“Do not sin against the child,” Genesis 42:22, KJV.
This comment is by Reuben as he and his brothers were in the presence of the brother, Joseph, whom they thought they had gotten rid of several years earlier. Joseph had been a pain in the side especially of some of his brothers who were sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, Jacob’s concubines, as he “tattled” on them, Genesis 37:2. Unbeknownst to Reuben, his brothers had sold Joseph to a passing caravan. But now, years later, here he was, and the past was very much now the present!
I’ve been thinking about this post for quite a while, even on vacation when I didn’t hardly go near a computer, hence the long time since the last post.
My grandmother used to tell a story about her own family when she was a child. She had 10 or 11 brothers and sisters and whenever company came to visit, they were all required to sit on the sofa and be quiet. People today laugh such an idea to scorn.
From my own youth I remember the dictum that “children should be seen and not heard.” Again, such an idea is laughed out of court.
Consider a newborn child. He has no idea about anything except his own immediate surroundings and needs. If he is wet, hungry, tired, or any number of other things, he lets it be known in no uncertain terms that he is not happy. He doesn’t care how it happens – he wants to be happy.
Now, there is nothing wrong with this. He is a baby. He doesn’t know anything else. He doesn’t know any better.
He grows up.
That fact that he grows up is why God created parents and the family – to prepare little ones to be adults. After all, baby animals are often able to cope on their own after just a few weeks. Not so, human babies. It may be they will learn most of what they will ever learn in their first few years, but no five-year old is ready for his own apartment. He has a long way to go.
A baby is absolutely self-centered. That’s to be expected; he’s just been born.
Parents are expected – nay, required – to teach their little ones that there are other “selfs” in this world and there are things their little ones need to know as they’re going to live among and interact with these others.
Parents are also there to teach their little one that there is something called “authority,” and that he isn’t it!
Because … there is an ultimate authority – God.
God has a lot to say about this in His Word – the only “parenting manual” we need! Sigmund Freud and the atheist (or “Christian”) psychologists and psychiatrists who follow his or similar philosophies have more to answer for than we can possibly begin to imagine.
In Deuteronomy 11:18, God commanded Israel, “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets [a decorative band or ornament worn] between your eyes. “These words of mine” refer to what God said in v. 1, “Therefore you shall love the Lord your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always.” Continuing in v. 19, He said, “You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” emphasis added. You, the parent, shall teach them, not the Sunday School, not the school, not “children’s church,” not some “children’s ministry.” YOU. (And, yes, I know they didn’t have those things in the Old Testament. There’s no mention of them in the New Testament, either.) It is the parents’ responsibility, not someone else’s. The other things I mentioned may be useful, but they are to be strictly secondary. Cf. also Joshua 4:4-7.
In Deuteronomy 6:20, 21, God commanded, When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the LORD our God commanded us?’ then you shall say, ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us out with a mighty hand.’
Children are inherently curious. God says that we parents are to use that trait to teach them about the things of God. And when it comes right down to it, when push comes to shove and the kid wants to know why he should do something, “because I said so, that’s why!” (Howls and groans from “modern” thinkers.) Parents are not perfect, by any means (ask my own children), but they are parents.
So important is the role of parents that it was a death-penalty sin for an older child to disrespect his parents. Babies and toddlers don’t know any better, but an older child was responsible for his rebellion: “He who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him,” Leviticus 20:9, Exodus 21:17. Same thing if he hit either of them, Exodus 21:15. In fact, God required that the Israelite to “honor your father and your mother,” Exodus 20:12. The word translated “honor” could be translated, “give weight to.”
Years later, when Israel was being judged for its sin, God said one of those sins was, “they have made light of father and mother,” Ezekiel 22:7.
Isaiah 3:12, As for My people, children are their oppressors,…”
While this is spoken about Israel, we see it all around us today. Little ones in the supermarket or the restaurant screaming and having fits because they’re not getting their way, and their parents having no idea what to do…. Teenagers interrupting government functions or “protesting” on some street corner…. Schools requiring “security officers” because children have been turned into monsters.
Much of the problem has come because psychologists and psychiatrists believe children to be a “blank slate,” on which the proper education, etc., can write and turn out outstanding and useful adults.
Is that true?
Psalm 58:3 says, They go astray from the womb, speaking lies.” While that verse refers specifically to “the wicked,” experience tells us that it’s universally true.
Tell me, any of you who read this blog and have children, did you have to teach them to lie? To be dishonest? To take that which isn’t their’s? To be selfish and not “share”?
Or did they come by it “naturally”?
So, you see, parents have a great responsibility to teach their children to mind, to obey – and yes, I recognize that’s “old-fashioned.” There’s another old saying: “As the twig is bent, so the tree is formed.” After a tree is grown, it’s too late to try to make it straight if it’s crooked. That has to be done when the tree is still a “twig”; it’s still young and supple and malleable. The same with that young life. That’s the time to teach and train it, not when it’s course has pretty well been set and it’s been confirmed in rebellion.
Remember, what’s “cute” at three or four will likely not be cute at 8 or 12 or 32.
And remember, you’re preparing your child not only for time, but for eternity.
Do not sin against the child – or the adult he or she will become.