By Greg Litmer
The most important lesson that we are to teach our children is that God comes first; not school, not recreation, and not a job.
God has gone to great lengths in his Word to assure the proper rearing of children. The first thing to be noted is that God views children as a great blessing to their parents. In Psalm 127:3-5, we read, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are the children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”
The second thing to mention is that children are to be loved. In Paul’s letter to Titus, in chapter 2:4, we find that the older women were to teach the young women “to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children.”
Children are to be provided for. 1 Timothy 5:8, informs us, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
Children are to be corrected when necessary. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” And in Proverbs 13:24, we find, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
In each step of their development, children are to be instructed, taught in the ways of the Lord. In Deutronomy 11:18- 20, we read, ‘Therefore shall ye lay up these words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates.” In the New Testament the Apostle Paul made the very same point when he instructed the Ephesians in Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Instructing our children in the ways of the Lord involves many things. They must be taught about God, prayerfully brought to a belief in him. They must be taught of the wonderful things of his creation and the way that he blesses us every day of our lives. Children must be taught to worship God and to live the moral life that he has decreed to be right and proper. Children must be taught to be good citizens and to be in subjection to the government under which they live, and they must be taught to work.
Parents have the responsibility given to them by God, and they owe it to their children, to teach them to work. Young people need to be taught that work is not a punishment, but that man was created to work. Indeed, work is essential to the happiness of man, it is part of the way that God created us. In Genesis 2:15, before any sin had been committed, we find, “The Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” In a wonderful and perfect state God gave man work to do.
The great man of wisdom, Solomon, had a lot to say about work and the vital place it plays in the happiness and fulfillment of man. In Proverbs 10:4-5, we find, “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. He that gathereth in summer is a wise son.” Proverbs 13:4, says, “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” In the same chapter, verse 11 tells us, “He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread.” Solomon wrote, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Eccl. 9:10). “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good” (Eccl. 11:6).
In the New Testament, the principle remains the same. Paul instructed us in Ephesians 4:28, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands that thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, makes the point so clearly in this way, “Study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.” Finally, let us read 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 where Paul wrote, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”
The point is well taken. Part of teaching our children the way of the Lord is to teach them the need to work. It is a good thing for your people to be given tasks to perform in the home while they are little. In this way the foundation is laid. A parent who never requires any work of his children while they are growing up in the home has not done those children any favors. In fact, he may have taken a step in raising a lazy child who will grow up to be a lazy adult.
As the child grows and reaches the age where he can legally obtain a job, it is a good thing for them to do so. They learn responsibility, the value of a dollar, and the pride of doing a job well. It certainly makes you proud as a parent to see your child go out and get his first job and the parents are usually as thrilled as the child when he gets that first pay check. Haven’t we all smiled as well when we had to explain to our child who FICA was and why they took all of that money?
However, brethren, in all of this there is something that we need to give careful consideration too. The most important lesson that we are to teach our children is that God comes first; not school, not recreation, and not a job.
I have been preaching now for over 22 years and have tried to be as observant as I could be during that time. It has been my observation that when children were allowed to take a job that caused them to miss services on a regular basis, nothing good ever came out of it. The teenage years are often the time when a child is struggling with some major issues, and where God fits into their life is one of them. I truly believe, parents, that we need to help them understand that of all there is in this world to enjoy and appreciate, God is the only One who gives it all meaning. What good are the things that money can buy without God? What good is the satisfaction that comes from doing a job if that job has required God to take a back seat? Being at services, being with Christians, studying God’s Word and just plain being in the godly environment, is more important than any secular job. I personally believe that that is true for adults, and I know that it is true for young people.
I know from experience that a child can find a job that does not require him to miss services. I know as well from experience that many employers are actually happy to give a young person the time off on Wednesday evenings and Sundays to attend services. Many of them are pleased to have young people who attend worship services working for them because those kind of children usually have a certain moral standard they live by. I also know from experience that an employer who will not do that is not worth working for in the first place.
There are so many fine young people in the Lord’s church! It is my prayer that they will grow to be the finest examples of godly adults possible. Even as young people, I pray that they will be “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, it purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). It is tough to make the right decision as we raise these precious gifts from God. But there is one thing that I absolutely know for certain — if we teach our children that God comes first above all else and that nothing can take his place, it will turn out O.K.