So let’s imagine we’ve been recruited to play a game. We didn’t volunteer, we were recruited. Saying no wasn’t an option. In this game we get dropped off in a strange alternate reality where we understand nothing. The people are speaking our language, but they’re using a lot of words and phrases and references we don’t understand. They only laugh at us when we ask questions, but mostly they ignore us. There are a dozen of us so we have some comfort in our numbers, but none of us understands how to get along in this strange place. Before we were dropped off in this alternate reality, we were told that to win the game, to get back home, we must make it to the Good City, and to be careful along the way. We were given no map and no further instruction.

Within the first few minutes of our arrival we notice a glow in the otherwise dim distance. That must be the Good City, we surmise, so we head off in that direction. Before we get far, a quarrel develops among us about which way to go because now other glows have developed in the dark as if beacon fires have been lit just over the horizon. We cannot settle our dispute over which glow is actually the Good City—not that we’re sure any of them is—so we split up. Shortly after splitting up, we hear screams in the dark and a fierce snarling and roaring as if from some great beast. Our comrades! We want to help, but we are afraid, and soon the screams and snarls and roars cease. Somberly, we move on.

The light is so dim and the terrain so unfamiliar that we must feel our way along very slowly, but even our snail’s pace does not prevent one of our number from falling into an unseen chasm and down, out of sight and sound. Again, we move on in the gloom.

After hours of this harrowing ordeal, we are thirsty and hungry. As if in obedience to our desires, the most beautiful drink and food come into view ahead of us. We cannot name the variety, but that it is drink and food most of us do not question. The color and shape of this sustenance please the eye. The smell is alluring and confirms for most of us that this drink and food will satisfy. There is little to stop us from gorging ourselves here and now except the unease of one in our group. Something isn’t right, she says. I think it’s a trap. This food isn’t good for us. Its beauty and desirability are deceiving us. We are parched and famished. We do not believe her and instead dig in to the goodies. But wait. Cough, cough. Sputter, sputter. She was right. GAME OVER.

Fortunately for us, this corny, exaggerated scenario isn’t likely, but the hyperbole employed in this outlandish scene isn’t hyperbole at all when applied to the daily lives of our children. In fact, this corny scenario is a big fat slice of reality for our children every day because they are all too often left to figure out this world for themselves. The second half of Proverbs 29:15 says that a child who is left to himself will bring shame to his mother. God gave children to fathers and mothers for the express purpose of their training those children up in the way they should go. To do otherwise is to plop children down in the middle of the game described above. Proponents of this post modern era of relative truth will certainly tell you and your children that there is no objective standard and that parents should let their children figure out the world for themselves, let them discern their own likes and dislikes. If that is true, then God would be a liar, and He isn’t.

God’s word says that a child left to himself will bring shame to his mother. God isn’t warning about embarrassment at the grocery store; though, that will surely be an early manifestation of Mom’s shame. He is warning against the spiritual death of the child. If Dad and Mom leave Junior to figure out the world for himself, in the end, the mother’s shame will come from the wayward path Junior takes and the loss of his faith.

Dad and Mom, we have a very important responsibility. This is no game. Let’s not leave our children to figure out the dangers of the world for themselves. They don’t know wrong from right yet. God ordered the world this way so that parents would pass knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to children who desperately need it. They need us to tell them when to go right and when to go left; when to close their mouths and when to speak; when to run and when to walk; when to eat and when to fast; who to trust and who to stay away from; what sin is and how to confess and repent; how to live by faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have them for so short a time. We can’t leave them to figure it out for themselves, or all too soon it may be GAME OVER.