14. Wisdom and Child-Rearing (Part I)
Who is Responsible for a Child’s Character?
When my wife and I attended a baby shower several months ago we came across this statement in a scrapbook which almost perfectly reflects my feelings as I approach this topic:
“I once had no children and six theories on child-raising.
Now I have six children and no theories on child-raising.”
My wife and I have six children, one of whom is with the Lord. It is absolutely amazing how having five children softens the dogmatism with which I once spoke on the subject of child-training. My personal preference would be not to speak on this subject at all, for many years. Yet Proverbs has so much to say on the subject. Furthermore, many of you have young children and find this one of the most urgent concerns of your life.
Before we begin our study let me caution you that no one is ever completely objective about this matter, nor is anyone fully authoritative. Certainly children cannot be objective, for they are the recipients of the process of child-training. I have heard some very authoritative words on this subject from those who do not have children and who are not even married. While they can certainly share the Scriptures with us on this subject, they cannot speak out of their own experience; and wisdom in Proverbs is never an armchair acquaintance with the truth but a practical skill in applying it.
If you think I am implying that since I have five children I am thereby an authority on child-raising, let me be the first to correct you. If simply having many children made one an authority on child-training then anyone with a large family could be called on for expert advice. But, to tell the truth, all we might be able to speak about would be bearing children, not raising them. I want to confess to you at the outset that I do not know nearly all I should about child-raising, and a great deal of what I do know I am not practicing as I should.
Those whose children are grown are not always the most authoritative experts either. Those who have been fortunate enough to have their children all turn out well may be inclined to take too much credit for the results. There is not one parent who is able to take the credit for children who grow up to be godly, for that is the result of the grace of God. Any successes in our family life are in spite of many failures on the part of the parents.
Another problem is that there are godly parents whose children have been a disappointment and a heartache who may have something worth saying about child raising, but they are reluctant to speak and we are even more reluctant to hear from them. We want to hear from those who are successful, not from those who have tasted the bitter pill of bearing a foolish son or daughter. If this is your mentality, then you might as well stop reading now, for Solomon, the primary contributor to the Book of Proverbs, seems to have failed badly in raising his son Rehoboam to be a wise man (cf. I Kings 12).
The question I am raising is this: “Who is responsible for the character of our children?” I have already suggested that parents do not have as much control over the lives of their children as some teachers have taught. There are here, as in every other area of biblical doctrine, two extremes to which we can go. On the one hand, we may conclude that the spiritual life of a child is totally the responsibility of the parent. This is not only unbiblical, but tends to greatly distort the parenting process. On the other hand, we may go to the opposite extreme of fatalism, whereby we conclude that we have no responsibility for the spiritual life of our children. This leads to complacency and disaster. My desire is to approach the subject of the responsibility of parents and their children from the perspective of the Book of Proverbs, and the entire revelation of God in the Bible. I believe we will find that the truth lies between these two extremes, and that our study can relieve much guilt and frustration on the one hand, and yet inspire more diligence and prayer on the other. Let us look then at the question of responsibility in the rearing of our children. For what does God hold parents accountable?
Godly Parents May Raise
Children Who are Foolish and Shameful
While it is not what I want to hear, I am forced to concede that Proverbs teaches the painful possibility of raising a son or daughter who is foolish and shameful.
The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish son is a grief to his mother (Prov 10:1).
A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke (Prov 13:1).
A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish man despises, his mother (Prov 15:20).
A foolish son is a grief to his father, And bitterness to her who bore him (Prov 17:25).
He who robs his father or his mother, And says, “It is not a transgression,” Is the companion of a man who destroys (Prov 28:24).
There is a kind of man who curses his father, And does not bless his mother. There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, Yet is not washed from his filthiness. There is a kind--oh how lofty are his eyes! And his eyelids are raised in arrogance (Prov 30:11-13).
