In southern Peru, there is a massive area of geoglyphs carved into the ground and rock. They are named for the area, called the Nazca Lines. There are humongous carvings of people and animals, National Geographic reporting that “in total, there are over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal and plant designs, also called biomorphs. Some of the straight lines run up to 30 miles, while the biomorphs range from 50 to 1200 feet in length (as large as the Empire State Building)” (NAT GEO). There are so many theories about the meaning and purpose of these etchings, made by a people who could not have seen the entirety of figures that require aerial view to take in. It is suggested that these geoglyphs were formed between 500 BC and 500 AD by people from at least two distinct cultures. Overall, they have been well-preserved (aided by lowest annual rainfall rates in the world) and their authenticity is indisputable.
While this massive ancient project raises more questions than answers, it points to an effort that was done by a people whose work could not be appreciated in their own lifetime. The time, calculation, effort, and plotting required to draw these figures in the ground is awe-inspiring. We could argue that their work did not have the significance of medical breakthroughs, ingenious inventions, and literary brilliance, but they are still impressive. They could not see the fruits of their own labor, yet they continued to diligently work.
When it comes to matters of faith, how hard it is to labor with such foresight. The decisions we make every day, the priorities we map out for ourselves and our families, even the seemingly insignificant choices definitely impact ourselves. But, we are also building for the future in ways that we may never see in our lifetime. They will eat the fruit of the trees we are planting today.
Asaph urged an investment in the faith of one’s descendants. He says, “For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God” (Ps. 78:5-8).
When we write God’s love and His will on the hearts of our children, it increases the likelihood that generations yet unborn will trust, remember, and obey God (cf. 2 Cor. 3:2-3)! That’s profound! New Testament Christianity extends back several generations on my mother’s side. The same is true of Kathy’s father’s side of the family. We pray daily for our children’s faith and their children’s faith. Won’t it be wonderful to spend eternity with descendants, maybe many generations removed from us, who “saw” our faith and imitated it? That is a wonder that far exceeds any archaeological find!
Live your faith! Not only will it save you, but may contribute to the salvation of many generations yet to come. Keep writing on tablets of human hearts. The future will see it and marvel!
Because life is brief and families expand rapidly, we cannot afford to learn how to parent by trial and error. Instead, we need to consult with experts for this crucial endeavor. But when it comes to “experts” who claim to know everything but frequently pivot on their recommendations, what do you say? I’m addressing you, Dr. Spock. No, parents can do no better than to look to the foundational truths of the Bible, and the Book of Proverbs is helpful in this regard.
The typical metric used for gauging parental success is carnal. How well have you provided for the material needs of your children? But teaching your children to have a lasting reverence for God is more important than providing them with life’s amenities. A healthy respect for God is perhaps the best provision a person can give their loved ones. Wisdom warns us not to put too much value on material possessions.
A righteous person puts God’s kingdom and His righteousness first in everything they do, including parenting (cf. Matthew 6.33). Therefore, parents will devote themselves to gaining knowledge and wisdom from God’s Word. As a result, these parents discover the importance of cultivating a disciplined environment rather than amassing material wealth (cf. Ephesians 6.4; Proverbs 24.3-4). And because of the promises of God, those following God’s wisdom won’t have to forego necessities like food and shelter.
Discipline is required to achieve this goal. Although physical punishment has been utilized successfully throughout history, Parents should never use it to release anger. The word “child abuse” refers to the inappropriate use of physical punishment on a child. But spanking is different from abuse. To those tempted to “spare the rod,” we remind them that problematic kids aren’t more likely to be born into impoverished households due to a lack of material means but rather a lack of chastening love.
The advice in Proverbs 22:6 is helpful for any parent. The phrase “train up a child according to his way” is another valid interpretation of this verse. To paraphrase, parents shouldn’t try to instill their own secular goals and aspirations in their kids. For example, parents shouldn’t stifle their children’s interests by insisting that the youngster who excels in mechanics become a doctor or lawyer. Children allowed to pursue their interests and dreams within reason are less likely to grow up as adults who walk away from God. But, if you consistently deny them their hopes and dreams, they will resent you and rebel against everything you stand for, including your faith. That is what you must keep an eye on.
