Happy New Year! A new year dawns, and what better time to make a new year’s resolution to be the best parent one can be, than now. The best place to find the kind of wisdom it takes to fulfill that resolution comes only from the one who created the universe and each of us. The best way to be the parent God intended you to be is to go directly to the source- God Himself. He has given us His Word, the Bible, to give us everything we need to fulfill His purpose in our lives. In regard to knowing what basic principles we need to teach our children, I have found Proverbs, the book of wisdom, to be the best place to look. In Proverbs 22, we find the author giving his student 30 sayings that will help him be able to answer others with wisdom. He begins with this:
“Love others, especially the poor, as God loves you.” Proverbs 22:22
We begin the journey of teaching our children life principles by introducing them to the character of God Himself. God describes Himself as Love (I Jn. 4:16). Jesus is love incarnate (Jn. 14:10-11). Our mandate, as believers, is to love others as Christ has loved us, and in doing so we naturally testify to the existence and nature of a supernatural God, for this type of love does not come naturally to humans (Jn. 13:34).
The very first step in effectively raising our children is to demonstrate to them the sacrificial love of God that we have experienced first hand in our own lives. In doing so, we effectively introduce them to our heavenly Father, who has in turn taught us. It is important that children understand that neither they, nor their parents are the sole source of knowledge and wisdom, but that there is one far greater than us all, one whose ways are not our ways, whose thoughts are far above our own, one who is, in fact, the ultimate source of all wisdom- God Himself (Isaiah 55:8-9). And yet, despite the holiness and loftiness of God Almighty, we learn that He seeks to have fellowship with mankind.
“ I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15
Why would a holy and supreme being seek us out? Because He loves us , and desires to revive us. Despite the advancements of the human race over thousands of years, and the explosion of knowledge through technology, there is no denying the fact that man still lives in a fallen and deprived state. Just pick up a newspaper or watch the news on television, and you will be bombarded with the self-centeredness of man through greed, betrayal, abuse, violence, and outright evil acts against one another.
The fact of the matter is that no one has to teach a child how to be selfish. Darwin's evolutionary principle, “The Survival of the Fittest”, brings out the natural instinct of man, which is to sustain himself at all costs. We call this the “Survival Instinct” which motivates man to do whatever he must to get what he wants and to do so to the detriment of all others, unless taught otherwise. This is so keenly displayed in the life of the young preschool child. The predominate language of the two year old is “Mine”! It is not uncommon to see 2 and 3 year olds push, slap, and bite anyone, including their parents, to get what they want. A good parent immediately intervenes and begins to teach the child the concept of sharing and caring of others and properly disciplining the aberrant behavior. And while we have come to understand that this is “simply” a developmental phase of the young toddler, we also know that if left unattended, the child will grow to be “spoiled” at best and an anarchist at worst; as was so clearly depicted in the classic novel, Lord of the Flies.
Life experience, through the ages, makes it very clear that other-centered, selfless giving, and unconditional love, do not come naturally, but must be instilled through the examples of others. It stands to reason then that if each of us hold that same fallen nature that makes us all members of the “human race”, we must look out side of ourselves as a race, and recognize one whose thoughts and ways are far above our own. Jesus stated, “I am the way, the truth, the life, no man comes to the Father but by me.” (Jn 14:6-7) “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well” (Jn. 14: ) In this same discourse with His disciples, Jesus also makes this claim,
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn. 14:9)
God has painstakingly revealed Himself to us in three distinct modes. First through His creation-Nature, and the breath taking beauty that He surrounds us with on this planet we call earth. Second, the holy scriptures, the written Word of God, which describes His nature, His purpose, and His love for all of mankind. And thirdly, the person of Jesus, the Christ (Greek word for the Messiah), who came to reveal in bodily form, the very nature of God.
To begin teaching and instilling godly characteristics in the life of the child, you must first introduce them to the source of all wisdom and truth, and in doing so you introduce them to a new nature- one of unconditional love and acceptance. A love that is greater than the love of a parent. A love that is unconditional in its acceptance of all mankind. A love that is fair and just. A love, that once experienced personally, transforms a life that now lives counter-culture and loves not only those who are lovable, and can love us back, but is now able to love the un-lovable and those who will never be able to repay us in kind.
Perhaps that is why the very first principle stated here in the 30 sayings of the wise is to be mindful of the poor and needy. For when we care for those less fortunate than ourselves, we are truly demonstrating the unconditional, super-natural love of God which was shown us.
James, the brother of Jesus, called this concept the “royal law”, to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2:8) However, he makes the demonstration of this law in very practical terms:
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and flawless is this: care for the widows and orphans in their distress and keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
Love is an action. The old saying, “Talk is cheap”, is definitely true. There is a tendency to talk of that which we might like to do, but in the end, our heart is revealed by the actions we take. The scriptures tell us that “God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 8:28) The Bible clearly tells us that we must show our love toward God and others through our actions. James goes on to say, “Do not merely be hearers of the Word, but doers also.” (James ) This is a principle that children must be taught, for giving does not come naturally. It is a principle of respect for authority and respect for others. Respect for God, and for His creation. This is the foundational principle upon which all other wisdom is built. Jesus put it this way, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, your soul, and your mind... and love your neighbor as yourself!” Follow this royal law in your life and you will be blessed.
May God bless us all with a very prosperous new year.
In His Love,
Estelle C. Myers, MRE