By Wilson Adams
It has never been tougher in our country’s history to raise a family than it is today. Whereas the biggest worry facing Ward and June Cleaver was the influence and pranks of Eddie Haskell, today’s parents have much more to be concerned about.
The world around us has become a moral minefield, a battleground over values. When condoms are distributed in high school clinics, popular songs celebrate the killing of policemen and 270,000 guns go to school every day, it’s obvious that someone’s values are prevailing.
If you are a parent in the 90’s you are in for the fight of your life! Our children have become the biggest market (and target!) in the world. Everyone from MTV to corporate giants seek to sell our kids their products, and in the process they sell something else: their values. Those values are often at conflict with what they learn at home.
The first and most important teachers a child will ever have are his parents. The Bible declares plainly: Education begins at home! (Deut. 6; Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4) The home is the classroom where our children must learn the central truths which will carry them through life. Parents cannot delegate that responsibility to anyone else.
Giving Gifts to Our Children
In Matthew 7:11 Jesus speaks of parents who give gifts to their children. And we do. After a week-long trip this Dad can barely get his suitcase in the door before little hands (and even teenage hands!) want to examine the contents of his luggage. (They’re certainly not looking for dirty socks!) What about the gifts we give… Will they last? Will they be remembered? Our youngsters need more than toys and trains, baseball gloves and baby dolls. These have their place but they are not the best gifts. The best gifts can’t be bought at TOYS ‘R US or placed in a box and wrapped with a bow. However, they are the gifts that will outlast all others. In fact, they are the best gifts of all.
Here then is my list of ten gifts I want to leave with my children. Ten things I want them to know.. .
1. They are a special creation of God. Everything I hope to teach as a parent rests upon this basic truth: God is! God created the world! And God loves them! Our children need to know that everything God created (including them!) is special (Psa. 139:14). Undoubtedly they will suffer through defeats and disappointments. They will encounter others who will doubt them as well as experience self-doubt. However, the one thing that will get them through every-thing is a knowledge that God loves them. It is a fundamental truth I must communicate.
2. Important things can’t be bought. Materialism and commercialism are everywhere and kids are easily influenced (parents, too!). Where are we in our world when kids kill kids for a pair of Reeboks or parents substitute cash and cars for the time and love their children need? It’s all so wrong. Every time I see the bumper sticker that proclaims “He Who Dies With the Most Toys Wins!” I want to yell: “Win what? What do you win?” Job 1:21 is the answer to such incredible stupidity.
Our inner cities bear living testimony that many children are desperately poor. However, just as desperate are the children who end up poor because they have been taught that money is the key to happiness. It isn’t.
I want to leave my children the gift of generosity and the joy of sharing. This past holiday season we adopted a needy family in the city of Baltimore. We all went through our things and selected items to give. It was the one of the highlights of our year. Jesus said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” I want my children to learn that firsthand.
3. They are loved unconditionally. The great tragedy of our day is that so many children feel (and are!) unloved. Every morning another headline tells the sad story of abused, abandoned and neglected kids. It’s a tragedy if one child doesn’t have someone to make them feel valuable. Today there are thousands.
We show our children we love them in many ways but the simplest way is to tell them. And they need to hear it again and again. They need to know they are loved if they come home with A’s or D’s, if they hit a home run to win the game or strike out to lose it. Children thrive on simple expressions of love. It’s a gift they will always cherish and never forget.
4. Choices have consequences. Young people hear a lot about choices but seldom about consequences. Modern education has gone to great lengths to help them think about choices rather than helping them make the right ones! Thus, it is imperative that I do my job as a parent and teach them the truth: Choices do have consequences.
5. There is right and wrong. Society’s moral relativism states: “Do whatever you want, whenever you want and don’t condemn anyone else for doing the same.” (And we wonder why our country is full of crime and corruption ?) There are absolute rights and wrongs. Our kids may not hear it in the classroom but they must hear it at home. As parents we have the responsibility of guiding them through the maze of society with the clear rules of living found in the Word of God. Thomas Jefferson once advised his nephew, “Never suppose that in any situation that it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you.” That’s the kind of advice that our kids need to hear early and often.
6. Courage is a must. Peer pressure is an awesome force. Our kids get countless messages telling them what to wear, what to listen to and where to go. Some are innocent. Some are deadly.
Our children must be taught courage to stand apart from the crowd. “But everybody’s doing it . . .” must be met with “We are not everybody’s parents, we are yours. And you are not everybody’s child you are ours.” We must communicate the need for them to stand tall and firm and, yes, sometimes alone. (A word to the weary: pick your battles! A wise parent will discern the difference between what is right and wrong and what is a matter of taste and opinion. Not everything is worth fighting over).
7. Human life is sacred. Judy Squier was born without any legs. However, working longer and harder than “normal” people she has succeeded in life. Recently she stood before members of the U.S. Senate and shocked the “pro-choice” senators when she told them that if they had their way she and other “deformed” children would have never been born. Judy Squier may not have any legs but she makes up for it in heart, soul and spunk.
My children need to know about the Judy Squiers in this world. They need to know that the measure of a man or woman is not found in the shape and form of their body but in their mind and soul. They need to know that every person is special in the eyes of God. (Isn’t that what Jesus tried to tell us when he touched the leper, showed mercy to the adulterous woman, went home with Zaccheus, and promised paradise to the crook on the cross? I believe so.)
8. Hard work has value. “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat.” Our country was founded on the principle that anyone can go as far as his dreams and hard work will take him. I still believe that. Sadly, our children often receive a different message from lazy adults.
The value of hard work, diligent effort, excellence and responsibility are principles that find their basis in Scripture. God honors hard working people. It’s a truth that must be passed along.
9. Prejudice is wrong. When the Los Angeles riots occurred in the spring of ’92, one of the brightest candles of courage shown in the example of a black man named Gregory Williams who rushed to the aid of white trucker Reginald Denny. When asked why he would risk his own life, he replied, “If I don’t help this man, when and if the mob comes for me, there’ll be nobody to help me.”
When our children see headlines of death and destruction, it’s important that they also hear stories like these. They need to know that there are a lot of Gregory Williamses. They need to know that it’s not color but character that counts. They need to know that God hates prejudice. (By-the-way, when was the last time you heard a sermon on the sin of racial prejudice?)
10. God comes first. “The conclusion when all has been heard is: fear God and keep his commandments.” That is rock solid advice that can never be improved upon.
Being a parent is the toughest assignment there is. It takes wisdom, courage, faith, determination, a sense of humor, and every ounce of energy you have (and then some!). But it’s worth it. God grant unto every tired parent reading these words an extra measure of wisdom as we seek to give the gifts that will last a lifetime.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 10, p. 12-13
May 19, 1994