For your children’s future success, it is your duty as a parent to equip them with the necessary resources. For this reason, conventional interpretations of Proverbs 22.6 invoke the image of an archer pointing his bow. This person aims and releases the arrow. If you aim correctly, your projectile will almost always hit its target. While parents need to consider their child’s natural abilities, they need also be aware of the secular humanistic currents that may blow their child’s eternal trajectory in a different direction.
So, what are these tips? First, begin your parenting career by emphasizing the fear of the Lord. Solomon says, “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure, and turmoil with the treasure” (Proverbs 15.16 NASB). One of the essential tools you will give your child is not a trust fund but knowledge. Solomon reminds us that this knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1.7). Another benefit of the fear of the Lord is a child’s long life (Proverbs 10.27), providing the key to sin avoidance (Proverbs 16.6) and the provision of true wealth (Proverbs 22.4).
Solomon also advocates that parents create and maintain a loving home that fosters peace. Solomon states, “Better is a portion of vegetables where there is love, than a fattened ox served with hatred” (Proverbs 15.17 NASB). He adds, “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife” (Proverbs 17.1 NASB). Materialism is detrimental to both love and peace.
When parents have a lot of material goods, arguments can arise among the kids. Solomon’s statement may seem hypocritical at first glance, given his vast wealth, but it’s easy to see the difference between his family and his father’s. None of Solomon’s sons attempted to usurp his throne. (Or did he somehow manage only to beget Rehoboam?) And while Solomon’s household does not wholly conform to what a godly family would be (consisting of 700 wives and 300 concubines), he still seems to have been the patriarch of a loving and peaceful one.
Lastly, there is a need for discipline. Solomon reminds us, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13.24 NASB). Sometimes, a child’s heart harbors “foolishness” that only the rod of correction can remove (Proverbs 22.15). A parent who refrains from disciplining their child only shames themselves (Proverbs 29.15). Think of the last bratty child you saw in public whose mother or father stood silent as the child pitched a fit. The child’s cries may have been annoying, but to whom did you direct your irritated glance?
Contrary to conventional thinking, children crave discipline. They like to know where the boundaries are. Unfortunately, many a parent has mistakenly treated their child as a buddy rather than a child over whom they exercise authority. You may not realize it, but your role in providing those boundaries in your child’s early life will return to bless or haunt you in your old age. Discipline now equals your comfort later (Proverbs 29.17). Why? Your child knows that when you discipline them that you care. When you give your child “freedom” (i.e., no boundaries), they will likewise look the other way when you are infirm and in need of care.
The last word about discipline is that parents only have a limited window in which it is effective (Proverbs 19.18). It breaks my heart to see parents get serious about the Lord and life after their kids have already grown up. Unfortunately, parents are unable to sway their children at this age. Instead, parents are left to lament the products their earlier neglect created and the years they lost.
Yes, Solomon offers guidance on how to best provide for a family, how best to raise children, and other aspects of family life. We can all learn from his insight. The quality of our home life significantly impacts our overall sense of fulfillment and the eternal destinies of our offspring, so it’s essential to heed the advice found in Proverbs.
In 1960, Otho Jones and Homer L. Sewell wrote a song made popular by Flatt and Scruggs. It’s a song written from the point of view of a man’s oldest son, a son who felt he was old enough to be on his own and leave home. He describes his father as simple and not filled with a formal education, but also as one very devout and the spiritual leader of his home. He describes himself as “young and foolish.” When I listen to this song, I think about the way I could be as a teenager and how I tried my parents’ patience. My dad, a gospel preacher since 1964, has always been a diligent praying man. While I never heard him say these words in my presence, I wonder if he ever prayed them about me in my younger days.
