What Every Child Should Know
1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2 for attaining wisdom and discipline;
for understanding words of insight;
3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,
doing what is right and just and fair;
4 for giving prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young-
5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance-
6 for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.
7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
8 Listen, my son, to your father's instruction
and do not forsake your mother's teaching.
9 They will be a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck.
10 My son, if sinners entice you,
do not give in to them.
11 If they say, "Come along with us;
let's lie in wait for someone's blood,
let's waylay some harmless soul;
12 let's swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
14 throw in your lot with us,
and we will share a common purse"-
15 my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
16 for their feet rush into sin,
they are swift to shed blood.
17 How useless to spread a net
in full view of all the birds!
18 These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they waylay only themselves!
19 Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the lives of those who get it.
20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street,
she raises her voice in the public squares;
21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out,
in the gateways of the city she makes her speech:
22 "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you had responded to my rebuke,
I would have poured out my heart to you
and made my thoughts known to you.
24 But since you rejected me when I called
and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand,
25 since you ignored all my advice
and would not accept my rebuke,
26 I in turn will laugh at your disaster;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you-
27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
28 "Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me.
29 Since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the LORD,
30 since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm."
1 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
3 and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom,
and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He holds victory in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
9 Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.
12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
13 who leave the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
14 who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.
16 It will save you also from the adulteress,
from the wayward wife with her seductive words,
17 who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God.
18 For her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
19 None who go to her return
or attain the paths of life.
20 Thus you will walk in the ways of good men
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will live in the land,
and the blameless will remain in it;
22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the unfaithful will be torn from it.
1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you prosperity.
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
9 Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
11 My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
13 Blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
the man who gains understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who embrace her;
those who lay hold of her will be blessed.
19 By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations,
by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the deeps were divided,
and the clouds let drop the dew.
21 My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,
do not let them out of your sight;
22 they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
23 Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble;
24 when you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
26 for the LORD will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being snared.
27 Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
"Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow"—
when you now have it with you.
29 Do not plot harm against your neighbor,
who lives trustfully near you.
30 Do not accuse a man for no reason—
when he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy a violent man
or choose any of his ways,
32 for the LORD detests a perverse man
but takes the upright into his confidence.
33 The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the righteous.
34 He mocks proud mockers
but gives grace to the humble.
35 The wise inherit honor,
but fools he holds up to shame.
1 Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
2 I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.
3 When I was a boy in my father's house,
still tender, and an only child of my mother,
4 he taught me and said,
"Lay hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands and you will live.
5 Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or swerve from them.
6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
8 Esteem her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.
9 She will set a garland of grace on your head
and present you with a crown of splendor."
10 Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.
11 I guide you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.
14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evil men.
15 Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.
16 For they cannot sleep till they do evil;
they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall.
17 They eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.
20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
listen closely to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to a man's whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.
24 Put away perversity from your mouth;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Make level paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.
27 Do not swerve to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
listen well to my words of insight,
2 that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
4 but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
6 She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.
7 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
do not turn aside from what I say.
8 Keep to a path far from her,
do not go near the door of her house,
9 lest you give your best strength to others
and your years to one who is cruel,
10 lest strangers feast on your wealth
and your toil enrich another man's house.
11 At the end of your life you will groan,
when your flesh and body are spent.
12 You will say, "How I hated discipline!
How my heart spurned correction!
13 I would not obey my teachers
or listen to my instructors.
14 I have come to the brink of utter ruin
in the midst of the whole assembly."
15 Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
16 Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
17 Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
18 May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 A loving doe, a graceful deer—
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love.
20 Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?
21 For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD,
and he examines all his paths.
22 The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
the cords of his sin hold him fast.
23 He will die for lack of discipline,
led astray by his own great folly.
1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
if you have struck hands in pledge for another,
2 if you have been trapped by what you said,
ensnared by the words of your mouth,
3 then do this, my son, to free yourself,
since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands:
Go and humble yourself;
press your plea with your neighbor!
4 Allow no sleep to your eyes,
no slumber to your eyelids.
5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the snare of the fowler.
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest-
11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit
and scarcity like an armed man.
12 A scoundrel and villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
13 who winks with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up dissension.
15 Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.
16 There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
20 My son, keep your father's commands
and do not forsake your mother's teaching.
21 Bind them upon your heart forever;
fasten them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
23 For these commands are a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and the corrections of discipline
are the way to life,
24 keeping you from the immoral woman,
from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.