Some might be willing to admit that some parents could raise a foolish child, but refuse to concede that a godly parent could do so. But I find it hard to see why an ungodly parent would be grieved at raising an ungodly son. When Peter spoke of Lot’s vexation at the sin of his city, he spoke of him as a righteous man, whose “righteous soul was vexed” (2 Peter 2:7-8). It is the righteous who are grieved by unrighteousness. Let us press on.
Solomon Versus Sigmund Freud
Determines the Character of a Child
We should begin by acknowledging that parental failure does have an adverse effect on both parent and child. In the words of Proverbs,
The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother (Prov 29:15).
Yet having said this I must also point out that the emphasis of Proverbs is that it is not the parent who is ultimately responsible for the character of the child. The foolish child has chosen to pursue life along the path of folly. The penalty which the foolish son will bear is that which he deserves. In chapter 1 both father and mother have taught their son about the two paths of life, and have warned of the danger of joining wicked men in doing evil. Yet after this parental instruction, wisdom speaks concerning the fate of those who will nevertheless choose to walk in the way of the fool:
“They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, And be satiated with their own devices. For the waywardness of the naive shall kill them, And the complacency of fools shall destroy them” (Prov 1:30-32).
The individual responsibility of the child for his choices in life is taught elsewhere in Proverbs:
If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, And if you scoff, you alone will bear it (Prov 9:12).
The foolishness of man subverts his way, And his heart rages against the Lord (Prov 19:3).
So we find in Proverbs that the foolishness of a man is not the fault of his parents, but the result of his own decision, the reflection of his own heart. While parents may suffer grief at the foolishness of a son, they are not said to suffer from guilt, for he alone must bear the consequences of his decision to walk in the way of folly.
Further evidence of the responsibility of the child for his character is found in the first nine chapters of Proverbs. While chapters 10-31 teach us about the characteristics of the wise, chapters 1-9 emphasize the choice which is necessary in order to enter the way of wisdom. If there is one word which summarizes the mood of these early chapters it is “appeal.” Both father and mother urge their son to heed their teaching, to seek wisdom as a thing of great value.
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, And do not forsake your mother’s teaching; Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head, And ornaments about your neck (Prov 1:8-9).
My son, if you will receive my sayings, And treasure my commandments within you, Then you will discern the fear of the Lord, And discover the knowledge of God (Prov 2:1,5).
My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments (Prov 3:1).
Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, And give attention that you may gain understanding (Prov 4:1).
Every appeal of these early chapters of Proverbs is based on the same premise: a father and mother can teach a child about wisdom and urge him to pursue it, but they cannot make the decision for him. Indeed, a child of wise and godly parents may choose to play the fool in spite of their diligent efforts to train him otherwise.
What of the Promise of Proverbs 22:6?
Wanting desperately to believe that parents who are diligent in training their children to be godly are guaranteed good results, many turn to Proverbs 22:6 for biblical support. While it is my personal preference to have such a guarantee, I do not believe the passage teaches any such thing. I should first say that no matter what interpretation we arrive at, Proverbs does not give us promises as much as maxims. For example, while diligence is essential for prosperity, diligence does not guarantee prosperity in Proverbs. Even if Proverbs taught that diligence in child training produced godly children (which we have seen is not necessarily so), it is no guarantee that the faithful efforts of godly parents always produce godly children.
In the estimation of many great Bible scholars, Proverbs 22:6 does not refer to moral instruction at all, but rather spells out a principle of education: Training suited to the student will not be wasted effort. The NASB renders this verse,
Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. But the Hebrew text literally reads, Train up a child according to his way, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Since I intend to deal with this passage more extensively in future lessons, let me simply point out several observations about this text which are relevant to our study.
1. THE IMPERATIVE IS “TRAIN UP,” WHICH SHOULD SERVE AS A CLUE TO THE EMPHASIS OF THE PASSAGE. Parents are commanded to train up their children. The emphasis here seems to fall on the need for child training, not the nature of it.
2. THE EXPRESSION “WAY” ALMOST ALWAYS HAS REFERENCE TO THE NATURE OF A CREAURE, OR ITS HABITUAL PATTERN OF CONDUCT:
There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Four which I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the sky, The way of a serpent on a rock, The way of a ship in the middle of the sea, And the way of a man with a maid (Prov 30:18-19).
