By Jarrod Jacobs
In our last article, we discussed the fact that people needed to change their character if society is to truly change for the better. We learned that this was the only true way to stop so much of the sinful behavior that is prevalent today. Jail terms and tougher sentences may have an effect (and there is no question that there are those who belong in jail, never to return to society; and others who rightfully deserve to die for their crimes, Rom. 13:4), but at best we are merely treating the symptoms of society’s problems, and not the real cause of the problem. Thus, a change in character is needed. When people change their character, what God says will be enough. They will respect and follow God’s word both morally and doctrinally. They will respect God’s will and will follow it as closely as possible, not asking “where’s the line?” In this article, we wish to discuss developing the proper character in our children.
Why is this study necessary? Consider the fact that this last school year, a teacher had her students do a role play. In order for them to better understand about society and our economy, etc. she had her students use “pretend” money to “buy” certain things as needed. They would learn to budget, and learn that once the money is gone, then it is gone (just like in the real world!). Before they began, one little girl asked if there was going to be any “child support” for them (keep in mind, this is a young girl, 7-8 years old!). When the answer was an emphatic “No!” she then asked if there would be any “welfare.” Again, the answer was “No!” While we may chuckle at this at first, the question is, where did this young girl come up with the idea for “child support” and “welfare”? Answer this question and you’ll see why it is so important that we discuss developing character in our children! One would have to be blind and deaf to not know about the shootings that have gone on in schools all over this country in recent months. What is the problem? Is it the guns? No, sir! The problem is character! There have been many people in this country who have grown up with guns in the house (this author being one) who would never have thought about using a gun to kill another person! Parents and grandparents are shirking their responsibilities, and are allowing others to teach and train their children! (This includes the schools, peers, and even the TV!) This just furthers the problem.
What does the Bible say? God teaches that parents have a God-given responsibility to teach and train their children (especially fathers, Eph. 6:1-4). Timothy was a man who knew the Scriptures “from a child” thanks to the training of his mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). Teaching right from wrong is not only the responsibility of parents to children, but also older men and women must teach the younger. Please read Titus 2:1-8 and see that the elders among us have a responsibility to teach the younger, not just anything, but holy and good behavior, speaking sound words, doing good works, being obedient, sober minded, etc.
In truth, this has always been God’s plan. Adam and Eve had to teach their children to love and respect God (Gen. 4:1-3). Moses told the Israelites: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deut. 6:5-9). Believe it or not, this is practiced today by all parents, and truly they are teaching their children when they are walking, resting, rising up in the morning, etc. The question is what are they teaching their children? Many are not teaching children the values and standards laid out by God!
Friends and brethren, what are your children being taught? Are they being taught that revenge is acceptable, or are they being taught “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39)? Are they being taught “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19)? Are we taking responsibility, or are we shirking our responsibility by allowing others to teach and mold these young minds who will take our place in the future? Keep in mind that if we are guilty of shirking our responsibilities, what do you think our children are learning to do?
Are our children being taught that there is punishment for wrong doing? So many, including Christians, refuse to reprimand and discipline their children. Some are more worried about harming their self-esteem, than they are about that child losing his soul! Where are the boundaries/ barriers that children need? When do you tell your child “No!”? God, as a Father tells us, his children, that there are boundaries and barriers. We cannot do “anything” (not even in the “free” USA!). God tells us that we are “fenced in” by his word, and cannot go beyond what he has said (2 John 9). It is acceptable and reasonable to expect a parent to spank a child at times for his unruly behavior. God says that it is necessary for him to “spank” (i.e., reprimand/ correct) us at times (Heb. 12:5-12). Therefore, physical parents also have this responsibility toward their children (Heb. 12:9-10). God says: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15). “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (i.e., diligently, promptly, early)” (Prov. 13:24). When parents correct their children (through spanking, scolding, depriving of privileges, etc.) then the children learn how to behave in civilized society. Parents need to show love for their children, not only through positive reinforcement, but also though negative actions which show that they love their children too much to just let them go and “sow their wild oats.” (Remember: Gal. 6:9; Hos. 8:7.) “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov. 29:15). “He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach” (Prov. 19:26).
Developing character in children does not start when they are fifteen or sixteen years old. It doesn’t start when they are five, six, or seven years old, either! It starts from day one! It is said that the way a child behaves when he is nine or ten is a direct result of how he was brought up from ages one-five! I believe that. It is not enough to “sire” a child, you must be a parent as well! Too many, even among our brethren are shirking this great responsibility. Children cannot be left to themselves to raise themselves. When this happens, we end up with adults who are unruly, who do not know how to follow rules, are selfish, and will not respect any type of authority (including God’s authority)! Why should they? They didn’t have to respect authority when they were growing up; why should they respect authority now that they have become adults and are on their own? I understand that there are some exceptions, but they are too few and far between for someone to say, “See, this works.”
Brethren and friends, what are you doing to help develop the character of the younger generation? Have you already given up? I hope not! There is much work to do, and we must not be lax in our duties. Neglect is what has gotten us into this situation today. Let us do what we can to remedy the situation!
For all that has been said, it is clear that people will make their own choices. We are all free-moral agents, so some may turn away from that which is right because they want to do so despite what has been done for them. At the same time, doesn’t it make sense that if you train up a child in the right ways of the Lord, when the time comes, he will make the right decisions (Prov. 22:6)? Of course, this is true. Let us be found doing all we can to develop the proper character in our children, not by following pop-psychology or other foolish things, but by going to the Bible, and letting God tell us how to raise our children. God, our Father, has told us the best way to raise our children if we will just listen to him. Will you listen to God?