“Do Not Sin Against the Child!”

“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.

Why?

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.

However…

He grows up.

Then what??

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.

Advertisements

A Wish for Couples Marrying This Spring….

…Or Anytime.

It will soon be the season for weddings.  I’d like to give these couples some thoughts and wishes as they begin life together.

I’ve been blessed to participate in the weddings of our three married children and privileged to officiate in one of them.  Our unmarried daughter finally got tired of my asking if she had found someone and ever so politely and lovingly and in so many words told me to buzz off.  And no, she wasn’t crude about it, just firm.  She’s quite content being single.

I was just going through my files looking for something else when I came across the notes I used in those weddings.  Reading them again brought tears to my eyes as I recalled those happy occasions and am able to reflect on what has happened since then in all of them.  I sometimes joke that I’m where we now live because of my wife, and she’s here because of the grandchildren.  We have others in different states now, but these were the only ones for quite a while.  It’s been a blessing to watch them grow and mature, and to see our children happy and settled.

In the beginning of all things earthly, God created the heavens and the earth, with all the creatures that are in them.  On one level, it was for occasions like weddings that all these wonderful things were made.  We read in Genesis that God made a man and gave everything into his hand, except one tree.  God brought all the animals to Adam, and Adam named them.  There was, however, something missing.  Every animal, every bird, had its own corresponding mate – there were two of them.  Only Adam stood by himself.  God said, “It is not good that man should be alone,” and He set about at once to finish His creation.  When He was done, He brought the first woman to the first man. Now God hadn’t been caught off-guard or surprised and so made Eve as some sort of after-thought.  I think He did it this way to show the special relationship that one man and one woman are to sustain toward each other for life.

For the man: –

There’s an interesting verse in the Old Testament that’s very applicable here.  Most people think of the Old Testament as all stern and unyielding and there are some things in it which do sound strange to us.  And it’s true that we don’t live under its requirements any more. but there’s still a lot of wisdom in its pages.  This verse has some of it:

When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to the wife whom he has taken, Deuteronomy 24:5 (NKJV).

“Bring happiness to the wife whom he has taken.”

“Bring happiness to your wife.”

When was the last time you heard that in marital counseling?

And, yes, I understand that there are sometimes complex issues involved.  After all, we are human beings.

But this is a good place to start.

We men are pretty good, or bad, about what we expect from our wives:  “She’d better” do this or that.  We don’t give much thought to what they might expect from us. However, God said to the man, “Bring happiness to your wife.”  It’s your responsibility to make her happy, not hers to make you happy.

The world has a saying, “When the queen is happy, there’s peace in the realm.” There’s a lot of truth in that.  If you treat your wife like a dog, don’t be surprised if she barks at you.  Of course, that’s the trouble with a lot of men, they would treat a dog better than they do their wife.

It might be objected that that’s Old Testament, and even I have recognized that we don’t live under its rules any more.  However, the same God Who wrote the Old Testament wrote the New Testament as well.  In 1 Corinthians 7:33, Paul wrote, …he that is married cares about the things of the world – how he may please his wife. 

Many consider Paul to have a negative view of marriage and of women in general.  Not so.  In this verse, he explicitly says that it’s the man’s responsibility to please his wife, although he does also say that the wife is to make her husband happy. Being well-versed in the Old Testament, since that’s pretty much all they had in the beginnings of the New Testament, not forgetting the teachings of the Lord Jesus, he likely was thinking of Deuteronomy 24:5.

I suppose there might be some who look at the phrase “the things of the world,” and figure that they don’t have to worry about it.  Marriage is “of the world,” and Christians are “not of this world.”  However, God ordained and instituted marriage, and laid out the guidelines under which it was to be entered and lived.  That those guidelines have been ignored or rejected has a lot to do with the mess society is in right now.

And we can’t overlook Ephesians 5:25, which says, Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it. I don’t know of any man, no matter how much he thinks of himself, who would say that he’s done that!  Also, Colossians 3:19.

He shall bring happiness to the wife whom he has taken. 

For the woman: –

Genesis 2:18 gives us the fundamental reason why God created Eve, as we’ve already noted.  It wasn’t good for man to be alone.  Malachi 2:14, …she is your companion… These two verses bookmark the Old Testament view of marriage.  It is a companionship.  There may or may not be legitimate reasons for “girls’ night out” or “boys’ night out,” but blessed indeed is that couple which finds its greatest joy in each other.

Marriage isn’t a competition.  One is not “better” than the other.  We’re all fallen, fallible creatures and it wouldn’t be until heaven, if marriage were to endure til then, that a wife would have a perfect husband, and the husband a perfect wife.

