Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)
Recently I have again been reading through the book of Genesis. A few days ago I was the section where the deceptive Jacob is about to face his brother Esau, the one from whom he had fled many years earlier. You likely recall the story of how, in preparation for this meeting, he separated his great livestock holdings into different groups (figuring if Esau slaughtered the one, the other might escape). Jacob then tried to placate Esau's wrath by offering various gifts, before finally having Esau meet his large family. Upon finally coming face to face Jacob was overcome by the grace shown to him by Esau, his foolish twin brother whom he had deceived or tricked on more than one occasion. Reconciliation having taken place, Esau invited Jacob to return with him to Seir, Esau's hometown. Here is the part that really caught my attention:
Then Esau said, "Let us journey on our way, and I will go ahead of you." But Jacob said…"Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant…until I come to my lord in Seir." …So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built himself a house…(Genesis 33:12-17; italics mine)
The point is that even here…even after grace upon grace was shown to Jacob, he again deceived his brother Esau suggesting that though delayed because of his great amount of livestock and family, he would come to him in Seir. But the truth is, Jacob had no intention of coming to Seir.
Now the question is, How did Jacob come to be this great deceiver? I think the answer is that he learned it from his father Isaac (Genesis 26:6-11) and mother Rebekah (in Genesis 27:5-17). And where did his father Isaac learn this deception? From his father Abraham (Genesis 12:10-20 and Genesis 20). People sometimes speak of "generational sins." They generally mean by that the idea that the sins of one generation can and will have an impact upon succeeding generations. But in the case of Jacob, the generational sin was more the learning of a particular sin from a parent.
Here's the application: can we really expect our children to fare better than ourselves in regards to righteousness? If our children are not seeing us read from the scriptures, can we expect that they will? If our children have not observed us speaking to people about Jesus, can we expect that they will? Conversely, if our lives might be characterized by some particular sin, or addiction or filthy habit, should we at all be surprised if our children do not grow up to act in much the same way?
To "train up a child" means not merely to instruct a child but also to show them, to guide them, to mold them AND MODEL FOR THEM the kind of person we know that God desires them to be. That's a lot of responsibility laid upon our shoulders. May God help us to do well.