by Jonathan McLeod

This content is part of a series.

Family (6 of 8)
Series: Wise Steps
Jonathan McLeod
Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).


Psalm 127:3 says, ''Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a re-ward.'' But when your child is screaming in the grocery store, that child doesn't seem like such a great reward.

The book of Proverbs has much to say about raising children. Proverbs 22:6 is one of most well-known (and also misunderstood) parenting verses in the Bible.

[Read Proverbs 22.]


If a Christian parent ''train[s] up a child in the way he should go,'' is that child guaranteed to stay on the right path? In other words, is Proverbs 22:6 a command (''Train up a child in the way he should go'') with a promise (''even when he is old he will not depart from it'')?

To properly answer that question, we must identify the literary genre of Proverbs 22:6. Identi-fying the literary genre of Proverbs 22:6 is easy. It's a proverb. But what is a proverb?

An example of a popular proverb that is not found in the Bible is, ''An apple a day keeps the doctor away.'' When we say that proverb, do we believe it's a promise that everyone who eats an apple a day will never be sick? No. But the proverb does contain a general truth: healthy eating generally leads to good health.

We should interpret biblical proverbs in a similar way. Richard Pratt writes that biblical proverbs are ''adages that direct us toward general principles that must be applied carefully in a fallen world where life is always somewhat out of kilter.'' This means that proverbs are not promises.

Proverbs 22:6 is not a PROMISE.

Tremper Longman writes,

[Proverbs 22:6] sounds like a promise, but a proverb does not give a promise. The book of Proverbs advises its hearers in ways that are most likely to lead them to desired conse-quences if all things are equal. ...

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