25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty
or let her captivate you with her eyes,
26 for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread,
and the adulteress preys upon your very life.
27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
28 Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
29 So is he who sleeps with another man's wife;
no one who touches her will go unpunished.
30 Men do not despise a thief if he steals
to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.
31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold,
though it costs him all the wealth of his house.
32 But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment;
whoever does so destroys himself.
33 Blows and disgrace are his lot,
and his shame will never be wiped away;
34 for jealousy arouses a husband's fury,
and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.
35 He will not accept any compensation;
he will refuse the bribe, however great it is.
1 My son, keep my words
and store up my commands within you.
2 Keep my commands and you will live;
guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.
3 Bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Say to wisdom, "You are my sister,"
and call understanding your kinsman;
5 they will keep you from the adulteress,
from the wayward wife with her seductive words.
6 At the window of my house
I looked out through the lattice.
7 I saw among the simple,
I noticed among the young men,
a youth who lacked judgment.
8 He was going down the street near her corner,
walking along in the direction of her house
9 at twilight, as the day was fading,
as the dark of night set in.
10 Then out came a woman to meet him,
dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
11 (She is loud and defiant,
her feet never stay at home;
12 now in the street, now in the squares,
at every corner she lurks.)
13 She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:
14 "I have fellowship offerings at home;
today I fulfilled my vows.
15 So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!
16 I have covered my bed
with colored linens from Egypt.
17 I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
18 Come, let's drink deep of love till morning;
let's enjoy ourselves with love!
19 My husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey.
20 He took his purse filled with money
and will not be home till full moon."
21 With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.
22 All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
23 till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
little knowing it will cost him his life.
24 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
pay attention to what I say.
25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths.
26 Many are the victims she has brought down;
her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death.
1 Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
2 On the heights along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
3 beside the gates leading into the city,
at the entrances, she cries aloud:
4 "To you, O men, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
5 You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, gain understanding.
6 Listen, for I have worthy things to say;
I open my lips to speak what is right.
7 My mouth speaks what is true,
for my lips detest wickedness.
8 All the words of my mouth are just;
none of them is crooked or perverse.
9 To the discerning all of them are right;
they are faultless to those who have knowledge.
10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
12 "I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.
13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.
14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
I have understanding and power.
15 By me kings reign
and rulers make laws that are just;
16 by me princes govern,
and all nobles who rule on earth.
17 I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.
18 With me are riches and honor,
enduring wealth and prosperity.
19 My fruit is better than fine gold;
what I yield surpasses choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,
21 bestowing wealth on those who love me
and making their treasuries full.
22 "The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, ,
before his deeds of old;
23 I was appointed from eternity,
from the beginning, before the world began.
24 When there were no oceans, I was given birth,
when there were no springs abounding with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the earth or its fields
or any of the dust of the world.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30 Then I was the craftsman at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
32 "Now then, my sons, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not ignore it.
34 Blessed is the man who listens to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.
35 For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the LORD.
36 But whoever fails to find me harms himself;
all who hate me love death."
1 Wisdom has built her house;
she has hewn out its seven pillars.
2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
she has also set her table.
3 She has sent out her maids, and she calls
from the highest point of the city.
4 "Let all who are simple come in here!"
she says to those who lack judgment.
5 "Come, eat my food
and drink the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave your simple ways and you will live;
walk in the way of understanding.
7 "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult;
whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.
8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you;
rebuke a wise man and he will love you.
9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.
10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
11 For through me your days will be many,
and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer."
13 The woman Folly is loud;
she is undisciplined and without knowledge.
14 She sits at the door of her house,
on a seat at the highest point of the city,
15 calling out to those who pass by,
who go straight on their way.
16 "Let all who are simple come in here!"
she says to those who lack judgment.
17 "Stolen water is sweet;
food eaten in secret is delicious!"
18 But little do they know that the dead are there,
that her guests are in the depths of the grave.
In this series we have been looking together at the biblical analysis of what the home ought to be, as set forth in Deuteronomy 6. There we have learned that the business of life, supreme above everything else, is to come to love the one true God, and to learn to love him with heart and mind and strength. That is the only adequate center around which a life can be built, the only one which will make life worth living. Every one of us is building our lives around something; every life has a center. What that center is will determine whether that life is a fulfilled, adequate life, or one which has weak spots in it, spots of heartache and danger and darkness and death.
