Several of our classes have assistants to the Bible class teacher. She (or perhaps in select cases “he”) serves in a support role, helping students do handwork, find Bible verses, or occasionally keep order. These are vital roles, and often a teacher’s aid later actually becomes a teacher. Teachers’ aids are part of a great team and education system that benefits everyone in the classroom. There is a constant, pressing need for more teachers’ aids. I don’t mean in the actual classroom during the “Bible class hour.” These aids are needed Sunday afternoons, late Wednesdays, Saturday afternoons, and/or opportune moments between these times. These aids have even more power than those helping the teacher in the classroom. They are the parents and care-givers of the students. There are several ways they can “aid” the teachers who put in hours of preparation time and tons of energy and emotion into the task of teaching. Aid teachers by making sure your children do their homework. Most teachers give homework, memory work or activity sheets. This is a vital supplement to the actual lesson taught in class. When children come to class with their homework done, teachers are elated and made to feel that their efforts are appreciated. They feel that their students take the class as seriously as they do. Aid teachers by asking about what they have learned. Ask your children what they talked about in class that day. Ask them to review as much as they can. Ask them what they learned and how they can make application from the class. What better topic of conversation can parents and children discuss on the way home from services? Aid teachers by making sure they feel appreciated. One way to do this is by making sure you practice the first two suggestions. However, having the child send a thank you note or by personally thanking your child’s teacher, you are aiding through the means of encouragement. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Teachers are no different. The qualifications are simple enough. To be this type of teacher’s aid, simply do all you can to partner with the efforts of your children’s teachers. Your child, your home, and your child’s teacher will all be blessed by it.
pinch-hitting for Carl, who is in the delivery room!
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.
Solomon begins chapter four by recalling his childhood and his parents’ lessons about living a godly life. Then he sets a good example for his students, addressing himself as their father. We understand this in the context of Timothy and Titus being Paul’s sons. However, this non-familial relationship does not preclude affection between teacher and student. On the contrary, Paul carried that burden for all the Christians under his tutelage (cf. 2 Corinthians 11.28).
Solomon tells us that wisdom and understanding are commodities that we can buy and sell (cf. Proverbs 23.23), similar to the “pearl of great price” mentioned in Matthew 13.46. As a result, our spiritual father leaves wise words to the student as a valuable heirloom. The main idea in Proverbs 4.6 is that proverbs are the way to become wise. Solomon once said that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Solomon now instructs us on the first step we should take. Acquire. It is that simple. You must first identify wisdom. We’ve already accomplished this task by recognizing God’s Word as our primary source and our godly parents as our secondary source. (Tertiary sources are only permitted if they closely parallel the primary source.) Then you must go to any length to obtain it, even if it means selling everything we own (cf. Matthew 13.44-46).
Lady Wisdom will make you look good as a reward for your efforts (4.8-9). In his book, His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, Willard F. Harley identified affection as a woman’s number one need. 1 Now, I understand that we can only anthropomorphize wisdom so far, but since Scripture depicts wisdom as a lady, we can see that she shares some characteristics with the fairer sex. One of the characteristics shared by Lady Wisdom and human ladies is the wish to be desired. That is analogous to affection in this context. Those who have read Harley’s book understand that the point is that couples can protect their marriages by meeting each other’s needs. When a husband shows affection to his wife, she gives him what he most desires from her. In this case, the young man’s affection for Lady Wisdom prompts her to lavish him with her beauty, which is essentially the third manly need identified by Harley (i.e., an attractive spouse). 2
The path of wisdom leads to enlightenment, whereas the path of righteousness adheres to what is good and right. If the young person continues on this path, he will not have to worry about getting lost or walking in the dark. He will not stumble and fall over an unexpected obstacle if he flies along his path. Nonetheless, Solomon issues a warning. He warns young men not to cross the course of the wicked. In verses 14 and 15, notice the expressions “do not enter,” “do not proceed,” “avoid it,” “do not pass by it,” “turn away from it,” and “pass on.” You’ve probably heard the phrase “evil never sleeps.” In verses 16 and 17, Solomon frames it in this manner. If one goes near the sinful path, he will encounter people who will not rest until they have done evil. And these shady characters are only out to corrupt you. So your options are binary (4.18-19). You will take either the lighted or the dark path. You can only find wisdom along the illuminated way.
