Recently I was sitting having a discussion with one of my children about the choices we make in life. There had been an incident involving a poor choice on the part of this young one leading to the conversation we were having. I was explaining that all of the little choices we make add together to determine our direction. One bad choice leads to another, which leads to another, etc. and each one becomes progressively easier. Like all of us, I have had some experience with this and would like to see my children learn from my mistakes rather than repeat them all themselves.
As is so often the case, after we were done talking, I was still reviewing in my mind the deeper meanings relating to our talk. I find that usually the things I am trying to teach the children are just the previews of things we are all still dealing with. The circumstances around them change, but the heart issues are still the same. With children we might be dealing with being kind to a friend or sibling, but for us we are dealing with gossiping about a co-worker, or being resentful of the person that got more recognition or the promotion etc. It can seem easier to deal with children – you deal with the behavior and move on, however I don’t believe that is what is meant in Proverbs.
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
In order to train up a child in the way, you must know the way yourself. There are many ways being promoted in our culture, and a few ways being mocked and pushed aside. If you are trying to find or follow a specific way it is helpful to have a map. On this map it helps if it shows where you are, where you are going, and the best route to get there.
Sometimes the best route is subjective, for instance if you are in a city there can be more than one way to get to a restaurant on the other side of town. One way might take you through downtown in rush hour causing delay and frustration, while the other way skirts the traffic areas, winds through a few back roads and pops out at your destination. In rural areas, it is not unusual for there to be only one way to your destination, unless you want to take a detour of several hours.
In any journey you need to decide on a destination before you head out. If you do not know where you are going you have very little probability of getting there. So take a look at your life. Is your destination the “Ultimate American Dream”? Where you have the perfect number of children, living in a nice house, working at a job you love and are appreciated, or maybe owning your own business, two or three cars in the yard, maybe a boat, a healthy 401k, a couple of perfect vacations every year, cruising into an early retirement when you will see the world and spoil your grandchildren.
Maybe that sounds a little “pie in the sky” for you, and you think your destination is more realistic, but is your destination still based on earth? Do you spend as much time thinking about eternal destination as you do about retirement? There was a point in my life, when I was newly married, my wife and I were each driving brand new vehicles, and I had a calendar on my desk keeping track of the number of days until I could retire (there was an early retirement offering where I was working and years of service + plus age = my retirement at 54). I wasted a lot of time dreaming of the wrong destination during those years.
Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:25-33 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
That is the destination I want to strive for, The Kingdom of God. If my treasure is found here, in my 401K, or my house, or car, or other possessions how can I be focused on God’s Kingdom? I do not mean to imply that having any of those things is wrong, or in some way less spiritual than being a pauper. I am simply questioning focus. Am I getting up the morning, planning how to add to these things, or wondering how to be of service to God?
In the analogy of the map, I now have the destination. I also know where I am starting from, I am a sinner, guilty before God, pardoned by the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ, called to be His disciple, and live now for Him. The only piece still missing on our hypothetical map is the way. The Bible gives us the way to God’s Kingdom as well.
Jesus says He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He also tells us that any who come after Him, should take up their cross and follow him (John 16:24). Following after Jesus is the way! Now following after Jesus is not an easy way, but it is the only to God. Following after Jesus means you need to leave some things behind. Things like the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. It means you need to start learning to love others like Jesus did. Jesus ate with the worst outcasts that society had to offer in His time, tax collectors, lepers, and prostitutes.
So if I want to “train up my children in the way they should go” what might that look like? Instead of teaching my children not to lie, I should teach them to love truth. Instead of focusing on teaching them not to steal, I should teach them to go the extra mile, give the shirt of their back, and love like Jesus. The way to teach them then is the way of Jesus. One of the ways to teach someone is to show them. So I ask myself, “What am I showing them? Am I showing them that my destination is based on earthly pleasure and treasure, or am I showing a destination based on God’s Kingdom?” Since my destination is God’s Kingdom, can they see the way by how I am living? Could others?
I would encourage you to spend some time with God, and do a little spot check on your map. You are living life following a map, but where is your map leading you?