A couple of nights ago I was having a great conversation about raising children with a good friend of mine. We spoke of the joys and difficulties of shaping the minds and hearts of the children that God has entrusted us with. In our conversation, I brought up perhaps one of the most insightful statements that I have ever heard on this topic. When my oldest was born, I started conversations with many people on the topic of raising children, and sought advice from many sources. Many wise people gave me many insights they have learned over the years, and I am grateful for all of their time and thought in these conversations. The most insightful for me was a statement that my mother-in-law made to me in a conversation, and this statement has two separate and distinct implications for parents. She said: “What is right today is right tomorrow, and what is wrong today is wrong tomorrow.”
Let’s think about that for a minute. “What is right today is right tomorrow, and what is wrong today is wrong tomorrow.” In the realm of raising children the first implication is one that I personally have little trouble with. We must as parents be consistent in all that we do. If we correct our children for doing something wrong today, we must correct them tomorrow for the same thing. A more significant application is when we fail to correct our children today, and try to correct a behavior that has become ingrained into our children. The problems seem to grow pretty fast when we don’t nip it in the bud. The second implication is one that I have trouble with, and have to continually correct my thinking before speaking.
Imagine with me that you are doing a task and your young one is doing something that slows you down. Perhaps, you are tired from work, washing the dishes, and your toddler takes out the pots and pans from the cabinet. Immediately for me, my mind goes towards sharply correcting my child, but I think there is more that should be noted. Is it wrong for this child to play with the pots and pans? Is it a moral issue for him or her to have fun in this manner? Let’s engage Scripture for a clearer answer.
On a housekeeping note, I’m sure you have noticed that I haven’t been a punctual as normal with these studies. My apologies for this, but I can’t say it won’t happen again over the course of the next few months as I am preparing for a rather large examination at work. If you get this study only through the website or social media, I encourage you to sign up via email so that you will get every one no matter when they come out.
In the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul gives us a bit of clarity by rightfully helping us to understand the promise of the 5th Commandment. He writes beginning in 6:1: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” We remember the 10 Commandments were given right after the Nation of Israel was freed from the bonds of Egyptian slavery, and the nation didn’t have a practical understanding of relational parameters. Think about that. You get up in the morning, make bricks, get beat, make bricks, go to sleep, and repeat. There was little room for independent thought that drove parameters in relationships. God instructed the young Israelite Nation to respect their fathers and mothers, so they may learn how to rightly live from them. This will then translate into a strong society that will be established in the Promised Land. Whether they actually lived correctly or not in the Promised Land is another story, but the principle remains the same. Having a strong moral family value system is the first block in teaching our children to have a strong moral family value.
Circling back to our toddler who is making more work for us by taking out the pots and pans, we revisit the question: Is it wrong? The answer is a clear and resounding no. It is not wrong. Paul encourages us here to pick our battles with our children. We are to focus on the teaching of what is right and wrong. If we are the parent that constantly yells at our kids for everything they will never learn what is a big deal and what isn’t that big of a deal. They must have clarity, because if they don’t receive it from us, they will not receive it.
So, let your kids play with the pots and pans, but teach them fervently what our God says about the Big 10. We have little moral clarity in our world today, and the rising tide of immorality can overtake young minds and hearts. This is not the church’s responsibility. It is yours. The Bible teaches that our lives are subsequent to our actions. It teaches that a person who lives in opposition to God is subject to His judgment in both this world and beyond. Our children’s very existence is preserved in our efforts here. There is much on the line.
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Ephesians 6:4 – “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”