Our Proverbs study has already discussed how obeying God leads to a longer life. Under Moses’ Law, this indeed means that they did not have their lives cut short by the death penalty, which God instituted for many offenses. Disobeying your parents? That’s a stoning! But we’ve also seen that sin can have physical consequences, some of which Solomon will discuss in the next chapter. However, wisdom is similar to physical nourishment. You cannot survive by eating infrequently and skipping meals most of the time. Wisdom is something that the student must constantly strive for. As an ileostomate and diabetic, doctors and nutritionists frequently advise me to divide my three daily meals into six smaller ones, with snacks in between. We must approach wisdom in the same way. We can say we don’t have time to read the Bible or listen to God’s Word, but we know that’s an excuse. We can find minutes throughout the day to read, study, and pray rather than being overwhelmed by a full plate three days a week for a couple of hours.
And we must guard our hearts as well (4.23). “Heart” does not refer to the organ that circulates blood but the location of our intellect, feelings, and will. Beliefs influence a person’s moral conduct, actions, attitudes, and goals. As a result, it should come as no surprise that Jesus later tells us that what comes from our hearts can defile us (Mark 7.20). We must practice self-discipline now that we are aware of the truth. Proverbs four’s final verses address training our heart, mouth, eyes, and feet. Why were those parts chosen? Consider how each is vulnerable to the devil’s three temptations: lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2.16).
However, by exercising “thought-control,” we take the first step toward being morally correct and honest. Is this why Paul tells us to focus our thoughts on certain things? (According to Philippians 4.8) This training will keep us on the path and out of the ditches. We must walk forward with our eyes straight ahead. Looking ahead implies that we will not allow sensual, earthly, selfish, or material temptations to cause us to lose sight of the true goal and focus on other things. Furthermore, we will only find extremism on both sides. So, like Josiah, we must follow God’s path without deviating to the “Left or Right” ( 2 Chronicles 34.2).
In chapter five, Solomon discusses the dangers of giving in to the body’s desires. We’ll look at this next week if the Lord allows.
Last week, we looked at our syllabus for Wisdom 101. Professor Solomon has outlined the aims of our course. And now, Solomon will introduce us to the “texts” we will be studying. The primary “text” will come as no surprise to the believer. That source is God (Proverbs 1.7). But there is also a secondary “text’ that Solomon encourages us to study. We will examine this more in a moment.
Wisdom begins with the “fear of the Lord” (1.7). That fear is the primary text. But what do we have in mind when we say “fear?” It cannot mean that God causes an unpleasant emotion making us apprehensive to approach Him. If God were scary, how could we entice another to listen? In their commentary, Old Testament scholars Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch give a superb definition. Fear is a “reverential subordination” to God.1 In other words, when you recognize the superiority of God, you stand in awe of Him. Who better to learn wisdom from than the One you admire? You should desire to hang on His every word. God, for His part, is glad to impart His wisdom to us. As James reminds us, if we ask Him, He will generously give us wisdom (James 1.5).
Yet we know not everyone esteems God highly. Those disrespecting God are called “fools” (1.7). But by calling them fools, we are not suggesting that such people lack the intellectual capacity for growth. Rather “fool” demonstrates their disposition. In the original Hebrew, the word translated as “fool’ is “evil.” No, not our English word, evil, but a word transliterated as such from the Hebrew language. Hebrew scholars Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Bridge observe that the word always denotes one is “morally bad.”2 Confirming this interpretation is the Septuagint version of the Scriptures. The 70 or so Jewish scholars translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek used the word “asebēs” for “fool.” That Greek word means “impious.”3 Thus, one who is impious (i.e., morally bad) despises wisdom and instruction. Such foolish persons might echo the pharaoh who asked, “Who is God that I should listen to Him?” (Exodus 5.2). So, if we were to cite a secular maxim to explain this part of our proverb, it might well be that “you can lead a horse to water but cannot make him drink.”
