Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

Proverbs 22:15

These verses annoyed me as a kid. I had them aimed at me in a way I think was incorrect. Not by my parents, but by some teachers and other adults. It seemed to me that people thought that if kids were “raised right” they would just be good Christians for the rest of their lives sort of automatically, in spite of any hardships that may arise.

That’s not what the passage at large is teaching. You see, this passage is really about good stewardship of our assets. The proverb writers were wise people but they didn’t think of things the same way we do. The book talks about handling money well, being aware that we have riches to do good and reminders to be charitable.

The child being trained here is not going to school and doing studies to be a Spiritually fulfilled person, in this specific context. This child is a part of the wealth this person held. This child is the heir to the family business. “Give your child your time and attention and the child will be prudent and wise like you,” might be a less evocative summation.

The context matters. If God asks you in the same passage to be kind to strangers and to be gracious in your speech, can we think that the rod of discipline mentioned in verse 15 is an exception to that? We need to demonstrate God’s lovingkindness, his giving and his grace through all of our actions. Including the way we allow children to be treated.

Ethan Kirl

Originally Published September 1, 2020