Read Proverbs 22:1-16
You can’t read this section and not discuss the 6th verse.
Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life.
Good News Translation (GNT)
Train up a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Revised Standard Version (RSV)
Point your kids in the right direction—
when they’re old they won’t be lost.
The Message (MSG)
Direct your children onto the right path,
and when they are older, they will not leave it.
New Living Translation (NLT)
If you have ever tried to break a bad habit and replace it with a new one, you know how tough that can be. You have probably given thanks many times for the good habits that your parents instilled in you. If you have not, you should.
We must not underestimate the value of good beginnings, good foundations, or a good start. Consider the learning advantage that a child gains when he or she learns to read well at an early age.
Consider the physical advantage that a child gains when he or she acquires tastes for healthy foods.
Consider the social and intellectual advantage that your child gains when he or she has a primary lexicon that does not include profane or vulgar words.
These things don’t happen by accident. They are the result of teaching, training, and directing usually by the parents. Teachers and friends and pastors and youth leaders and even peers can help but it is the parent that has primal influence on the development of the child.
One of the words that we say is synonymous with sin is transgressions. To transgress is to miss the mark. Parents continually point their children back to the target, put them back on track, and affirm when they hit the mark.
There are two types of parents.
The first is the expert parent. How does one qualify as an expert? It is really quite simple. You just never have any children of your own, and then you can comment on any situation with expertise knowing that you don’t have to practice it at home.
The second is the real parent. The real parent knows that there is no single fool proof method or routine that works best with each and every child. The real parent knows that parenting is work. It is often rewarding, but it takes a lot of effort.
Sometimes parents don’t get to see the fruit of their efforts for years, but they know the investment in getting their kids on the right track in these early years will provide a steadfast path for them in later years.
How do they know this?
The wisdom of the proverbs tells them and tells us.
Invest in your children early and often and even when they get off course. Bring them back on course and keep investing in them.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Most of us who are parents probably have a list of things that we might have done differently. Parenting is a learning experience regardless of whether you have one child or a dozen. Parents must have a teachable spirit as well as a desire to teach their children.
And though we may err from time to time, the desire to keep our kids on track never fades away. Our methods may differ parent to parent, but we know that it is more than our job but our calling to get our children started on a godly path.
Today the challenges are different and some would say more difficult, but the promise is the same. Later in life they won’t be lost.
The second proverb that we examine deals with two old friends—fear and laziness. They keep each other company and comfort each other whenever they are challenged to the unthinkable—action. This 13th verse says:
The sluggard says, “There’s a lion outside!
I’ll be killed in the public square!”
The Good News Translation says:
Lazy people stay at home; they say a lion might get them if they go outside.
Good News Translation (GNT)
The Contemporary English translation puts this proverb in more directive form.
Don’t be so lazy that you say,
“If I go to work,
a lion will eat me!”
This is a proverb of ifs, if only’s, maybe’s, try’s, and round to its. It is a slice of humor amidst some otherwise direct and deterministic pairings of wise counsel.
It says, the lazy person puts more effort into having a steady supply of excuses than he does in attempting any real effort.
An excuse for everything and every excuse in its place to abuse the more recent proverb, or as I experience almost weekly: His life is a mess but his excuses are in order.
How does this proverb apply to those who are not lazy and who don’t make excuses?
Looking inward, we might take greater notice of excuses coming out of our own mouths just as we might notice the early signs of a cold or the flu. We are all vulnerable.
But for those with lifelong habits of working hard and giving no quarter to flimsy excuses, this counsel tells us it is ok to terminate a conversation with a lazy person full of excuses.
They will not listen and they do not value our time. A productive day to this sort of person is a day in which they got to use many excuses and use up another person’s time.
As compassionate as we want to be, there are times to just say, “I don’t think I can help you today.”
You are under no obligation to give your time to a person who does not value it. This is not a lack of mercy or compassion. It is wisdom.
You have full permission not to have to entertain fear and laziness in your ministry.
We don’t argue with the foolish or the lazy. It is a waste of time. Sound reasoning on our part is just an excuse to devise another flimsy excuse on the part of the person who just doesn’t want to do anything to help himself.
We need to love with a pure heart and speak with grace, but we have been warned in advance that the lazy person has an endless supply of excuses. Much like gossip, we are well served to steer clear.
We have better things to do with our time and resources than listen to the excuses of the lazy. One of those better things is to bring up our children in the way they should go.