so that his son would win the essay context. Obviously even Christian parents aren’t excluded from such devious behavior.

However, let’s get closer to home. Will we go into debt for our children? Will we put their own lusts ahead of our own good judgment? Will we buy them the latest “whatever” so that we look like better parents in our community?

Scripture promises that our children won’t depart from the truth of scripture IF they are trained up, if, as children, their way is narrowed. Scripture doesn’t promise that children won’t depart from the truth if they are raised in a Christian home by Christian parents or if they attend church growing up or if they graduate from a Christian school. The fact is that raising children is our God-given responsibility and that way of raising them is to narrow their path while they are young so that, as adults, they will seek the narrow path when they are old. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that our Lord Jesus talks about the Christian path as also being narrow:

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 RSV

The question is, are we really narrowing the path for our children? Or are we living out our “lost childhood” through their lives? Which would benefit them more?