Three months after God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He called Moses to the top of Mount Sinai to give him and His people His great TEN commandments, which God Himself inscribed in two stone tablets, with His own finger, written on both sides of each one. You can read this history in Exodus 20.
Right in the middle of the Ten, we have Commandment number Five: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Each of these commands of God are equally important, but I find it interesting that among those Ten great Commandments, we are told explicitly of the importance of honoring our parents.
The Bible has a lot to say about honoring our parents. In the book of Leviticus, chapter 19, we read: “Every one of you shall REVERE his mother and his father, and you shall keep My Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God.” The same words we read in Exodus 20 are repeated again in Deuteronomy 5:16, and then in Deuteronomy 27, the importance of honoring one’s parents is emphasized even more strongly. Verse 16: “CURSED be anyone who dishonors his father or his mother.”
The Proverbs are replete with instruction on the importance of honoring our parents, livingly righteous lives and thereby being a blessing to our parents. Chapter 1, Verse 8: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” Chapter 10, Verse 1: “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.” Chapter 20, Verse 20: “If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.”
And of course, perhaps the most well known of all, Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Just one more: Proverbs 23:22, “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.”
In 22:6, WE as parents are told to “Train up a child, in the way he should go…” And if we DO that, we are promised that “…when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I believe this is very true. Yet today, many parents are frustrated, perplexed and even devastated as their families are torn apart by wayward children. In fact, I get many calls, letters and emails from parents and grandparents seeking prayer and guidance because they live in constant turmoil and regret — their children have strayed from the way they should go. They have forsaken their faith in God, which the parents tried their best to instill in them as they raised them up. And these wayward adult children, instead of being a wonderful blessing to the parents, they have become the source of great sorrow and pain.
This is not how things should be. Rather, in God’s perfect plan, it should be the exact opposite. Psalm 127, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”
But things are very different in many families today. Even children raised in Christian homes, by loving parents, who did their best to ensure they raised them up in the way they should go have seemingly become a curse to their parents as they have reached adulthood. So is God’s Word, in Proverbs 22:6 in error? “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” If WE did our job in training and raising our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, instilling our faith into the children we bore and raised, WHY then, have they gone so far off the rails?
The short answer is, this Scripture is conditional. Just because we make church attendance a priority, if we are not DILIGENTLY TEACHING God’s Word to our kids at home as they’re growing up, and if we are not DILIGENTLY working to model the life of true Christ-followers in EVERYTHING we do — if our kids see any hint of hypocrisy in us whatsoever, or any inconsistency between our “church life” and our “home life,” then we have not met the conditions of God’s promise. Training up children in the way they should go takes discipline (on OUR part — WE need to be disciplined in OUR OWN faith), and it takes a lot of work. We must be REAL, AUTHENTIC Christians. This is not something we can do “part time.” Our kids are not going to pick up the “real deal” and learn to live for the Lord unless we are modeling for them a totally uncompromising Christian walk ourselves.
Moses reiterated the great importance of this in some of his final words, which we find in Deuteronomy 11: “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied…”
It is truly rare to find even well-meaning, devoted Christian parents today that have this level of discipline and dedication to the Lord — so much so that their children cannot possibly ever question what is most important in all of life.
The other part of my “short answer” is that the Scripture in Proverbs 22:6 does not specify just how old “old” is. In other words, there are bound to be prodigals in our families… our children may stray from their faith in their teen years… maybe even remain wayward THROUGHOUT their adulthood, but then return to God at the end of their lives. We are not promised we will have no prodigals in our families. But Lord willing, WHEN THEY ARE OLD, (however old that may be), those wayward children will come to understand how they’ve spent their lives apart from God and, I pray, repent and return to Him. They may — but again — they may not. Sometimes it’s not for us to know.
There has never been a time in my lifetime, though, when parents were so burdened with the sorrow their wayward children have wrought in their lives. It’s no longer just “teenage rebellion” for a short phase of careless, reckless “experimentation” with the things of this world. Today, MANY parents’ (and grandparents’) hearts are broken as they see their children and grandchildren deliberately choose a life separated from God rather than devoted to Him.
These adult children are hooked on pornography, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, “meth” and heroin. They’re engaging in constant fornication, using foul language in their everyday speech. Many have spent time in jail for theft, violence, drugs and other things. They are deeply in debt and suffering from anxiety and depression, unable to hold jobs. Most, if they have any “faith” at all, follow false religions and new age “spirituality.” Some profess atheism or even Satanism. And now, the most COMMON heartbreak I hear from parents and grandparents is “my child (or grandchild) thinks their homosexual,” or “my child (or grandchild) believes they’re ‘transgender.’”