Yes, God can boost your wisdom, but you must desire to sit at His feet, develop a relationship with Him, and learn from Him those words leading to eternal life (John 6.68). But since I used the plural form of source in our title, you know there must be at least one other source. Indeed. You have probably heard of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is essentially an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It is supposed to be an unbiased source of information, but a quick perusal of hot-button topics often reveals the bias of Wikipedia editors and publishers. At best, though, Wikipedia is a tertiary source of information. The word “tertiary” is from the Latin tertiariesmeaning “of or containing a third.”4 So tertiary is a fancy way to say that Wikipedia provides third-party information (i.e., information twice removed from its source). But what sources come before the tertiary one? The educational field gives us a clue by using the terms “primary” and “secondary” when describing its schooling. Primary is the category coming first and takes youth through to the age of 12, or 14, depending on the country. Following primary education, a child enters secondary education. Secondary schools will see the child through graduation from high school, the highest level of compulsory education. From there, a young person may elect to pay for “post-secondary” education in college or university.
So, for the believer, God is the primary source of wisdom. And though we can learn wisdom elsewhere, before listening to those tertiary sources of wisdom, Solomon reminds us of our secondary source of wisdom in Proverbs 1.8. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Note that God makes parents the secondary source of wisdom. Hence, parents become the secondary “text” for Wisdom 101. Recall the first institution created by God in Genesis 2.18-24. That institution was the home, the family.
Despite causing great harm to the family by signing the so-called Great Society Legislation, Lyndon Baines Johnson nevertheless stated that “the family is the cornerstone of our society.”5 Indeed, Johnson’s “reforms” helped break the home. He bolstered single-parent households and turned birthing children out of wedlock into a cottage industry. The State stepped in to fill the vacancy left by the absent parent, and education became the responsibility of the public-school educator. This innovation was never the intention of God.
Solomon was aware of the Law given to Moses. Fathers were to instruct their children at every opportunity (Deuteronomy 6.1-8). What we observe today in our society is that which played out countless times in Old Testament history. First, you would have a faithful generation that failed to impart wisdom to the next generation. God’s people would then enter a decline, followed by apostasy. God would then punish them using the military might of their pagan neighbors until they repented and cried out for mercy. Finally, God would bring a deliverer who would lead the people into a new righteous era. This period would persist until a new untaught generation arose, and the cycle would begin again.
Though we are not a theocracy, righteousness still exalts a nation (Proverbs 14.34). And this democratic republic is buoyed by the faith of its citizenry. As a result, we have noted prosperity resulting from periods of “goodness” (e.g., the post-WWII boom). And times of difficulty that seem to result from times of “excess” (e.g., the “Roaring Twenties” and the Great Depression). One wonders where we are within our cycle of apostasy and renewal when he hears news stories of public-school teachers confusing children about being oppositely gendered or talking openly about their perverted lifestyles. There is a significant disconnect between what parents would teach their young and what some teachers teach in schools. That was, at least, one blessing from the COVID pandemic shutdown. Parents overheard what teachers were teaching their children and would have none of it.
So, what happens when you have children who do not have a trustworthy secondary source of wisdom (i.e., parents)? Tertiary sources step in and instill man’s wisdom, which arises from man’s dark heart (Romans 1.21ff). The children worship the creature rather than the Creator. And these progenies ignore all authority: God, parents, and even the civil government (Romans 13.1ff). There can be no substitute for the wisdom mom and dad are to instill. You cannot even delegate instruction over to the faithful brethren of the church. The Bible school teacher can be a trusted tertiary source, it is true, but he or she does not have the amount of time with the child given by God to parents. Christian parents must stop abdicating God’s role in their children’s lives.
And the result from having the proper primary and secondary source for wisdom? Wisdom becomes one’s attractive accessory, like a graceful wreath upon one’s head or a necklace around their neck (Proverbs 1.9). We observe this in Peter and John. We trust the secondary wisdom imparted to them by their parents was adequate but take note of the primary wisdom they received spending time with Jesus. As they stood before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders noted the confidence with which they spoke. They concluded these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4.13).
So, what are the reliable sources you have that boost your wisdom? First and foremost, it is the fear of God. The second source is the godly instruction you receive from your parents. But wherever you are in your journey to find Lady Wisdom, whether one who is still learning from his parents or who may soon be the secondary source of wisdom for a child or grandchild, remember the words of our Lord to those feeling deficient. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7.7-8 NASB1995).
