Proverbs 20:11

ESV Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.
NIV Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright?
NASB It is by his deeds that a boy distinguishes himself, If his conduct is pure and right.
CSB Even a young man is known by his actions— by whether his behavior is pure and upright.
NLT Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right.
KJV Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
NKJV Even a child is known by his deeds, Whether what he does is pure and right.

What does Proverbs 20:11 mean?

Solomon (Proverbs 10:1) understood that character and conduct are intricately connected. What a person believes eventually works itself out through their words and actions (Matthew 15:18–20; James 2:15–18). If someone's character is deeply corrupt, that corruption will be revealed in evil conduct. Conversely, a godly person will show by his deeds that he is godly (Matthew 5:16; John 13:35). This is most reliably true of adults, but it's even the case with children. When Jesus was a boy, He revealed His pure character in many ways, one of which was by submission to His earthly parents. We read in Luke 2:51 that Jesus went with Joseph and Mary to Nazareth "and was submissive to them."

Parents learn soon enough whether a child's character is pure by observing behavior. Are they obedient? Are they kind? Or are they rebellious, selfish, and mean? Children are no more or less moral than adults—the only meaningful difference is that children are more pliable. They can more easily "grow out of" sinful habits than can adults who are entrenched in their ways. Therefore, the book of Proverbs emphasizes the need for parents to lovingly guide their children's spiritual growth (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:6, 15). In his letter to the Ephesians Paul exhorts fathers not to be senseless or overly harsh in their guidance (Ephesians 6:4).
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