And there is no condescension in marriage.  Those who disagree with the Biblical view of marriage accuse it of making women second-class citizens.  That’s not true.  We each have different roles and responsibilities in marriage, but one is no less important than the other.  There are physical differences to be sure; I don’t know that my wife could pick up a 40 lb bag of salt to put into the water softener, but then she has mothered five children and birthed four of them.  One went ahead of us, whom we never got to meet, hold or love.  She wins, hands down!  And it has taken a woman of great grace, courage and mercy to put up with me for 43 years!

Eve was to be a completion, a complement, to Adam.  She was the finishing touch to creation.  It wasn’t until after her appearance that God pronounced everything, very good, Genesis 1:31.

A lot of the trouble in marriage is caused because people overlook this basic dictum: He created them male and female. Men are men and women are women.  Men are not from Mars and women are not from Venus.  We are both from the hand of God.

A lot of women want their husbands to be more like themselves.  I suppose that has to do with feelings and emotions.  And men want their wives to be more like them.  Or they want to “get in touch with their feminine side.”  If you want to see my feminine side, I’ll introduce you to my wife!

God “made them male and female.”  In every area and in every difference, God has made them that way.

To a young woman standing before me, I would say, “you are about to enter into uncharted territory, so far as you are concerned.”  [I admit that this is an old-fashioned view, that couples don’t move in together without the benefit of marriage “to see if it’ll work out.”  Where’s the fun – and the challenge – of discovering a new country, so to speak, if you’ve already explored all of it?  And this doesn’t consider what God says about such an arrangement, that it is sin.] (continuing – ) “No longer will you be a single young woman answerable and responsible only to God and yourself.  From now on, the young man standing by your side must have great consideration in your plans and in your life.  You are required by Holy Scripture to have respect for him, to obey him.  This does not mean that you are to become a door-mat or a non-person in any way; it simply recognizes that his is the main responsibility before God in your marriage.”

It’s very interesting that there’s no Scripture which tells the wife directly to love her husband, only to respect him.  [Fellows, listen up.  Are you worthy of respect?]  Indeed, there is a verse which counsels older women to admonish the younger women to love their husbands…., Titus 2:4.  It must be tough on you ladies when your Prince Charming turns out to be a frog.  I don’t see how you do it.  The older ladies are supposed to have some experience in this and are to pass it along to the younger ladies.

To both of them: –

Marriage is a “they” proposition:  A man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh. “They” speaks of a mutual endeavor. “Shall become” speaks of a mutual effort.  “One flesh” speaks of a mutual experience.  This is very brief.  So much more could be said about it.

To any young couples contemplating marriage who are reading this, I wish for you two that you will become like an ornamental Benjamin fig tree I once saw.  Someone had taken three slender trees and planted and braided them together.  The tree had grown over these three individual shoots and they had become united as one tree. I know it loses a lot in the telling, but the tree was beautiful.  May you two as you plant and entwine your lives grow together as one and become beautiful in the hand of God.

“He made them male and female.”

There is a lot of confusion about this simple declaration of Scripture.  (Of course, that’s the main problem in contemporary society – it’s Scripture.  Very few people really think the Bible has any relevance to or place in 2014.)  This confusion is exemplified in the recent decision by a popular social medium to add a large number of choices for folks to check in this regard as they make their profiles.   Nevertheless, no matter how you dress it, homo sapiens only comes in two models: male or female.

A few weeks ago, the popular star of a reality TV show talked about this in an interview.  I don’t know who was more upset and offended by his remarks: the gay community for disagreeing with their viewpoint, or Christians for talking about the physiological realities involved.  Granted that he perhaps could have been more careful in his choice of words, but he was just telling it as he saw it, the incompatibility of the human body with same-sex relationships.

The human body truly is an amazing organism.  It has a number of “systems” to keep it going.  The skeleton provides the framework which supports all the rest.  Muscles, ligaments and tendons hold it all together and make it possible to move and do things.  The respiratory system brings in oxygen, which the circulatory system distributes to every cell of the body several times a minute.  Not only does the circulatory system distribute oxygen to each cell, but then it picks up “waste” like carbon dioxide, which it transfers to the respiratory system, which then exhales it.  This is all done without our thought, for the most part.  True, one can hold his breath, but eventually will have to breathe.  The body will not allow you to hold your breath long enough to commit suicide.  If nothing else, you will pass out – and then the body will automatically begin to breathe.  Have you ever thought about how amazing the respiratory and circulatory systems are?  How would you like it if the same trucks which picked up your trash, say on Wednesday, then delivered your groceries on Thursday?  Then there’s the reproductive system, by which homo sapiens continues as a species.  It’s heavily muscled, to allow for the exertion of sexual activity and for the rigors of birth.  It’s specifically designed for that.  God made them male and female, and told them to bear children before the Fall. Sex isn’t just some sordid result of it.  Men have turned it into something sordid, but that’s not God’s fault.  Then there is the nervous system, which gives us a sense of touch.  The digestive system allows us to enjoy a thick steak or nice veggie burger, digest it and distribute its nutrients to every cell of the body, and to get rid of what the body doesn’t or can’t use.