“Our gracious heavenly father we all gathered here today
To give the things for blessings so humble we pray
My oldest son is leaving but I’m sure he knows what’s best
But just in case would you stand by and help him stand the test
Lord he’s awful neglectful about church on Sunday morn
And if he gets with a wrong crowd would you let him hold your arm
And if he flies too high would you clip his wings
But don’t let him fall too hard, I’m sure you can handle things
I’ve tried my best from day to day to teach him right from wrong
And he’s grown to be a fine young man and he always blessed our home
We pray dear Lord for guidance that he won’t build upon the sand
But I won’t worry half as much if I know he’s in your hands
And oh yes Lord it won’t be long till I’ll be coming home
Don’t make me wait too long
We pray dear Lord for guidance please cleanse us from our sins
So we can all be together in heaven in Jesus name amen.”
Those words are neither perfectly autobiographical nor an apt description of my dad (who has much more formal education than I do). But I think a lot of parents who continue to labor over their children in prayer, concerned for their safety as they turn them loose in this world. However large the physical or financial threats may be, what should concern us most are the spiritual ones. We will never outgrow our concern for them. We should never stop being the right kind of example to them. May we never sin against them by failing to pray for them. They need us to be the type of Christians described by James, of whom he writes, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (Jas. 5:16).
In March of 2007, in Owensboro, Kentucky, a couple tried to sell the woman’s 15-month-old daughter for $3000 and an SUV. The noble purpose behind this attempted transaction was “money to pay off [the boyfriend’s] fines for previous criminal charges.” Surprisingly, they denied the allegations and maintained their innocence, an effort that would eventually be unsuccessful.
How heartbreaking that anyone could act so heinously. Truly, “Children are a gift of the Lord…a reward” (Psa. 127:3). Yet, while they are a gift from the Lord to us, in another sense they still belong to Him (cf. Ezek. 18:4). We cannot sell what ultimately does not belong to us.
What Charles Hope, Jr., and Amber Revlett did in Kentucky was certainly criminal, but they are far from salon among those trying to “sell” their children for one reason or another. In order to give their children popularity, gratification, or material success, some parents are encouraging their children to live a life of sin, worldliness, and selfishness. Secular courts would never convict them, but what they are doing is even more heinous than that attempted by those lowbrow schemers from the Bluegrass State. As Christian parents, we have an obligation to recognize this tendency and not “sell our children” out to anything that could replace their undivided loyalty to serve Christ. We want their hearts centered around Christ and His will (Mat. 6:33).
Let us both teach our children and realize ourselves their intrinsic value as ones made in the very image of God (Gen. 1:27). Within each of our children is a soul, every one of which is more valuable and important than the whole world (Mat. 16:26). May we never do anything that would lead them to exchange their souls. Whatever they gain, they will lose everything! To the extent we, as parents, can influence this, let us do with diligence. God has placed their training and spiritual wellbeing into our hands (cf. Deu. 6:4-9; Eph. 6:1-4).
Feeding schedules, diaper changes, and runaway toddlers seem to consume a mother’s world for what seems like forever. It may seem like an eternal duty, but those days very quickly pass. What you learn in each new stage of your children’s development is that God gives you grace and strength to meet the challenges that accompany it. Sleepless nights, drained energy, and unfinished housework discourage you. Unappreciative, uncooperative children at times confront you. Unsympathetic, clueless husbands may (though surely only rarely) irritate you. But, you, ma’am, are doing important, yea, eternal work!
You hold more than a baby in your arms. You lead more than a toddler or small child by the hand. You mold and shape more than a child’s mind, social skills, and heart. You, dear lady, are influencing this world and eternity. As you rise to the challenges and succeed in keeping Christ in the center of your children’s hearts, you are partnering with God. He can help you cope with the temporary trauma, the short-lived chagrin, and fleeting frustrations of motherhood. God designed the home, and as such He designed it as a place where mother’s touch and influence would settle deep into the hearts and lives of those eternal souls you helped bring into existence. You can dedicate them to God like Hannah did Samuel (1 Sam. 2:28). You can sacrifice for them like Samson’s mother did for him (Jud. 13:13-14). You can treasure the things about your children in your heart as Mary did about Jesus (Lk. 2:19).
