Proverbs 17:21

He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy.

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Do you want to mess up your life? Forfeit your joy, and face sorrow and shame? Then have a child that is a fool! A disgraceful and troublesome child can suck the life out of your soul. It is a calamity that can crush you and your spouse (Pr 10:1; 17:25; 19:13).

The issue is not up to Fate – the pagan invention of Homer! The God of heaven might justly chasten you or your ancestors with an incorrigible fool, but more likely you will neglect your parental duties and create a fool that otherwise would not have existed.

All children are born with a foolish heart that defaults to selfishness, sloth, and sin (Pr 22:15; Ps 14:1-3; 51:5; 58:3). However, this foolishness may usually be driven out of a child by reproof and a corrective rod (Pr 22:15; 19:13; 20:30; 23:13-14; 26:3; 29:15).

But some children are born compulsive and incorrigible fools, which is either God’s chastening (if the parents are elect) or judgment (if they are not elect). There is no cure for this wretch, for you cannot drive the foolishness out of him by any means (Pr 27:22).

Neglectful parents, especially fathers, turn other children into fools. These hateful men do not train their children, and the results are terrible: the children are hardened in the folly with which they were born. There is hope when a child is young (Pr 13:24; 19:18; 22:6,15), but if you squander the opportunity, shame and trouble are ahead (Pr 29:15).

What are the lessons? A foolish son or daughter is a terrible calamity. Since one source may be God’s chastening, it is your wisdom to live as holy and virtuous a life as possible, if God will peradventure save you from such a punishment. Since child training can teach wisdom and eliminate foolishness, there is every good reason to be diligent and faithful in consistently training each of your children (Pr 19:18; 20:30; 22:6,15; 29:15,17).

The pain of a foolish child is great. So be a great parent. Each day you take off brings greater sorrow. Are you exemplary to them by living wisely? Authoritative by enforcing godliness? Pitiful? Knowledgeable? Teaching? Realistic? Friendly? Consistent? Spiritual? Leading? Each point is important. But most of all, do you pray for them?

Have you already failed as a parent? Do you have one or more fools with your last name? Confess your great sin to God, beg Him for mercy, confess to your children, and make every godly effort to teach and train them with the options you have left. The Lord is able to restore the years lost due to your foolishness and His chastening (Joel 2:25-27).

If you have foolish children for these or other reasons, you are not alone. Abraham could not keep peace in his polygamous home, and among Jacob’s sons there was only one real standout. Samuel watched Eli’s poor fathering and saw God’s judgment, but his sons were not much better. David may have been after God’s heart, but his sons were a mess with various capital crimes and even his favorite son made shipwreck of his life.

Do your reasonable best and trust God for the rest, just like any other duty or choice in life (Ps 127:1-2). He can multiply meager efforts like He did the lad’s lunch, forgive your follies past, and work changes in your children’s hearts that you could never make. Keep Him and His righteousness first in your heart and life, and trust your children to Him.