Proverbs 22:6 notes, “Train up a child in the way he should go; / even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). Does this verse promise that raising children in a godly manner will always result in children who follow God as adults? What about all the godly parents whose children rebel?
Proverbs, as a literary form, are not direct promises; rather, they are general observations of life that are typically true. This helps to explain why some parents faithfully raise their child to follow God, yet the child rebels against God as an adult.
Proverbs 22:6 teaches that it is generally true that a child raised to love God will continue to do so as a grown-up. This was the observation of life from 3,000 years ago, and it continues to prove itself today. Most Christian parents who raise their kids in a godly manner will leave a legacy of children who love God as adults. Bringing up a child in “the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) dramatically increases the likelihood that the child will hold to Christ in later life.
A great biblical example can be found in the life of Timothy. In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul says, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” Timothy’s mother and grandmother both loved God and raised Timothy to do so as well. Timothy joined Paul as a missionary associate as a young man and became one of his most trusted companions. The New Testament mentions Timothy by name twenty-five times as a missionary, aide to the apostles, and pastor.
Godly parenting is essential today, just as it has been throughout history. Fathers and mothers are the key to raising godly young men and women who love God and live for Him. Despite the blessing that pastors, youth leaders, and other godly influences are, no one can replace the role of godly parents who live out their Christian faith and pass it on to their children. This is why the author of Proverb 22:6 could rightly claim, “Start children off on the way they should go, / and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”