Teaching in the public school system must be one of the hardest jobs to do today. In fact, I am convinced that teaching is more than an occupation – it is a calling. Teachers today are being faced with situations from which their predecessors were spared. When I was in school in the late 60’s and 70’s, my teachers were there to educate me. If memory serves me right, I don’t recall any of my teachers trying to raise me. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a great deal from the men and women who educated me – but my value system was provided to me at home. Back in the day we called it “home training.”
An examination of today’s schools will reveal a trend that started some time ago – teachers are being expected (by some parents) to literally raise the children. And while many teachers are excelling at do just that – I am convinced that the rearing of children must be done at home. In fact, I am convinced that the only teacher who should be expected to raise their students is a homeschooling teacher. Come on parents, partner with your child’s teacher and distribute the workload! Let’s raise our children by instilling a godly value system in their hearts and minds, and let’s allow their teachers to do what they do best – teach.
In the ancient writings of Solomon, here was his divinely inspired instruction on the rearing of children. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The word “train” here in Proverbs speaks of “rearing and raising a child through training.” As a pastor, I’ve seen heartbroken parents clutching that verse like a man in an angry ocean clinging to a life preserver.
Researching that verse, I came across some interesting things. In the first place, the word translated “train” is only used few times and in three separate situations. The first use of the word is found in the book of Deuteronomy. In this case, it refers to something a wise soldier does prior to battle. Here’s that passage: “Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying: 'What man is there who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it’” (Deuteronomy 20:5). Our word translated “train” in Proverbs is here translated as “dedicate.”
The second time we find the word used, it is in reference to the dedication of the temple of God. Solomon was the king of Israel, and he led God’s people in an impressive service. Here’s one of the two passages describing this historic event. “And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered to the LORD, twenty-two thousand bulls and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 8:63). Once again, the word translated “train” in Proverbs is here translated as “dedicated.” (A parallel passage describing this event is recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:5.)
I find the uses of our word “train” to be interesting. The Bible tells us that wise people, in ancient days, did the same thing when it came to war and worship – they dedicated what was given to them by God (temple/house). I believe wisdom suggests we do the same thing with our children (who are gifts from God). From the worship in which we lead them, to the battles they will surely encounter in life – we should dedicate (“train – rear, guide”) them.
Every year at the first parent/teacher conference, my wife and I went to both of our children’s schools. Every year, our boys heard the same speech given to their new teachers. It went something like this: “I do not expect you to, nor do I want you to have to raise my child. That is my job. I want you to have the freedom to do what you were called and trained to do – I want you to educate my child. If my child ever shows you any disrespect, or if he acts in any disruptive manner, you will not have to call the principal. Here’s my phone number. Please call me. If you ever need to call me, I can promise you two things. First, he will offer you an apology for what he did. And second, he will never do it again.” For thirteen years, my sons heard that speech, and believe me, it got to be a little embarrassing to them by the time they got to high school.
God has richly blessed my wife and I. We have two young men (31 and 26) who are better men now than I’ll ever live to be. Think that’s just the parent in me talking? Just ask the people that know them. Think I’m bragging? You’d be right! God did an amazing job with our sons. The task of following God’s directions was ours. The blessing of our home and children was (and still is) God’s.
As a parent, I want to offer my humble gratitude to all school teachers. As a follower of Christ, I want to offer eternal praise and thanks to my God. And as a dad, I want to challenge my fellow fathers: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
John Burleson is the Pastor of Calvary Church of Conway. Email him with questions and comments at email@example.com.