In the meantime, while you are coping with the daily frustrations of motherhood, remember the words of Jan Dunlap:
Help me remember, when I feel it’s a chore,
The time will come when I’ll hold baby no more,
Asleep on my chest, the crib refused, the blanket,
the pacifier, gone unused.
What better place is there to lay baby’s head
Than against my heart, my arms her bed?
For children grow up and leave us behind
With only memories left to remind us
Of midnight walking and predawn rocking,
Of sweet, crying babies unable to sleep.
So, keep me patient and keep me awake
While I cradle this dear child,
And don’t let me begrudge another long night
With this baby, my darling, my joy, my delight.
The trials of motherhood are a relative moment. The lessons you leave them last beyond a lifetime. Thank you for willingly, lovingly, and righteously pursuing this important facet of God’s work on earth!
Several years ago, when preaching in Virginia, I spoke with a sweet, 69-year-old woman who had watched our TV program and wanted to speak to me. During the course of our visit, she told me a story I will never forget. Tearfully, she told me of her 14-year-old grandson, Matthew, who locked himself in his room, took a pistol, put it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. He was rushed to MCV Hospital in Richmond. He survived, but the bullet was permanently lodged in his sinus cavity and he was in constant, relentless pain. The greatest pain, however, was not physical. It was emotional and spiritual. Matthew’s mother and father routinely flew to Las Vegas to gamble, dumping him off with anyone who would take him. They might win a few thousand dollars on some trips, but they invariably lost their winnings and then some. The father had told the son, not long before his suicide attempt, “I wish I’d never set eyes on you!” The boy had told his grandmother, “Nobody loves me.” He had also told her, “I want somebody to take me to church.” When she offered, he said, “I want my daddy to come and sit beside me.” This dear elderly woman lamented that he grandson’s parents never showed Matthew love and affection. In the wake of that, a young man with most of life before him, could not bear the thought of continuing one more day in such a topsy, turvy, loveless circumstance.
I felt a flood of emotions: Pity, for the boy; Anger, for the parents; Sympathy, for the grandmother. Upon reflection, there are several lessons to be learned from Matthew’s plight.
Bad decisions often carry awful consequences. Matthew learned this by the single squeeze of a trigger. If the parents weren’t past feeling, they might see the connection between their selfishness and his anguish. Galatians 6:7-8.
Sin destroys a proper sense of priorities. The parents were, in the grandmother’s estimation, greedy and selfish. They put themselves above their responsibility to their son. They made it clear they loved money (cf. 1 Tim. 6:10), and they made it clear they did not love their own boy (cf. Eph. 6:4).
Homes without love crumble. “The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand” (Prov. 12:7; cf. 14:11). How our homes need to be filled with love! Without it, how many children will feel like Matthew did?
Parents have a vital role to play in the spiritual development of their children. What did Matthew want? His daddy seated next to him “in church.” Was that too much to ask? He was hungry for spiritual guidance from his parents. What a challenge! How are we preparing our children in spiritual matters?
There are too many young Matthews, empty inside, unsupported, unloved, and unaided. What condition is our home in? Is sin in the way? We should be careful how we walk in front of our children (cf. Eph. 5:15). We want them to do more than value their physical life. We want them to pursue and gain eternal life! May God bless us in that needed pursuit.
We are blessed to have quite a few young children in our congregation. Little boys and little girls, with unexpected observations, expressive faces, and humorous behaviors, make sure there is not a dull moment when they are around. Inspired writers use terms like “inheritance” (Prov. 13:22) and “gift” (Psa. 127:3) to impress us with their value. Jesus demands imitation of them (Mat. 18:3). Parents get so proud of their children, displaying their cuteness in pictures on social media. While so many kids reflect the good looks of their parents, it’s not looks that most make children adorable. What makes children adorable?