There is a story about a father building his daughter a wheelchair from the ground up after she got paralyzed in a car crash. Her father was willing to do all the research and put all the time in to building a wheelchair for his daughter who he loved so much. I don’t think I would trust my dad to make me a wheelchair, but this father demonstrates the love he has for his daughter and the lengths he would go to to keep her safe. We are told in multiple different ways how deep the Father’s love is. As the song goes, “Why should I gain from His reward I cannot give an answer.” I want to share just three points with you tonight why we gained from his reward.
The first one is that His love is so deep that He created us. Genesis 1:27 says that God created man in His image. Since we are made in God’s image, we are His special creation. In return for Him to love us so much we need to love Him and obey Him.
Then when we messed up God loved us so much that He gave His only Son for our sins (John 3:16). He was willing to do anything for us as His children. I know this is a point that is used a lot. Would you give your son? Not just your son, but your only son. Now I don’t have children but I’m sure that if I did that I would not be willing to do that. If you go on to verse 17 it says that He did it so that we might be saved. If we do what is commanded here on earth we will have an eternal home.
The third point we gained from his reward was because he loved us so much that He wanted us to have an eternal home with Him. Go back to John 3:16. It says that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Now going back to the example I gave just a moment ago. I don’t think I will ever love anyone enough to give my son. Now let’s back up for a minute and ask ourselves why do we not love each other that much? We are all God’s creation so we should love others like God tells us.
Thinking back to my childhood when my dad would get mad at me I failed to realize that he loved me enough to help me do right. God loves me enough to give me the opportunity to stand up here and give this devo. And God loves everyone of us enough to give His only Son for our foolishness. And now our job is to love Him so much to obey his laws.
Have you seen the Progressive commercials with Dr. Rick? In these commercials, he tries to teach parents how to “un-become” their parents? For instance, he helps them say the right tech terms, like “hashtag,” or helps them to have airline tickets on their phone, and not paper tickets. They are really funny. Do your parents have certain sayings that they say all of the time to you? Like, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times,” or how about “money doesn’t grow on trees?” Or even better, “don’t make me stop this car?” Our parents tell us things like this to help us. The truth is, we need to be like our Christian parents, not unlike them. They have been where we are or where we are heading. Their advice can prevent us from making serious mistakes.
According to many surveys, about 70% of Christian students leave the church during college. According to a recent study, the reasons are because they had no strong Biblical foundation, lack of social opportunities outside of worship service, the anti-Christian views present at universities, and the lack of other Christian friends on campus. Because of these potential problems, our parents play an important role in our Christian faith and our future walk with God.
How do You stay faithful to God and obey your parents through your teen years? According to Ephesians 6:1-3, honoring your father and mother is very important. These verses say, “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment, that it may be well with you and you may live long on the Earth.” According to Exodus 20:12, it states, “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Proverbs 22:6 also has some information about children obeying their parents. It says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from.” Proverbs 29:15 also says, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” This verse means that children and teens need guidance. If they don’t have guidance, they will turn away from Christ.
If we honor our father and mother and do all that we are told by them, we will live long on this Earth. We could be going through a stage where we are defiant and not wanting to do what our parents tell us. We’ve got to learn to listen to them even though we might not like what they decide all the time. We finally understand, maybe even in later years, that our parents have rules in place to protect us as well as help us. In order to follow God and live long on this Earth, we have to do all that is expected by them and do it as best as we can. We are never going to be perfect, but we have to give it our best. We know that our parents want what is best for us and they want us to go to Heaven. We need to do more than just obey our parents and honor them. We also have to continue trying to follow God’s Commandments, read the Bible, and tell others about Jesus.
A researcher at the Royal Society of Medicine in the UK published a paper called “The Spoilt Generation.” He ties the alarming rates of child depression, teenage pregnancy, obesity, violent crimes by adolescents, and more to a basic lack of respect for authority (Daily Mail). The Cato Institute published a study simply entitled, “Respect For Authority.” One of its most basic findings is that the public believes social instability follows disrespect for authority (Cato).