It is pressing this term very hard to render it “the way he should go.”
3. THE TERM “DEPART” IS NOT A TERM WHICH IS USED OF APOSTASY. In Proverbs it is most often employed with reference to departing from evil (cf.Prov 3:7; Prov 13:19; 16:17).
These and other factors incline many scholars to conclude that this passage does not promise godly children to parents who are faithful in raising them in a godly home. Speaking with reference to the view which we have rejected, Dr. Otto Zockler writes:
Yet although the third [view] presents the highest standard and has been generally adopted and used where little account is made of the original, it has the least support from the Hebrew idiom.41
With this Derek Kidner agrees:
The training prescribed is lit. “according to his (the child’s) way,” implying, it seems, respect for his individuality and vocation, though not for his self-will (see verse 5, or 14:12). But the stress is on parental opportunity and duty.42
Proverbs is thus consistent in teaching us that there is no guarantee that godly parents will have godly children, even though they may be completely faithful and diligent to their parental duties. Kidner comments:
Many are the reminders, however, that even the best training cannot instill wisdom, but only encourage the choice to seek it (e.g. 2:lff.). A son may be too opinionated to learn (Prov 13:1; cf. Prov 17:21). A good home may produce an idler (Prov 10:5) or a profligate (Prov 29:3):he may be rebel enough to despise (Prov 15:20), mock (Prov 30:17) or curse (Prov 30:11; 20:20) his parents; heartless enough to run through their money (Prov 28:04), and even to turn a widowed mother out of doors (Prov 19:26).While there are parents who have only themselves to thank for their shame (Prov 29:15), it is ultimately the man himself who must bear his own blame, for it is his attitude to wisdom (Prov 29:3a; 2:2ff.) his consent given or withheld (Prov 1;10) in face of temptation which sets his course.43
in the Old Testament
The teaching of Proverbs is consistent with that of the entire Old Testament. While parents are commanded to train up their children in the way of the Lord (cf. Deut. 6), they cannot determine the spiritual destiny of their children. As distressing as it may be, godly parents had ungodly offspring, and it was not necessarily a failure on the part of the parents.
Isaac bore Esau, a man who disdained spiritual things (cf. Heb. 12:16). Noah’s son Ham, having been spared from the destruction of the flood, fell under the curse of his father (Gen. 9:20-27). Manoah and his wife knew the shame of a son who had much power from God, but was foolish--Samson (cf. Judg. 13-16). Eli’s two sons were worthless, godless men (1 Sam. 2:12), but Eli was not held accountable for their unbelief, only his failure to restrain them (1 Sam. 3:12-14). Samuel’s sons were also wicked (1 Sam. 8:1-3). While I have always thought that Samuel failed in the same way as his predecessor Eli, the text nowhere attributes any blame to Samuel for the spiritual condition of his sons. This, of course, does not mean that he could not have failed; it only points out that the wickedness of his sons was viewed as their sin, not
Throughout the Old Testament I find that there is no one-to-one correlation between the spiritual condition of parents with that of their children. Godly parents can have wicked children. Wicked parents had godly children. The spirituality of the parents did not predetermine the spiritual condition of their children.
For example, recall the biblical record of the kings of Israel and Judah. Jehoshaphat walked righteously in the way of his father, Asa (1 Kings 22:41-44). Ahaziah, son of Ahab and Jezebel, followed in their wicked way (1 Kings 22:51-52). Asa, son of wicked Abijam, did not follow in his father’s way, but did what was right in the sight of God (1 Kings 15:9-15).Ahaz, son of Jotham, did not do right as his father had, but walked in the evil way, just as the kings of Israel (2 Kings 16:1-4).
That each individual is responsible for his own sins is seen in the Law, for no parent was to be punished for the sin of his son, nor was the son to be put to death for the sin of his father.
“Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deut. 24:16).