I hear the deep anguish in the voices of these parents and grandparents when they contact me and their heart cry is always the same: “What can I DO?!” Their hearts are broken for their loved ones — and not only that, but the actions of wayward children often cause extreme problems within families, usually tearing families completely apart. I know some who have not seen their children or grandchildren in years. And so what God meant to be one of His greatest blessings to us, the enemy has turned into our deepest source of sorrow, pain and regret.
In Romans 1, Paul speaks of a world where most have turned away from God, chasing after all the shiny, carnal delicacies the devil can find to dangle in front of them. Starting in Verse 28, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
I used to find it a bit odd that “disobedient to parents” was listed among these most awful of sins. But truly, we are seeing that very thing: disobedience and disregard and disrespect for PARENTS is destroying the very foundation of a Godly society — the family — ripping families apart and causing God’s perfect plan for us to be thwarted. In God’s plan, children honor, obey and respect their parents, looking to them for wisdom and advice as they raise their own children, and putting great VALUE and SIGNIFICANCE in the wise teaching and close relational bonds between grandparents and grandchildren. Sadly, today many adult children despise their parents. Grandparents are not even allowed to SEE their grandkids, much less have the opportunity to sow into them a lifetime of Godly counsel. OF COURSE these parents and grandparents grieve. They’ve lost the most important thing to them in this world: their kids and grandkids.
The great importance of children honoring their parents is woven throughout all of God’s Word because it is THAT important. You can also look at Ephesians 6, Colossians 3, 1st Timothy 1, 2nd Timothy 3, and 1st Peter 5:5, just to name a few.
But we need to understand what has happened… Romans 8:5, “…those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” 1st Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him and he is NOT ABLE to understand them because they are SPIRITUALLY discerned.” They were most likely never really “born again” believers in the first place, having not received or not allowed the Holy Spirit to counsel and guide them. They MAY have believed the lie that many churches preach today, that you can have Jesus as Savior, but He need not be your LORD. And so without the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they can do nothing BUT chase after the carnal, fleshly enticements of this world. They cannot comprehend God. He is irrelevant to them. And so, I’m afraid are YOU, Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa… I hate to tell you…
We have been on a downward spiral in our homes and families for at least a couple generations now, and so it’s not surprising we are reaping what we have sown in our country. When we fail at our duty to properly and DILIGENTLY “train up our children in the way they should go,” we should not be surprised that they “depart from it” the first chance they get. We can’t send our kids to the socialist/Leftist government schools where they’re indoctrinated with a steady barrage of lies five days a week for 13 years and then drag them to church for two hours on Sunday and depend on THAT to “get their minds right.” This is serious business… read again the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 11. It takes diligence, discipline and most of all AUTHENTICITY in our modeling of the Christ-following life in order to instill those values into our children. IF we DO that, then they WILL NOT depart from the faith, and you WILL be greatly blessed by your children, and they by you, and your grandchildren as well.
But take heart, friends, because God is patient toward us, (AND our kids), not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance… like the prodigal son we read about in Luke 15. So while you may have made some parenting mistakes and have some regrets about that (all of us have SOME), and while all may seem lost and all may seem hopeless, it is really not too late — because nothing is impossible with God. My advice is that WE get OUR houses in order, OUR relationship with God right first, and then BEGIN AGAIN, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make our requests known to God. Pray for your wayward kids. (I know you do already. Continue, with fervency).
It will also take a measure of “tough love” and discipline. When the prodigal son realized all that he had carelessly thrown away, and he found himself at the end of his rope, it was THEN that he repented, and it was THEN that the father welcomed him back with loving, open arms, and the family was restored. Don’t “accept and affirm” your wayward kids in their sin, because that is NOT real love. (God doesn’t “accept” or “affirm” ANY OF US in our sin. He LOVES us, but He REQUIRES repentance first). So instead, stand firmly on God’s Word. Use discipline — and as we read in 2nd Timothy 2, gently (but FIRMLY) instruct them, “…in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
There is always hope, friends. Our heavenly Father loves your children and grandchildren even more than you do, if that were possible. So pray for them fervently, with THANKSGIVING to God. Employ the tough love of righteous discipline, and gently, but firmly instruct them, the best you can. It’s my prayer — and also God’s will — that all the broken hearts and all the broken families are healed, and that all will repent and turn their hearts back home to our loving Heavenly Father, where there will be great celebration and great joy at the return of every prodigal.
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