What do you think? Have you noticed a decline of respect in society for parents, teachers,the police, employers, and others in a position of authority? Most of us would agree it’s happening, and that it is not good. Peter warns about it in the most sobering of terms, speaking of the unrighteous who face eternal punishment as those who, in part, “despise authority (2 Pt 2:10). Jude offers a very similar warning, describing those who turn God’sgrace into permission to do whatever they please (4), and this includes their “rejecting authority” (8). So why do we often have a problem with authority?
We have a problem with rebelliousness. Saul, the earthly king, had a problem with rebellion (1 Sam. 15:23). Paul writes Timothy, discussing why the Law of Moses existed. It was for unrighteous people, and at the top of that list were the lawless and rebellious (1 Tim. 1:9). Rebellion is insubordination. It characterized the period of the Judges, when everyone did what they thought was right to them (17:6; 21:25). As we look at crime in our current society, we see the fruit of rebellion. CNN reports a 33% increase in homicides in major U.S. cities from 2019 to 2020, and now it is up another 24% since the beginning of 2021 (CNN). Yet, cities like Baltimore no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution, and other low-level offenses. In California, shoplifting has in some places ceased to have any legal ramifications. How many looters in major U.S. cities have never served a day in jail or paid a penny in fines? Romans 13 clearly condemns this. Paul says “whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (2). Most of us would condemn this nationally, but do we struggle with rebellion against authority closer to home? Do we struggle with it against employers, elders, and parents? Rebelliousness can be milder than murder and more limited than against government. Do we only submit if we accept what they lead us to do? Do we maintain meekness and gentleness only if we agree with them? Rebellion is not the mark of a disciple of Christ; such have a different master.
We have a problem with respect. Paul says, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Th. 5:12-13). Esteem, as a verb, is found 28 times and means to think, consider, or regard. Paul is telling the church how to regard their leaders (“very highly in love”) and why (“because of their work”). Interestingly, the noun form of this verbs is often tied to various types of leadership–“Ruler” (Mt. 2:6), “leader” (Lk. 22:26), “governor” (Acts 7:10), “chief” (Acts 14:12) and “leading men” (Acts 15:22). But in 1 Thessalonians 5:13, it is a verb and means to engage in the intellectual process of thinking of them with the highest respect. The word “esteem” deals with our character generally and not just how we treat elders and any other leaders. Philippians 2:3 says, “With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” But Peter speaks of some who “count it a pleasure to revel in doing wrong” (2 Pet. 2:13). Respect is a matter of how you set your mind. If we don’t have it in our hearts to respect those in authority, it can’t help but show in the way we speak to them or about them. Our children learn how to treat authority figures by watching and listening to us. What are we teaching them?
We have a problem with our religion. “Religion” is only found four times in the New Testament. It means appropriate beliefs and the devout practice of our obligations (Louw-Nida, 530). How do we properly express our religion? It is not just about worshipping the way God commands. That’s a vital part, but only one way. Paul tells us what his pre-Christian religion looked like (Acts 26:5). He tells us about the false religion of some, ruled by their fleshly minds (Col. 2:18). James uses the word “religion” twice, in James 1:26-27. He teaches that pure, untainted religion is proven or disproven by your thoughts, words, and deeds. When I show disdain toward those in authority in or out of the church context, I’m telling everyone who witnesses it about my religion. I am making an impression on them that will either lead them closer to God or farther away from Him. Whatever I tell them about the one(s) in authority, I am telling them far more about me. If they follow my lead, will they stumble (cf. Lk. 17:1-2)?
Our problem with authority is ultimately a problem with God. When Paul tells Rome that those who resist authority oppose God’s will, he was talking about a government ruled by wicked Caesars who murdered Christians. When I disapprove of or disagree with those in positions of authority, in the nation, church, workplace or home, I must respond how God says respond. I must leave the rest to Him.