The home is where all this is to be brought into being. As we saw in Deuteronomy 6, there are four steps which Moses outlines as the process for accomplishing this: First, there is parental priority. Parents must start with themselves. They must learn to be persons as God intended them to be. They have to discover the warmth and richness which God can impart to their own lives before they can hope to pass it on to their children.
Next there is the responsibility of parents to teach. "These words which I command you this day," said Moses, "shall [first] be upon your heart; and [then] you shall teach them diligently to your children," (Deuteronomy 6:6-7a RSV). That is the step we are now examining, and about which we are trying to discover further detail.
Then Moses goes on to the other two steps -- the process of teaching, at which we will be looking in weeks to come, and, finally, the sign of authority which makes this all possible, and which makes it acceptable to children. Now I want to turn to this second step again -- the responsibility of parents to teach:
"...you shall teach them diligently to your children," (Deuteronomy 6:7a RSV)
We have seen that Scripture reveals that there are two fundamental facts about a child which every parent ought to know: The first is that folly is bound up in his heart, that he by nature is part of a fallen race, and that within him there is a warp, a twist, toward evil. That fact must be recognized, and the proper approach to it must be utilized. That is where law comes in -- discipline and training and correction. The purpose of law, in any form, is to discover the limits of life, and to discover the nature of evil which is in us. That is what law does. But love must come in to complement that. That is, as Scripture tells us, every child must be brought up according to his own way. Every child is different. God has written a mystery into every child, and the parent must discover that "way." Love does that -- love which gives attention to the child, notes what he likes and dislikes, how he reacts, what his disposition and temperament is, and encourages and accepts him -- loves him.
That is not an easy task, I grant you, I want to say very frankly that I speak to parents on this matter of raising children with deep sympathy and understanding. The business of a parent is to know which to apply -- confrontation or affirmation -- and it isn't always easy to know. I have struggled greatly with this myself. I don't know at times whether to come to my children with a firm and strong command, or whether to encourage them, and to be forgiving and understanding at a given point. That is the problem with which parents are confronted.
I don't in any way claim status as a good example before you. I have made many mistakes. And much of what I am attempting to teach has been learned through the mistakes that I have made in the past. I hope that my children will understand when I say that no one bas hurt me more than my own children. No one has caused me more pain and heartache than they. But, at the same time, no one has helped me more than my children have. Nobody has helped m to understand life and to understand the Scriptures more than they have. Sometimes the hurt and the help have been mingled inextricably together. And I'm sure that I have hurt them when I didn't intend to -- and I hope I've helped them. But I have had to put all this back into the hands of God, and to trust him to work it out and to lead me. So I don't stand before you as a highly successful parent, telling you, "Do exactly what I did, and all will turn out well." I am merely trying to share with you what the Scriptures teach, and what the experience of years has taught me in the application of Scripture to life.
With that as a preface, I'd like to turn to today's subject: What every child ought to know, i.e., what, specifically, should parents teach their children in the home? Moses' command is, "You shall teach these things diligently to your children," and that means we must understand what children need to know and what they ought to learn. When you ask that question -- What does every child need to learn? -- the list appears to be endless. Any parent can write reams on the subject. We know that children must learn when to go to bed, and when to get up. They must learn how to eat without slumping or slurping. They have to learn where to park their gum when brushing their teeth, and why they should not bite their fingernails (after all, look what happened to Venus de Milo!), and who earns the money to pay all the bills, and where responsibility lies, and on and on. Sometimes we parents are almost aghast at everything we are expected to impart to our children.
But let me encourage you a bit. I have been trying to study though the passages of Scripture which deal with these matters, especially centering upon the book of Proverbs and other passages which speak of parents and children. I have found that all we need to teach, and all that every child needs to know, simmers down to two basic, fundamental things:
First, every child needs to know that he is loved, accepted, and appreciated. That is so fundamental! Children need to know it first from their parents, and then gradually, in that wonderful dawning of light about God which is possible to children, that love also comes from God, and that God, too, loves and appreciates and accepts them, and is desirous to build them into the kind of people which they themselves would like to be.