It might appear that the sins of the fathers would inevitably become the sins of the sons from this Old Testament text:
“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Deut. 5:9).
The principle which is laid down here, however, is not that the sons are destined to commit the sins of their fathers, but that our children do suffer when we sin. The consequences of our sins are unfortunately born, in part, by our children.44 Both Daniel and Nehemiah, men who lived in the period of Israel’s captivity, acknowledged that the people of God had been cast out of the promised land because their fathers had rebelled against God (Neh. 9; Dan. 9).It was not just for the sins of the fathers that they suffered, however, but for their own sins as well, as both Nehemiah and Daniel reveal in their prayers (cf. also Isa. 65:7; Jer. 3:25). Thus Daniel could say, in truth, both “we have sinned” (Dan. 9:8) and “they have sinned” (Dan. 9:7-8).
The prophet Ezekiel corrected a serious misapplication of the principle of Deuteronomy 5:9:
Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, “What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel saying, ‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live,” declares the Lord God, “you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel any more. Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die. But if a man is righteous, and practices justice and righteousness, . . . if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully--he is righteous and will surely live,” declares the Lord God (Ezek. 18:1-5, 9).
The Israelites of old were pre-Freudian in their thinking. They believed that they were only being punished for the sins of their fathers. Because of this they had become fatalistic and complacent. What good was it to be righteous when they were going to be punished (for the sins of their fathers) anyway? Ezekiel taught the principle of individual responsibility: if a man is righteous, he will live, but if he sins, he will suffer the penalty. Man will either be rewarded or punished for his own actions, not those of his parents.
To avoid any misunderstanding of the principle of individual accountability Ezekiel gave some specific applications of his teaching. A righteous man may have a wicked son, for whose sins he is not accountable. Only the son is responsible for his sins (Ezek. 18:10-13). A wicked man may have a righteous son. The son will surely live, but the wicked father must die (vv. 14-18). The principle is clearly stated in verse 20:
‘The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”
Ezekiel carries this principle even further. If we are not rewarded or punished on the basis of the deeds of our parents in the past, neither are we bound or blessed by our deeds of the past. The one who has lived wickedly may repent and live righteously and be forgiven of his past deeds (vv. 21-23).So also the one who once lived righteously, but has turned to the way of evil cannot rest on his past righteousness, but will be punished for his present sins (v. 24). We are never given the option to use the past as an excuse for the present, either with regard to the deeds of our parents or regarding our own actions.
No truth is more clearly or consistently taught in the Old Testament than this: while the parent is responsible for his own conduct and character, he is not ultimately responsible for the character of his child.
Responsibility for Children
in the New Testament
The teaching of the New Testament is entirely consistent with that of the Old regarding the responsibility of the parents for the character of their children. Christian parents are responsible for the instruction and correction of their children.
And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
While parents should train their children in the ways of God, they cannot be held accountable for the decisions their children make concerning their relationships with the Lord. One evidence of this is what God requires of church leaders concerning their children. Certainly God’s standards for elders and deacons would not be lower than those for other Christians. In 1 Timothy 3, elders and deacons are to be evaluated in terms of their skill in managing their homes, as well as in keeping their children under control, but not for their salvation.
He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?) . . . Let deacons be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households (1 Tim. 3:4-5,12).
Some may wonder if Titus 1:6 does not contradict what I have just said, for it appears that this text requires that an elder’s children be saved.
Namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.
Is this passage not quite clear? Does an elder not have to be evaluated by the spiritual condition of his children? Bengel thought so: “He who could not bring his children to faith, how shall he bring others? “45
The question must really be reversed though. Can any Christian be held condemned for his failure to lead a person to Christ, or be praised for having caused one’s conversion? The truth is that no one can cause another to be saved. While we are commanded to bear witness to our faith, we are not commanded to bring about the conversion of particular individuals. Would our Lord have satisfied Bengel’s requirements? Did He save all to whom He ministered? And what of Judas? Did Paul successfully convert everyone to whom he witnessed? Did all of Paul’s converts remain steadfast?