My dad was holding a gospel meeting somewhere in the Carolinas and he asked me to preach the Sunday evening sermon of the week he was gone. It was April 12, 1987, and I was a Junior at Bradwell Institute (high school) in Hinesville, Georgia. He gave me one of his sermons and I basically, with little change, got up and preached it. I remember being scared out of my mind. I had no formal training (which is obvious from the grammar and pronunciation). Afterward, the congregation flooded me with compliments, which says everything about them and nothing about my abilities. But, it encouraged me. It helped solidify my desire to preach and became the foundation for my willingness to go preach around the area over the next year-plus (preaching in such places as Glennville, Jesup, and Brunswick, GA). It led me to choose Faulkner University, to major in Bible and meet great preachers and teachers like Wendell Winkler, Ken Randolph, Carl Cheatham, Leonard Johnson, Eris Benson, Donnie Hilliard, and others. My family led me to believe that gospel preaching was an honorable, important occupation. So did the Hinesville church of Christ, on that occasion and subsequent ones. So did brethren in those places where I filled in.
What an important lesson for families and congregations today! Paul asks some questions of eternal consequence: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” (Romans 10:14-15). I pray that more adults will send a clear message to young men: preaching is important, respectable, and valuable! It should be considered as an option exercised by normal and even talented and intelligent individuals.
We’ve been engaged in full-time ministry for 28-plus years, and it has blessed our lives tremendously! It’s thrilling to watch our three sons giving themselves to that life, too. Let’s send more preachers!
(It’s hard for me to listen to, but it should encourage anyone who says, “I don’t have any talent for preaching!”)
Pew Research Center recently revealed that “Four in ten millennials (those, according to this source, currently between 23 and 38) now say they are religiously unaffiliated”(fivethirtyeight.com). The data seems to indicate that “today’s younger generations may be leaving religion for good” (ibid.). A contemporary study put out by the American Enterprise Institute reveals at least three reasons why: (1) They didn’t have strong religious ties growing up, (2) Their spouses are more likely to be nonreligious, and (3) They feel religious institutions are not relevant for shaping the morality and religion (or nonreligion) of their children. Parental example, dating choices, and biblical literacy and faith, then, are major drivers in this discussion.
Those polled revealed their thinking. A majority felt that religious people are less tolerant of others, less informed or even intelligent than their secular counterparts, and less necessary for shaping their family’s moral viewpoints. At least, reading this one study and the authors’ interpretation, it seems that leaving church is a deliberate lifestyle choice of people who at least sometimes are encouraged out the door by poor examples of faith.
Notice the startling closing paragraph of the article, which states,
Of course, millennials’ religious trajectory isn’t set in stone — they may yet become more religious as they age. But it’s easier to return to something familiar later in life than to try something completely new. And if millennials don’t return to religion and instead begin raising a new generation with no religious background, the gulf between religious and secular America may grow even deeper (“Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Not Coming Back,” 12/12/19, Cox, Daniel, and Amelia Thompson-DeVeaux).
I found it important to share those findings for these reasons:
It is a matter of crisis. People abandoning God’s Word and will is foreboding (Judges 2:10ff; 2 Timothy 3:1ff; 4:3-4; 2 Peter 3:3ff). It is happening, and it must matter to us. It does to God.
It is a matter of correction. The home can change course if it is on the broad way. Individual Christians can improve their ethics and morality in public (Ephesians 4:25ff). Soul-conscious Christians can make the most of our opportunities to share Jesus in Christlike fashion (2 Timothy 2:24-26). We must change what we can change.
It is a matter of consequence. A culture does not get where ours currently is as the result of sincere devotion to Christ and His Word. Hosea 4:6 is incredibly relevant. The law of sowing and reaping is immutable, for good and bad (Galatians 6:7-8). Whatever we exalt as guide is leading us somewhere.
It is a matter of courage. The only way I can see for this to change is for you and me to not just believe something or hold a conviction. The early Christians didn’t confine their faith to the holy huddles of the assemblies. They stood up for Jesus every day and every way.
Two of my three sons are millennials and the third is only a couple of years too young to qualify. This is, largely, their generation. They and their faithful Christian peers are faced with reaching them, and they need our help. Talk to them and have honest conversation about how to raise your effectiveness together in stopping and reversing this exodus. This is not about preserving a comfortable lifestyle, which is threatened by sin (Proverbs 14:34). This is about preserving souls, which will face Jesus some day (Matthew 25:31ff).
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).