After all, all that we are to be doing as parents is simply reduplicating what God does with us. We are his children. And the basis on which we began with God was that of love. The glory of the conversion experience is to discover, in the moment of faith, that God loves you, that he has given his Son for you and has told that love out in ineffable volumes. That is what makes the moment of regeneration, the moment of conversion, so unforgettable -- it breaks upon us that God loves us, and he has loved us all those years. That is the first dawning glory of our Christian lives. We realize that we are in the family of God and that we belong to him. And this, fundamentally, more than anything else, is what a child ought to feel in his home.
So children need to be loved first by their parents, and then that is gradually transferred, as the child grows, into an understanding that God loves them too, God himself is involved in their lives. And, as Jesus makes clear to us, it isn't necessary that a child go through a crisis experience in order to understand the love of God. We adults often must. But children can grow into it.
Remember how Jesus put it to those who were trying to keep the children from him? "Allow these children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven," (Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16). By this he clearly indicated that, if adults will get out of the way and not hinder them, children will come right to Christ. The minute they see him they know him. They already know of him, and they will be drawn to him. So it is easy, therefore, for parents to enable their children to transfer acknowledgment of that sense of acceptance, appreciation, and love to God himself.
In a home this love ought to be taught by both word and deed. Proverbsision of their need is one way of saying that we love our children. We give them food and shelter and clothing. We love to meet their needs for these. And that does indicate something about a father's or mother's love. But it can't be confined to that, as every parent knows. Children must also learn from physical expression. A hug, a kiss an encouraging word, an understanding moment together with mother or father, time spent together in recreation and in sharing experiences -- all these tell out the story that a child is loved, accepted, and appreciated.
Some time ago I came to the realization that every day is hut a miniature of life itself, and that a child needs, every day, what a person needs for his whole life. At the beginning of life our needs are obvious -- security, a sense of identity, assurance that we belong in a family. Therefore parents are tremendously important to a child at the beginning of his life. It occurred to me that this is true also at the beginning of each day, and that every day ought to start with an expression of security, of identity, of appreciation. So in our home we started greeting one another with a hug the first thing in the morning, the first time we meet for the day -- just to say, "I love you and you're important to me, and you belong here." And it had been wonderful to watch a sense of trust develop, a sense of relaxation in the feeling of a secure home. That's what God does with us, and this is what is important in the display of love.
We should also treat our children with courtesy and tenderness. It is so easy, as a parent, to give way to the flesh and to be harsh and critical and sarcastic with our children -- as well as with our wives or our husbands. But sooner or later we all learn that something is wrong with that. Why should we reserve our courtesy for strangers and show our harshness to our loved ones? And yet that is what goes on in many, many homes. It is the genius of Scripture to turn all that around and to help us understand that we must show our greatest tenderness and our most obvious displays of courtesy to those who live with us all the time, rather than to those who are passing by. If you insist upon being upset and sarcastic, do it with strangers! But in the home try to be tender and understanding.
The second great basic need for instruction in the home, which parents must supply, is that children need to know that all their life long they are going to require wisdom and guidance beyond themselves. That is, life is too big for any of us to handle by ourselves. And we never become competent to handle life, apart from the help provided from some other source. It is obvious that this help comes primarily from parents at first. They are to provide the guidance and the wisdom. They are to help their children make decisions and are to show them the basis on which they are to be made. But, very early, they are to begin to indicate to the child that ultimately he will leave the home, and that then he is no longer to depend upon his parents, that they are not going to make all the decisions for him all his life, but that gradually he is being fitted to go out and to depend on another source for the wisdom and guidance he needs (and this is where the Christian home comes in), and that this source is God himself. This is what the Scriptures constantly set before us -- the wisdom, the wise ways, by which a parent learns to transfer that sense of allegiance and dependence from himself to God.
That, by the way, is the whole business of so-called "religious" education. It is to teach children that the wisdom they will always need, the guidance they will always require, can come also from a source other than parents, a much more reliable, more trustworthy source -- from God himself.
This second basic thing which children need to know arises out of what we have already mentioned -- the fundamental fact about life which we must always bear in mind when we are dealing with parents or children, which is that we are fallen creatures. We don't have that perfect response which was originally intended for man toward truth and falsehood. Truth comes at us distorted and twisted and warped. Falsehood appears to us to be true when it isn't. Somewhere we must learn how to distinguish. There are urges within us which will destroy us, if allowed to express themselves. There are urges within our children which, if they are allowed to have their own way, will ruin them and make it impossible for others to enjoy them, and will turn life into a nightmare for them. So we have to recognize this fact.