We cannot bring anyone to faith. Only God can give men faith and new life. We can only witness to the truth of the gospel and urge men to accept Christ. Whether it is our children, our parents, or our neighbors, we cannot be held responsible for the conversion of any. We are only responsible to live godly lives and to bear witness to our faith. Why then could any elder be judged by the faith of individual members of his family?
How then can we explain Titus 1:6? I believe the explanation is quite simple. First, we must ask how such an important requirement, if it is a requirement, could have been omitted in Paul’s epistle to Timothy. Second, we need only to look in a Greek lexicon to discover that the Greek word pistos is most often employed with the meaning “faithful” in the sense of inspiring our faith or confidence (cf. Titus 1:9, “the faithful word”). That is the way the translators of the King James version understood it, rendering the word “faithful.” Third, we should also recognize that the phrase following the word faithful is a further explanation of it. How are the “faithful children” of the elder to conduct themselves? They are not to be accused of dissipation or rebellion. I prefer the rendering of the NIV here, “not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient,” a qualification which agrees with that of 1 Timothy 3.
The implications of this lesson are far-reaching. Let me first speak to those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ.
1. YOU CANNOT REST ON THE FAITH OF YOUR FATHERS. I know there is a song entitled, “Faith of Our Fathers,” but let us not fail to grasp its meaning for us. The faith of our fathers was a holy faith, but it is not our faith. The object of their faith and ours is the same--Jesus Christ, but their faith is not our faith until we personally come to accept Christ as the One who died in our place at Calvary, and whose righteousness is ours, resulting in the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. It doesn’t matter whether your father was a preacher, a missionary, or a church leader. The only way you will be saved is by your personal decision to trust in Christ. This is why the first nine chapters of Proverbs urge the child to walk in the way of wisdom.
As someone has well said, God has no grandchildren. Each generation must decide to trust in Christ or to reject Him. In the Old Testament God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), but He personally reaffirmed that promise with each new generation: with Isaac (26:24), with Jacob (28:13-15), and with his sons (cf. 49:lff.; Ex. 20:lff.; and all the Old Testament promises to Israel). Faith is an individual matter. You cannot inherit salvation from your fathers, for it is a gift from God to those who call on Him for salvation.
2. YOU DARE NOT BLAME YOUR PARENTS OR YOUR PAST FOR YOUR UNBELIEF. Many explain their decision to reject Christ in terms of the past: they knew too many hypocrites; their parents were too legalistic; their past is too sinful to forgive. None of these excuses will impress God. You will never experience the torments of Hell because of someone else’s sin, but only because of your personal rejection of God’s provision of salvation. And, lest you would somehow blame God, He does not delight in the condemnation of any. He delights to forgive men of their sins.
“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezek. 18:23)
3. YOU MUST DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE EXPRESSIONS OF CHRISTIANITY AND ITS ESSENCE. The Israelites of old began to confuse their ceremonial observances of the law with genuine faith. So many men and women today think that they are saved by going to church, giving when the offering plate is passed, serving on a committee, or being baptized. While God does prescribe how we should conduct ourselves as Christians, it is not our conduct that saves us, but Christ. Too many of our young people have seemingly fallen from faith when they went off to college or left home, but the truth is that they only conformed to the family code, they never adopted it for themselves, nor did they see a personal relationship with Christ as the foundation of it all. Let us be very careful to distinguish between form and substance when it comes to our faith.
The primary principle which underlies this message is this: PARENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE TO BE GODLY AND TO TRAIN THEIR CHILDREN IN THE WAY OF GODLINESS, BUT THEY CANNOT MAKE THEIR CHILDREN GODLY. Let me mention several applications of this principle.
1. GODLY PARENTS WHO GRIEVE OVER THE OUTCOME OF THEIR CHILDREN CAN DO SO WITHOUT GUILT. If the Bible teaches us anything it certainly teaches that a godly parent may have children who are not godly. This means that the spirituality of the parent cannot be measured by the spiritual condition of the child. If your child has not chosen to follow in the way of the Lord, it is ultimately the responsibility of your child. You can not make a child be godly, only God can. You can be godly and yet raise a godless child. Don’t assume guilt for which you are not responsible.