The thing is, with all these systems, and others we haven’t mentioned, that while these systems are all interdependent, they are not interchangeable.  Each system has a definite role to play in the life and well-being of the individual.

Further, there’s more to the individual than just the body.  While some may dismiss this as just the result of chemical processes or genetic disposition, where do works of art come from?  Musical masterpieces?  Works of commerce and industry – good or bad. Science, which explores and seeks to explain the world in which we live?  You may say, well, they come from the brain.  That’s true, but every animal has a brain.

The Robin’s nest I wrote about a few months ago is a marvel of construction, still firmly attached to the top of the porch light through wind and rain and 8 feet of snow (not all at once!) though it is protected by the roof’s overhang.  In fact, I couldn’t remove it without literally tearing it twig from twig.  It’s stuck!  I’m waiting to see if Robins use it this spring – if it ever stops snowing!

There was a story several years ago about a chimpanzee.  This chimp was given a handful of rice mixed with grains of sand.  The object of the experiment was to see how she would cope.  There was some water nearby.  She threw this mixture into the water and was then easily able to pick out the grains of rice.  Now, that is truly something to think about – how this chimp figured out how to solve her problem.  But I don’t know of any animal that has figured out how to plant rice.

Given what she did, and there are other stories as well, still, there are no “Collected Works of Apespeare.”  No animal writes books or builds libraries.  Birds can fly and some squirrels can glide, but no animal has ever built an airplane or hang-glider.

There is a difference.  In spite of the evolutionary viewpoint which tells us that we’re just advanced primates, it’s obvious we’re different.

The idea of male and female brings up the topic of sex.  I’m sorry if that phrase offends you, but where do you think you came from?  If you’re uncomfortable with the subject, though I’ll try to be a little more careful than the reality TV star, perhaps you ought not to read the rest of the post.

I recognize that many people don’t believe the Bible.  I can’t help that; it’s there we’re going.    God made every part of His animate creation to yield seed and to reproduce itself.  Every part of animate creation does.  At the same time, sex was never meant to be an end in itself.  For every species except humans, that’s true.  Marlins and moose and myna birds don’t have “gentlemen’s clubs”.  Only humans take sex down into the sewer.

Having said that, make no mistake about it, God made sex to be enjoyable.  If it were like having a root canal, how long would the race have survived?  Even women are meant to enjoy it, contrary to that religious view which practices female circumcision.  In Genesis 18:12, after God had promised Abraham that he would have a son through his wife, Sarah, who had been eavesdropping, said, “Shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” 

“Shall I have pleasure?”  The word translated, “pleasure” is from the same root as the word translated “Eden,” as in the Garden of Eden.  Because of their sin, Adam and Eve suffered “paradise lost.”  Satan tries to convince fallen men and women that unbridled sexual activity is “paradise regained.”  It’s too bad he seems to have succeeded.

In His wisdom, God put some limits on human sexuality.  

The first limit was that it was to be between a married man and woman, married to each other, that is.  It was meant to be a privilege, the consummation of a lifelong commitment of one man to one woman – and one woman to one man.  It was never supposed to be “casual,” or the commencement of a “relationship,” or even just “a one night stand.”  It was something designed for a lifetime.  The Bible never countenances the idea that “it’s just sex,” as if it were of no more importance than selecting which clothes to wear for the day or which sandwich to have for lunch.

God made them male and female.  For that reason, same sex sexual relationships are forbidden.  Even human physiology shows their incongruity.  Male/female matches.  Male/male or female/female do not.  It’s like the two poles of a battery.  Opposite poles attract; corresponding poles do not.

The differences between male and female were to extend even to clothing.  It was forbidden to wear the clothes of the opposite sex.  I remember when pantsuits came out. In the church we went to at the time, the pastor was all up in the air about women wearing men’s clothing.  The thing is, pantsuits were designed for women.  I don’t know that I ever saw a man wearing them.  In many cultures, men and women dress similarly, but you can still tell the difference.  If we’re not supposed to wear the clothes of the opposite sex, how much less are we to try to become or live like the opposite sex?

It’s sometimes argued that we’re born with a particular sexual orientation and so can’t help it.  That may be true.  However, we’re also born as sinners, and God holds us accountable for it.  God holds us accountable for every part of our lives.