Obedience to parents
The practice of good manners, courtesy and respect for others
A pleasant demeanor and general good mood
Avoiding the pattern or habit of tantrums and ill-temper
The ability to speak and make eye contact when spoken to
Laughter that reflects a genuine joy of living
Engagement and interest in worship and Bible class
Serving especially the elderly—visiting them, making cards or little presents for them
Speaking respectfully to adults
The qualities above reflect an attractiveness of godly parenting and an appreciation for biblical principles of conduct that will make them adorable adults one day. It reflects the “others before self” mentality Christ wants to see in God’s children (Phil. 2:1-4). It reflects the humility and service that causes greatness in His Kingdom (Mat. 20:25-28). It reflects the thoughtful consideration that ought to typify Christians (Col. 3:12; Rom. 15:1ff). It reflects the spiritual mindset necessary to be winsome, attractive ambassadors for Him (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20; Rom. 12:17ff; etc.). Sometimes, much greater emphasis is given to the style of their clothes than to the strength of their character. We cannot put fashion before faith, image over integrity, or sophistication above spirituality.
I want to thank so many parents who get this ideal and are striving toward it. No one’s children are perfect, just like none of their parents (or critical adults) are. But, parents who are trying to instill quality inner qualities in their children deserve highest honor! Keep rearing adorable children. You’ll have a lifetime to be grateful that you did.
I preface this simply by saying that I have far too imperfectly modeled these lessons far too often, but I maintain their worthiness. The world is rooting for our children to fail and fall, but the Word is written to counteract that! Prayerfully consider the following:
–Character Is More Important Than Charm And Charisma
–Hard Work Is Its Own Reward
–Be Honorable In Every Relationship—The World Sees Too Little Of This
–Conduct Yourself As A Gentleman, No Matter What Society Preaches
–Have The Courage To Stand Up For What’s Right, Even If You Stand Alone
–Notice The “Little” People—Those Who Cannot Advance Or Help You
–Trust Divine Principles Over Cultural Practices…Every Time!
–Purity Of Heart Is Directly Connected To Cleanliness Of Life
–Do Not Leave Devotional Time Out Of Daily Living (There Is No Day You Don’t Need Him)
–Stewardship Is A Whole Life Concept
–Serve God Faithfully And Forever, Whatever Your Profession
–The Church Needs You Now—Procrastination Here Is The Devil’s Delight
–Stay Humble, Especially When You Succeed Or Do Something Well
–Volunteer For Jobs No One Likes To Do
–Who You Marry Has The Most Impact On Where You Are Going—Choose Wisely!
–“Count Your Blessings, Not Your Crosses” (A.U.)—There’s Equal Opportunity To Do Either.
–Love And Respect The Church’s And Society’s Eldest Members
–Realize There Are People Watching You When You Least Expect It—Shine!
–There Will Always Be Those Who Are Led By Your Actions—Be Wise!
–Happiness Is Self-Determined, Not Externally-Driven
–Appreciate The Gravity, Value And Importance Of Your Word
–Never Outlive Your Love For Christ
–Don’t Allow Your Negligence To Cost Other People (Whether Time, Money, Trust, Or Good Will)
–Do Not Let The World Rob You Of The Profundity Of Your Purpose
–Honor The Name You’ve Been Given By Living A Godly Life
–A Moment’s Passion And Indiscretion Can Destroy A Lifetime Of Godly Living
–“Never Do Anything In Your Mate’s Absence You Wouldn’t Do In Her Presence” (Wendell Winkler)
–Appreciate The Preciousness Of Life Every Day
–Make Spreading Cheer A Conscious Priority (And Involve Your Face).
–Choose Compassion Over Cruelty
–Keep A Song On Your Lips
–Lead As Many People To Heaven As You Can And Know That Your Life Will Open More Doors Than Your Lips.
–Integrity Trumps Image… Every Time!
Paul especially urges a particular quality that seems rarer these days. However, this is not a trait disappearing only with those in the world, but one that seems harder for us who claim to be disciples of Christ. He uses a word in Galatians 5:23, Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:12, and 1 Timothy 6:11, among others—James does, too (1:21; 3:13). The word, πραΰτης, means “gentleness of attitude and behavior, in contrast with harshness in one’s dealings with others” (Louw-Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, 1996, n. pag.). They suggest the word includes “always speaking softly to or not raising one’s voice” (ibid.). Another Lexicon, in defining the word, speaks to what may prevent one demonstrating gentleness, namely “…being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance” (Arndt, Danker, et al, 2000, n. pag.). Yet, surely there are other impediments to our bearing the fruit of gentleness.