I was impressed some time ago to read a report by the Minnesota Crime Commission, a purely secular body which was dealing with the problem of rising crime rates. They came to this factual and rather frightening conclusion which young parents would do well to note:
Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it -- his bottle, his mother's attention, his playmate's toy, his uncle's watch. Deny him these once, and he seethes with rage and aggressiveness which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He is dirty, he has no morals, no knowledge, no skills. This means that all children -- not just certain children, all children -- are born delinquent. If permitted to continue in the self-centered world of his infancy, given free rein to his impulsive actions to satisfy his wants, every child would grow up a criminal -- a thief, a killer, or a rapist.
These are true words, coming from a purely secular organization and derived from the observation of life, and yet agreeing exactly with the word of Scripture: "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him." And that is why guidance and wisdom are needed all the life long. It is the parents' task to teach a child that this will be true, and that even though they do move out to make decisions apart from their parents, they still are not making them on their own. They need wisdom, they need guidance, and that guidance must come from God, from their relationship directly with him. That is what will hold them steady and keep them strong in the midst of life.
What I am really saying, of course, is that we are preparing our children to live lives independent from us, and that, therefore, the acquisition of all the knowledge they will need must start, at least, in the home. It may be continued in school, but the acquisition of all knowledge starts at home: We want our children to know the names and the natures of things. This is the beginning of science. We want them to know how to count and to reason, and there you have the foundation of mathematics. We want them to learn the relationships of cause and effect -- why one thing does this, and another does that -- and there you have philosophy. We want them to learn how to enjoy themselves, so there you have the arts and crafts and sports. We want them to learn how to exert their influence properly upon other people, and there you have social sciences coming in. We want them to learn how to use their imagination, which brings up the whole realm of literature and drama. We want them to learn how to behave themselves responsibly, how to take responsibility for their own actions and not to blame them on somebody else, and there you have the humanities. And above everything else -- that which no school can ever impart -- we want our children to learn how to handle failure and guilt. Nothing plagues human beings more than the sense of failure and the terribly agony of guilt. Therefore the one thing that Christian parents ought to be responsible for, above all else, is to learn how to handle failure and guilt, and to teach their children how to handle it also.
That opens up the whole realm of their responsibility to God and their relationship to him through faith. Unfortunately, not only do schools not help in this regard, but very many churches don't help much either.
Many churches do not understand what the Scriptures teach about how to handle failure and guilt. We must honestly admit that what people learn in many churches is simply more condemnation, and the ground for greater guilt is laid. But the Scriptures are tremendously helpful at this point. They help us to understand that God has made provision for this. He understands our fallen character, and he has done something about it. And, in the simple step of coming to the place of admitting that something is wrong, facing it and not dodging it, not running from it, not justifying it, not excusing it, there is then the possibility of accepting the forgiveness of God's grace, and the restoration which enables us to go on in life fully accepted, fully loved in every way, and to learn the lesson of life from that momentary failure.
Now, all this is to be progressive knowledge. I want to show you from the book of Proverbs how this develops, and how wisely this book helps us at this point. I would urge that parents spend a great deal of time if Proverbs. This is the book, more than any other in the Scriptures, which teaches us how to raise children. It opens with a seven-verse preface on the value of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Then, beginning with Verse 8, it starts what is a repeated pattern through the early chapters of this book -- exhortations from a father to his son to listen and to give heed, and then there follows the unfolding of wisdom about a certain relationship into which that child is about to come. Verses 8 and 9:
Hear, my son, your father's instruction,
and reject not your mother's teaching;
for they are a fair garland for your head,
and pendants for your neck. (Proverbs 1:8-9 RSV)
That is, they will be ornaments to your life, they will make you appear attractive to others. Then he goes on in following verses to deal with the forming of friendships. Here are a father's wise words for the time when a child begins to move outside the home, relatively early in life. The father instructs his son as to how to recognize those who will harm him, and those who will help him. Many wise things are said on the subject, and the passage goes on through the rest of the first chapter and most of the second. I won't take time to expound it now, but there is great wisdom here.
Then, in Chapter 3, another subject is brought in. And, again, in the first four verses, the exhortation precedes it:
My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments;
for length of days and years of life
and abundant welfare will they give you.