If you are like me, you are very aware of your failures as a parent. No one I know of in the Bible or in my experience has been a model parent. We all have failed. If our children have chosen to follow God, we dare not take credit for the grace of God in their lives. And when we have failed we may find comfort here too, for God has provided forgiveness for our parental sins just as He has for all others. And we can find comfort that our failures at parenting will not be the reason our children are godless, just as our successes will not be the reason they are godly. For every sin there is forgiveness. Let us find comfort as parents that the unpardonable sin is not the sin of failing as a parent.
2. WHILE WE NEED NOT WALLOW IN GUILT OVER THE FAILURES OF OUR CHILDREN, WE DARE NOT BE COMPLACENT EITHER. Ezekiel found it necessary to rebuke the people of God for their complacency toward sin. They excused their own sinfulness by blaming it on their forefathers. We should not be complacent just because we cannot save our children. We are commanded by both the Old and New Testaments to train up our children in the knowledge of God (cf. Deut. 6:6-9,20-25; Eph. 6:4). While we will not have to give account for the failure of our children, we will have to answer for our own sins as parents. We may not be able to save our children, but we can teach them God’s Word, urge them to trust in Christ, and pray for their salvation.
The fact that we cannot save our children should in no way discourage diligence in following through with our parental responsibilities. Although God is sovereign in salvation, we are commanded to evangelize. While we cannot save our children, God can. We should fervently pray to Him, knowing that He does not desire any to perish (2 Peter 3:9; of. 1 Tim. 2:4). And let us be warned by these words of our Lord:
“And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42).
3. ASSUMING MORE RESPONSIBILITY THAN WE SHOULD FOR THE OUTCOME OF OUR CHILDREN CAN GREATLY HINDER THE PARENTING PROCESS. Assuming too much responsibility for our children can be as destructive as assuming too little. If we believe that parents are primarily responsible for the spiritual condition of their children, then we will also conclude that our spirituality as parents can be measured by the spirituality of our children. This is dangerous and devastating.
For example, let’s suppose that the father of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) is an elder in your church. What would you have expected him to do when his son asked for his money, knowing what he would do with it? The father would not dare let his child fail, for it would be considered a failure of the father. And yet this father is not only a model for us to follow as parents, he is also a picture of God Himself as He deals with us.
You see, it was only by failing that this “prodigal son” came to himself. It was after wasting his money and having to live with the pigs that he came to see the folly of his way. Then he repented and returned to his father. Which son, do you think, was wiser and more godly--the son who never dishonored his father, but who had never come to understand grace (like the Scribes and Pharisees of our Lord’s day), or the son who sinned and repented? This is precisely the question which our Lord asked the hypocritical religious leaders of His day:
“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered and said, ‘I will, sir’; and he did not go. And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered and said, ‘I will not’; yet he afterward regretted it and went. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The latter.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you” (Matt. 21:28-31).
It would seem to me that we are often too quick to judge the spirituality of children, when only time will tell. We seem to praise outward appearances of obedience and conformity, rather than to seek a spirit of obedience which may result in repentance, even after foolishness and sin. We need to give God time to work in the lives of our children, and to expect Him to work as much through their failures as He does through their obedience. After all, isn’t that how He works with us?
44 Deuteronomy 5:9 teaches that our children do suffer consequences from the sins of their parents, but this is a far cry from saying that children will inevitably follow in the same sinful path of their parents. The child of an adulterer is not irreversibly destined to become a liar just because the father is an adulterer. The reverse of Deuteronomy 5:9 is also true. The child of righteous parents will experience blessing because of the parents righteousness: A righteous man who walks in his integrity--How blessed are his sons after him (Prov. 20:7).
45 Bengel, as cited by A. R. Fausset in his commentary on the epistle of Titus. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., [photolithoprinted] 1967), VI, P. 517.