It’s sometimes argued that Jesus never talked about any of this.  That’s only partly true. Because He was a Jew, born under the Law, Galatians 4:4, He had no reason to mention it.  The Law is quite specific.  Cf. Leviticus 18 and 20, where the word nakedness refers specifically to the genitalia.  Sexual relationship between other than husband and wife – or with animals – was strictly forbidden.  Jesus had no reason to mention these things.  The laws were on the books.

He did, however, confirm the Old Testament’s original statement that He made them male and female. Matthew 19:4, 5; Mark 10:5, 6.

Sex is the one place where mankind can be the most like God, that is, in the creation of life.  Granted, there are huge, insurmountable, differences between us and our ability and God and His ability. Nevertheless, it’s the only way we can bring life into being.   

The second limit follows from the first.  Without getting into the discussion about “birth control,” sexual activity results in children.  In the Bible, children are a blessing, not a burden.

Human children are unlike any other offspring in the world.  Other offspring mature and are able to live on their own in just a few days or weeks.  In some rare cases, it may be a year or two.  Not so with human babies.  They take years.  

The baby robins who were born on my porch were grown and gone in just a few weeks. When I was growing up, we kept tropical fish.  Mama guppy was as likely to eat her offspring as not.  Precautions had to be taken to prevent her from doing so.  The male Siamese Fighting Fish was a joy to watch as he carefully built his nest of bubbles, then gently enfolded the female, squeezing the eggs from her body, at the same time fertilizing them.  Then he would carefully gather the eggs into his mouth and put them into the nest.  It was no “family affair,” though, because after the spawning was done, he was done with her and we had to put her into a different aquarium to protect her.  As the little ones hatched, he watched over them and made sure they didn’t wander too deep into the aquarium.  The pressure would have harmed them or killed them.  However, when it became more than he could handle, he was likely to put them on the menu himself.  So far as I know, there are no “granchildren” in the animal world.  After I was married, I tried to get back into the hobby.  We had some zebra danios who became heavy with eggs.  When momma danio began to lay those eggs – in a community aquarium – the other fish went wild.  Danio caviar!

I joke about it, but children are no joke!  Among our grandchildren are some teenagers. Though they’re getting there, they’re still not adults.  It may be true that children learn the majority of all they will learn in the first few years of life, but no five-year-old is ready for his own apartment.

God intended sexual activity to be confined to marriage, and marriage was to be the foundation of family and the cement which held it together.  Family was to be the foundation of society.  I understand, especially in our day, there are a lot of single mothers – and fathers.  I also understand there are reasons for this, but the main one is that society has thrown out the idea of “the traditional family” to a large extent and made sex an end in itself.  Children are just an unfortunate “byproduct.”  The woman is usually the one who gets stuck with them.  She suffers and so do the kids.  This has become an acceptable norm.  At a place I worked, one of the young women had either become pregnant, or knew someone who had.  One of her co-workers asked who the father was.  The tone of her voice was no different than if she had asked where the first girl got her outfit.  At another place, one of the young men was bragging about the fact that he had eight children by five different women.  He was rejoicing that he had now become a man, because he finally had a daughter!  It doesn’t take anything special in a man to get a woman pregnant.  It does take something to commit to that woman, stay with her, take care of her and help raise the children the man fathers!

There’s something else.  There was a story on the internet about a man who had just discovered that the family he had been in for many years was not his real family.  He was trying to find his original family, in part so “he could find out who he was.”  Our family forms our first sense of identity.

It’s a great shame that the concept of “family” is more far likely to be molded by Tuesday night “comedy” on TV than it is by Scripture. 

Fathers have almost become irrelevant, except as sperm donors, and even that is often done impersonally through third party “sperm banks” or fertility clinics.  Men might want to rethink that, though.  A judge recently ruled that one such sperm donor was responsible for child support (!)

In the original creation, it took male and female to be “complete”.  Eve wasn’t created with some perceived inferiority in herself, but because of the incompleteness of Adam. There’s more to it than this, of course, but a man – or a woman – can’t conceive by themselves.  Neither are they supposed to raise children by themselves.

It’s in the family that we get our first lessons of living with others.  We learn to share – at least in theory.  We learn to get along with others.  We also learn about something called “authority.”  Too often in our society, it’s the kids who run things, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.  Parents are there to teach kids that not only is there such a thing as authority, but that there is an ultimate authority – God.  We need to learn that we can’t just run around doing whatever we want without regard for others.  The chaos in our society and among our youth is there because this basic truth has been discarded and kids grow up with the idea that they’re number one.  This carries over into adulthood and we see the ruin that accompanies that viewpoint all around us.

There’s more to our lives than what happens in the bedroom.  That is why He made them male and female.