Let not loyalty and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them about your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
in the sight of God and man. (Proverbs 3:1-4 RSV)
Then the problem of how to handle material wealth is introduced -- what to do with money, things, possessions -- and what they can do to you. It is interesting that it is in this section that the book of Proverbs has the most to say about relying upon more-than-human wisdom, because this is a very tricky area where you can easily be deceived. In fact, this is the section which contains these well-known verses -- beginning in Verse 5 -- where the father exhorts,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8 RSV)
Then follows a word about what the son should do with his substance -- how to handle the guidance of God, the discipline of the Lord; what to do about business offers that are made to him, proposals that come his way; how to handle relationships with neighbors; what to do in the case of financial failure, etc. This passage is very rich in that area.
Then in Chapter 4, beginning with Verse 20, you have another word of admonition:
My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to him who finds them,
and healing to all his flesh. (Proverbs 4:20-22 RSV)
What a tremendous description this is of the value of this kind of guidance! And then there is special word right to the son's heart:
Keep your heart with all vigilance;
for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23 RSV)
What a tremendous revelation that is from this father to his son! "Son," he says, "what is going to happen to you finds its key and its explanation in what is happening within you. You can't control the life around you, but you can control your reaction to it. Your trouble does not lie in what people are doing to you; it is what you are doing to them that is the problem. So keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life."
There follows a tremendous section dealing with how to handle sex drives, and what to do with marriage responsibility. Here is a son growing up, moving out: First into the realm of friendships, then into the realm of business and commercial life, of money handling, etc., and now into the whole matter of sex, and its powerful lures and drives.
Here particular stress is laid upon the role of each parent. Look at Chapter 6, Verse 20:
My son, keep your father's commandment,
and forsake not your mother's teaching. (Proverbs 6:20 RSV)
Two different words are employed there. The father's commandment is that which sets the limits of life, the restraints. This is the male role -- to be objective as to where these limits are. He is not only to set them. but to enforce them -- with loving wisdom. But the mother then applies them, drawing the application for the specific moment. That is the implication of the word here translated "teaching."
My son, keep your father's commandment,
and forsake not your mother's teaching.
Bind them upon your heart always;
tie them about your neck.
When you walk, they will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you.
For the commandment is a lamp[i.e., a lampstand -- the father's wisdom about life is that which upholds and supports the light]and the teaching a light[it makes clear],
and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,
to preserve you from the evil woman[i.e., from the false use of sex], (Proverbs 6:20-24a RSV)
There is such great wisdom here! The whole section concludes in Chapters 8 and 9, with a tremendous apostrophe to wisdom. I would commend this section to you, that you would read it over carefully and thoughtfully and prayerfully, and discuss it with one another as parents so that you might learn how to apply these truths to your children within your home.
I would like to conclude our study this morning with a quotation from a woman names Lenora Weber, who wrote an article entitledWhat Parents Owe Their Children,
Parents owe it to the children they bring into the world to put the tools of living in their hands -- hands which we have made as strong and capable as we can. But, having given them the hands and the tools, we also owe it to them not to do their digging for them.
It is not the parents' job to live vicarious lives through their children. They are to trust them, equip them to move out, and send them forth -- not just at the time they are teenagers ready to break away, but the process should be going on all along, so that they will learn more and more how to become stable and dependent upon God and not on their parents. Thus, when the moment comes for them to move out at last on their own, it is not some brand new experience into which they venture either with foolhardy thoughtlessness or with fear and trembling. Rather, it is something they have been looking forward to, happily anticipating, having a great deal of experience in it already, so that it will not be a moment filled with heartbreak or heartache.
I can only set this ideal before us and again admit that sometimes it is difficult to carry out. This is where God has given us reassurance as parents that he will teach and guide us. So again I can remind you of the wisdom of that saying, this time for parents as well as for children:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not to your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he shall direct your paths. ( Proverbs 3:5-6)
Our heavenly Father, we thank you that in your relationship with us you treat us just as you want us to treat our children, and that you already have made provision for our failure, for the times when we don't understand and we do the wrong thing, so that we can take even these and lay them back into your hands, and you will begin to work them out to the healing of our lives, and of our children's lives as well. We thank you for that, Father. What guilt, what discouragement would grip our hearts if we did not understand that you have the power and the wisdom, as our great Father, to straighten out the tangles and the misapprenhensions of our lives. So, as parents and as children, we just thank you for yourself, for who you are, and for your great wisdom in your guidance of us. We pray that we may walk in faithfulness and loyalty all our days, in Jesus' name, Amen.
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