Friday, June 20, 2014

Train Up A Child: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

"Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it." 
-Proverbs 22:6

I've entitled the blog series "Train Up A Child." It comes from one of the most abused passages in all of Scripture. But I think the passage deserves reclaiming.

Many Bible teachers have used this passage to promise parents..."If you parent your kids in the correct way, you have a foolproof way of ensuring your kids grow up as followers of Jesus." And because of that interpretation, countless parents have been engulfed in decades unneeded guilt. They believe they are to blame for their kids' troubles.

But Proverbs 22:6 isn't always true.

Proverbs is made up of hundreds of generally true statements. They are proverbial statements that are true much of the time, but they are far from foolproof statements without exceptions.

Proverbs should be used as positive teachings to be used in our lives.
Proverbs should not be used as negative teachings to be used to abuse people.

For example...
"Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him." -Proverbs 26:4

That seems straightforward. read the next verse.

"Answer a fool according to his folly, 
or he will be wise in his own eyes." -Proverbs 26:5

So, which is it? Should we answer a fool according to his folly or not?

Well, it depends on the situation.

These are not foolproof promises. They are wise statements that fit some situations and don't fit other situations.

But back to Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child..." Just because there are circumstances where Proverbs 22:6 isn't true, doesn't mean we should disregard the verse in our parenting.

One of the ways we are trying to raise our kids to follow Jesus is by "smoking what we sell." Or another way to say it is, "Actions speak louder than words."

Preachers' kids (PKs) have a certain kind of reputation. We get the questions a lot. "So, your kids are PKs, huh? Better watch out for those kids."

One of the reasons PKs have gotten that reputation is because PKs often see two different pictures of the preacher. There's "Stage Preacher" and there's "Dad." "Stage preacher" has a smile on his face, knows how to make small talk, and talks a good game when it comes to following Jesus. But sometimes "Dad" doesn't live as radical a life as he preaches. And that cognitive dissonance is difficult for children to sort through.

The most important thing a parent can do to give one's kids a head-start on their spiritual journey is to live an authentic life of faith in front of them every day. It's not enough to have a devotional and prayer time each night and attend church weekly. Our kids will only see how important faith is if it makes a difference in our lives. Actions speak so much louder than words.

We love to think our words are the most powerful way we express our beliefs. Wrong!

The surest way to know what we believe is by looking at our actions.

We act out of our deepest beliefs about the world.

For example, many people would say that they value saving for retirement. But statistics show that far fewer people are putting money away for retirement. So, what does one truly believe? Our actions reveal our beliefs.

Many people can talk about their belief in the importance they place on physical health. Yet, very few people make a habit of eating well and exercising regularly. Our actions are a better indicator of our beliefs than our words.

I love how Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount. He tells a story about two men. One is wise the other is foolish. How can you tell the difference between the wise and foolish man?

Jesus says, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man...But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man..." (Matthew 7:24a, 26a)

The difference between wisdom and foolishness isn't one's IQ or level of education. The difference isn't what one claims to believe. The difference has to do with action. Are you practicing the way of Jesus or just giving lip service to it?

Our kids need to see how our faith makes a difference in our lives. Our kids need to know how important God is to us. They see us in our most difficult moments. Our reactions let them know our level of sincerity in our relationship with God.

From the beginning, Holly and I wanted to train up our kids to follow Jesus.

What we didn't know was that the most important training didn't happen in our discipline plan, mealtime prayers, or bedtime devotional time. The most important training of our kids occurs when we decide whether or not we will train as apprentices of Jesus every day when the sun comes up.

How are you training (your kids)?

No comments: