The Paradox of Mentoring

Proverbs 22:6 - Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Mentor as term. The first recorded modern usage of the term can be traced to a 1699 book entitled Les Aventures de Telemaque, by the French writer Francois Fenelon. In the book the lead character is that of Mentor. This book was very popular during the 18th century and the modern application of the term can be traced to this publication.

This is the source of the modern use of the word mentor: a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, usually a more experienced person. Some professions have “mentoring programs" in which newcomers are paired with more experienced people, who advise them and serve as examples as they advance. Schools sometimes offer mentoring programs to new students, or students having difficulties.

Today mentors provide expertise to less experienced individuals to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks. In many different arenas people have benefited from being part of a mentoring relationship.

The word “train” means to dedicate, to train up, or inaugurate. I personally believe this passage is not a promise for salvation, but a promise from God that our children will continue in whatever we have taught them. If we train them in the ways of God, they will continue in that way because that is the way we have trained them to think, it is the way we have taught them to reason.

The word “train” appears only three times in the entire Bible.

  1. I Kings 10:2 And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart. Strongs Hebrew # 2428 meaning “Army”.

  2. Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Strongs Hebrew # 2596 meaning “Dedicate”.

  3. Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Strongs Hebrew # 7757 meaning “hem”.

The only time the Hebrew word “dedicate” (Hebrew 02596) appears.

  1. Deuteronomy 20:5 – And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated (02596) it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate (02596) it.

  2. I Kings 8:63 – And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the LORD, two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated (02596) the house of the LORD.

  3. II Chronicles 7:5 – And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep: so the king and all the people dedicated (02596) the house of God.

The word “trained” in Genesis 14:14 (the only time the word “trained” {02395} appears in the Bible) means trained, instructed, trained servant, tried, experienced. And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

Moses and Joshua. Moses mother taught him, but I do not find where Moses actually sat down and mentored Joshua.

Eli and Samuel. Neither Eli, nor Samuel had faithful sons. (Eli's sons are mentioned in I Samuel 2:22; Samuel's sons are mentioned in I Samuel 8:1-3) There is no doubt they should have corrected them with more severity than they did, but their sons did what the sons desired, not what God desired them to do.

David and Solomon. There is no mention that David was mentored into the position of King of Israel by his dad, or anybody else. David is the first king from Judah, the second king of the nation, following Saul. King Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin. There is some scriptural proof that David learned to mediate on the things of God while in the fields with his sheep. David made the leap from theology to practical faith – a leap we should all make.

Elijah and Elisha. Elijah did mentor Elisha, but it “seems” Elisha was more interested in being mentored than Elijah was in mentoring him.

Paul and Timothy, and Titus. Who mentored Paul? No person mentored him in the ways of God. God alone did this. Timothy was mentored by his grandmother and his mother, then Paul picked up the mentoring and developed it. There is no record as to who Titus mentored. It should also be noted that Paul failed to mentor John Mark, whom Barnabas took under his wing.

Aaron and his two sons – Nadab and Abihu. What about the other two sons?

Adam and Cain and Abel – what about Seth? Did Adam fail to correctly teach Cain while he correctly taught Abel? I don’t think so. The fault was in Cain, not Adam. It might have been that Adam and Eve had an incorrect perception of Cain, as they thought he was a man from God – even the chosen redeemer of the human race, therefore they did not teach him as they should. But the truth remains that only God can put his word into the heart and life.

Noah and ?? It was God that spoke to Noah, not dad, or granddad.

What is necessary is that we, as parents of the children God has given to us, do all we can do to train, instruct and put in the minds of our children to be obedient to God. But we need God to open the understanding of our children, so they will understand what they are supposed to do and how they are to think. We can put all the information we can into the brains of our children, but only God can put useful information into the hearts of our children. We do not know how to raise children, regardless of how much experience we may have – only God can raise a child.

What guarantee do we have that God will touch our children?

What guarantee do we have that God will use our children?

I think we all know the stories of the Bible, but sometimes we do not correctly relate to those stories of parents/children because we cannot think we do anything wrong in raising the children God has given to us. We somehow believe God will touch our children for our sakes, regardless of how we raise them, but we fail to realize the promise is for God's glory, not ours. We, as parents, are not the end of the promise – God is.

Our children attend church while they are in our homes, what guarantee do we have they will continue when they are “out of our homes”? Answer – God's promise. We must do all we can to raise our children correctly, but only God can finally touch our children. Numbers 25:6-15 – Phinehas killed two adulterers, God said he was right. No word from his parents, but there was word from God.