We struggle to be gentle, don’t we?
With our children’s weaknesses and mistakes.
When responding to our spouse, whether in impatience or aggravation.
With rude fellow-shoppers, incompetent cashiers, or pokey or inattentive drivers.
Being at odds with a brother or sister in Christ in a clash of personalities or purposes.
Having thoughtless or rude neighbors.
Engaging in a disagreement with a faceless, nominal acquaintance on social media.
Dealing with customer service, especially if we get an ESL representative.
This is just a sampling of situations which tempt us to abandon a gentle spirit. Aristotle called this quality “the middle standing between two extremes, getting angry without reason…and not getting angry at all” (Zhodiates, Dictionary, 2000, n. pag.). The New Testament does not tell the Christian that we cannot defend ourselves, protect our rights, or get what we pay for, for example. But, in addressing concerns, needs, and problems, how we do this makes all the difference.
For many of us, gentleness needs to be intentional. It doesn’t come naturally. We need to pray about it, prepare ourselves for it, and practice it. Our passion needs to be harnessed. Our speech needs to be tempered. Just making the need for gentleness a conscious priority in our lives will greatly improve our performance, with family, friends, brethren, and strangers. It is a powerful tool to win hearts and shape lives, beginning with our own.
Years ago, for a school project, I was asked to trace my ancestry and make a family tree. In the process I learned some things I did not know about my heritage. Some of that made me proud, and some of it did not. I also learned that a family tree is always living and growing. Now that I am a husband and father, I appreciate that my children (and, one day, grandchildren) will be affected by how I lead my family.
You are nourishing your family tree, too. How are you caring for it? That is called a legacy. It will affect those who live after you are gone. Consider some things every family tree has, and ask yourself what kind of tree you are growing in your home.
Your family tree has…
ROOTS. Something is central to your home. It is what drives and motivates you. It is where you have your primary interest and investment, measured in dollars, energy, and time. For your family tree to survive, you must be “firmly rooted and…built up in [Christ]” (Col. 2:7).
BRANCHES. Your home is an influence on the larger community surrounding you. Every facet of your life, your job, your friends, the church you attend, and your community, is impressed, positively and negatively, by your home. You have a reputation. You are seen. As your family branches out into the world, what impact is it making for Christ? Remember, “If the root be holy, the branches are too” (Rom. 11:16).
NUTRIENTS. God made the tree to eat and drink, and by such it lives. If the nutrients are cut off (via drought or disease or damage), the tree dies. Likewise, our family tree must be nourished properly to keep each member of it alive. We must keep “constantly nourished on the words of faith and of the sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6).
FRUIT. It may be acorns, cones, blossoms, or edible fruit, but trees bear fruit. When a fruit-bearing tree ceases production, it is a sign of trouble. At best, such a tree has lost its value. Our family tree will be known by its fruits (cf. Mat. 7:16,20). Failing to bear good fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) or bearing bad fruit (Luke 6:43) is condemned by God.
PREDATORS. “Dutch Elm Disease,” beetles, ants, and termites can all prematurely end the life of a tree. Sometimes, what kills the tree cannot be readily seen. Trees can be eaten from the inside out, and by the time the damage is visible it is too late. How like the damage predators do to the home! Three are so many! Tragically, sometimes the damage comes from within—what we do or allow to happen in the family. Satan is the predator of the home, but he works through human agency.
LEAVES. There are evergreens, conifers, and pines, but hardwoods are the most fascinating to me. I like their annual cycle. In Spring, the trees are in bloom and put on their leaves. They flourish in Summer. In Autumn, they are vibrant in color and beautiful. In Winter, they die and leave the tree. Parents, think of your children as those “leaves.” From birth, they bud and grow. Hopefully, in the teen years after trial and tribulation they begin to absorb and emulate the good principles we have taught. It can be a beautiful time. Then comes the time for them to leave. Remember that they are going to leave home some day. Make sure they leave spiritually and eternally prepared.