Summary: Part 3 of 10 in a series dedicated to debunking commonly held myths that we think are in the Bible but really aren't, myths that can and often do have devastating effects on our faith.
INTRODUCTION: It can be said with little or no argument that a parent’s primary concern is that their kids turn out ok; as a parent I can attest to that fact. Nothing else in the world worries us more. If we’re honest with ourselves most of us are also scared to death that we’ll somehow mess our kids up and they won’t become upstanding and productive members of society, and as Christians it goes one step further, we’re worried that our children won’t grow up to be faithful, church-going, God honoring adults.
BACKGROUND: This deep-seated fear causes us to scour the pages of scripture looking for some reassurance that if we provide a proper upbringing for our children, then they’ll not only turn out ok but they’ll also become committed followers of Jesus… and then the solution seemingly presents itself – (Proverbs 22:6) As parents we often cling to this verse as God’s promise to us that if we raise our kids right, everything will turn out OK, the only problem with this whole scenario is that this verse isn’t what we think it is, and doesn’t say what we think it says, and thus we have yet another myth that is wreaking havoc upon the people of God, the idea that a Godly home guarantees Godly kids!
PROMISE VS. PROVERB
• At the very foundation of this myth is the confusion about what this passage of scripture is
• It’s a proverb, it’s not a promise, and there is a difference
• Promise – absolute truth concerning something that will be done, especially true when related to God (Hebrews 6:18)
• Proverb – general observation about life, the best route to the desired end, but no guarantees are given – let’s take a closer look at this verse…
• What we think it says – If we raise a child correctly, even if they stray, they’ll eventually come back to God
• What it actually says – If we raise a child according to God’s word(specifically the Torah), and their bent (personality) they won’t turn away in the first place
• If a child is artistic, don’t force sports, if their mechanically inclined don’t force academics etc.
• Try as we may, wish as we might, we cannot force this verse to say anything about the return of a wayward child, even the Parable of the Prodigal Son, (Luke 15) only states the fact of the sons return, there was never any guarantee, either stated or implied that it would happen
• Even in the best of circumstances, children do rebel, they do break our hearts, and they do, because of personal responsibility face the consequences of their actions – case in point – Adam and Eve
• God is the “perfect” parent, the garden was the “perfect” environment (no sin) and they still made bad decisions, and suffered the consequences, and we suffer still! Not their sin, but death!
THE INHERENT DANGER
• This myth isn’t just untrue, it isn’t just wishful thinking, it’s also spiritually dangerous! Why?
• (1) Unwarranted Guilt – If our children happen to stray, it makes us unjustly look at ourselves, our methods, and our families as failures.
• Scripture implies that we have great influence over our children, and will be held accountable for our actions in raising them, but they are responsible for their own actions
• (2) Foolish Pride – If our children don’t happen to stray, we want to take the credit for it, and while parental influence is present, God deserves and should get the ultimate credit
• This pride can also lead to us looking down on other parents, who’s children did stray
• (3) False Hope – if we think the bible promises our erring kids will return, we may be setting ourselves up for disappointment in the end
EZEKIEL’S PARENTING MODEL
• When it comes to our parenting, we need to reframe how we ask a specific question… we need to quit asking “Am I parenting successfully?” and instead ask “Am I parenting faithfully?”
• Why ask it that way? Because faithfulness is God’s highest expectation of us
• We see this idea played out in the lives of the prophets, especially Ezekiel
• Though we are never told whether he ever had any kids, his assignment to the nation of Israel has some remarkable parallels to parenthood and the question of what successful parenting looks like
• When God commissioned Ezekiel, he warned him that he was being sent to a people in open revolt against God, and it was his responsibility to speak for Him
• Ezekiel’s own people will not listen to him any more than they will listen to God Himself
• The job would be hard, harder than he realized going in, but God didn’t leave him defenseless