I have always been a student of the simple truth often found in folk sayings and proverbs. One of the most common such phrases is, ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’. Scattered around the bottom of an apple tree is the fruit it produces. This fruit falls off the branches and drops to the ground, remaining close to the tree it came from. Eventually, this natural occurrence turned into a metaphor and today it means that a person is a lot like their parents. The phrase is typically used in connection with children who show qualities or talents similar to their parents.
Long ago, Solomon recognized children do indeed manifest the characteristics of their parents. Both inherited and learned behaviors emanate from the home. The time-honored concept of the ‘the apple falling close to the tree’ is rooted in one of the Solomon’s best known proverbs. “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV). We should keep in mind that this proverb is a principle, not a promise.
Solomon was obviously aware that children are not only capable of training, but they will be trained with or without parental direction. I believe it is the God-given responsibility of parents to purposely intervene in the lives of their children in order to facilitate learning in a positive Biblical direction. The impressions made in childhood years will remain, unless some extraordinary cause occurs to erase them. Parents should begin instruction as soon as a child is capable of understanding. It is important to nurture them in Christian principles and virtues before they begin to receive other impressions. If we do, it is highly likely they will grow up in the faith, and when they are older they will not forsake it, but retain it as long as they live.
However, parents must surely know that even the very best training by the wisest parents in the world cannot positively guarantee goodness and wisdom in their children. Scripture teaches us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. We are wonderfully made because God created us with intelligence and free will – we are free to choose our relationship with Him. We are fearfully made because…God created us with intelligence and free will – we are free to choose our relationship with Him. Our children may choose to reject the truth we teach them, to slight the example we set for them, and to spurn the counsel we give them. In the will of every child there is a power which cannot be forced, which can only be won. When parents have done everything in their power, there will remain that element of individuality which will choose its own course and form its own character.
There is but one gate of entrance into life (Matthew 7:14). That gate is the personal, individual acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Parents may lead a child up to it, but that child must pass through it of their own accord. The good news is that there are countless examples in scripture and the witness of a great host of fellow Christians that provides assurance that ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’.
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)