(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 7, 2003
Holy & Free, Part 13; Character of Children
(Adapted from Growing Kids God’s Way,
One of the greatest areas of human pride is a parent over
their children. I have met adults that can accept criticism in
any other area that will not accept any criticism of their
children. My friends, Gary & Ann Marie Ezzo, who founded and
lead Growing Families International and whose material most of
today’s sermon is based, have received severe and unjust
criticism and condemnation over the years from folks who, from my
view, do not like their parenting practices challenged. Some of
them do not like the idea that they carry responsibility for the
kind of adult their child becomes. Others react strongly because
their area of greatest pride, their children, has been
challenged. With that in mind, it is always with some trepidation
that I venture into the area of child rearing, yet like the
Ezzo’s, regardless of what reaction I receive, it is more
important that the principles of God’s word be proclaimed
concerning how we raise our children.
Over the last few weeks have stressed that God has given each
member specific roles within the family. Wives are to be
submissive to their husbands leadership while showing him
respect. Husbands are to lead their wives in godliness while
loving them with the same kind of sacrificial love that Jesus
Christ has for His church. I have also stressed that you cannot
be a better parent than you are a spouse. Children are to obey
and honor their parents, and parents are to teach their children
not only to obey, but to know and love the Lord God with all
their heart, soul, mind and strength. Parents are responsible for
care and training of their children and share the responsibility
in how the children turn out as adults. This morning I am going
to continue on in this subject by talking about some of the basic
character traits we are to instill into our children. These are
character traits that will give evidence of children who are
obedient and who are being taught to love God.
Now in saying all this, I am in no way suggesting that every
parent must raise their children the same way or even hold to the
same specific standards. There is freedom in Christ for
differences in how each family does things and what they think is
important. Our differences are actually a blessing because it is
through them that all of us learn to not only be accepting of one
another, but at the same time, be challenged to do even better in
walking with the Lord.
May all of us be humble enough to receive whatever challenges
the Lord may give us in our current practices and manner of life
in order to pursue glorifying Him more effectively in everything
What is Character?
If we are going to talk about basic character traits what we
need to develop in our children, then we first must understand
what character is and is not. Character is not your temperament.
That seems to be something inborn. Nor is character your
personality. That seems to be a combination of your temperament
and upbringing. Character is the moral quality of your
personality. It is the combination of virtues that internally
govern how a person lives.
Moral training and character development are the same thing. A
person’s moral virtues reflects their character, and their
character reflects the moral content of their heart. The basis of
a Christian’s moral character is God’s moral law which
reflects the will and character of God Himself. We derive
God’s moral law from God’s revelation of Himself and
His will in the Bible.
As I said last week, character is the most important training
we will give to our children. Our goal as Christian parents
should be to raise up sons and daughters that will reflect
godliness and by that bring glory to God’s name. That is the
purpose of their existence and ours. God will be glorified both
in our striving to instill godly character into our children and
in the fruit of our labor as it is reflected in their developing
There are six natural relationships in which we should develop
our children’s character. There are other areas in which we
will train our children, such as in academics and job and
domestic skills, but even in these areas our ability to glorify
God will be a function of handling our relationships with others
in a godly manner.
1. Respect for Authority,
2. Respect for Parents
3. Respect for Age,
4. Respect for Siblings / Peers
5. Respect for Property
6. Respect for Nature
II. Respect for Authority
A. Authority Defined:
What is authority? Authority is not the law but the
power to enforce the law. Each of us is under many levels
of authority. First there is God, then national government
including the various bureaucracies with various jurisdictions
along with U.S. Marshalls office, F.B.I and military authority.
Then there is individual States with their various bureaucracies
including state police and national guard units. Then there are
local governments with their various bureaucracies including
local police. Then there are districts that carry authority such
as a school district. There are also organizations we belong to
of various kinds that have authority. There is also the home in
which parents and guardians have authority. So the list of those
who carry various levels of authority is long and includes God,
government officers, military, school officers and teachers,
zoning boards, sports referees, pastors and parents.
B. Why Respect Authority?
As Christians we respect and obey authority because it
ultimately extends from God Himself. We saw this last year in our
study of Romans 13:1-7 which says, "Let every person be
in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no
authority except from God, and those which exist are established
by God. 2 Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the
ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive
condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of
fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear
of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the
same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you
do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for
nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath
upon the one who practices evil. 5 Wherefore it is necessary to
be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for
conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for
[rulers] are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very
thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax [is
due;] custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom
1 Peter 2:13-15 adds, "Submit yourselves for the
Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the
one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the
punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15
For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence
the ignorance of foolish men."
Hebrews 13:17 states, "Obey your leaders, and submit
[to them]; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will
give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief,
for this would be unprofitable for you."
Our response to authority is to be one of obedience and honor.
1 Timothy 2:1,2 even tells us to pray for king and all who are
in authority in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life
in all godliness and dignity." Our only limitation in
obedience to authority is when their commands are in conflict
with God’s commands. When that happens, we must respond the
same way as the Apostles did in Acts 5:29 saying, "We
must obey God rather than men." They then willingly
suffered the unjust punishment of the ungodly men that had
authority over them.
Our primary reason for teaching our children to obey authority
is that it is right before God. The secondary reason is that
submission to authority is the way in which we all follow the
same rules and honor the preciousness of others. In a real sense
we can equate authority with fair play. Imagine what traffic
would be like if everyone did whatever they wanted. Some would
drive on the left and some on the right. Some would race and
others poke along. Intersections would be a nightmare.
Kids learn a lot about authority when they play games because
there are consequences when the rules are not followed. Who wants
to play with someone who plays unfairly? Parents, use game time
as a way to teach your children about authority and the
importance of following the rules. Children who cannot play
fairly lose the privilege of playing. If everyone plays unfairly,
the game is ended.
Authority is not our enemy, but our friend to protect
fair-play. Obedience to authority is the basis of freedom. Law
establishes order and authority enforces the law in order to
bring about order. Those who cannot control themselves internally
must be controlled externally. Those who disobey traffic laws are
given tickets. Too many tickets and you can lose your license –
the privilege of "playing" in traffic with the other
adults. Too serious of a violation and you go to jail. You are
isolated from the rest of society.
Christians are to obey the law because people are precious to
God and therefore to us as well. We don’t want to hurt
people, so we willing obey safety laws. We want to do our fair
share, so we pay our taxes. We want those who come behind us to
also enjoy what we have, so we don’t litter or vandalize. We
want to treat others fairly so we do not lie, cheat, steal or
commit fraud. We obey the laws, rules and regulations because we
want to treat others as precious.
Laws and the consequences for violating them are increased in
order to keep sinful people from doing evil. The fear of fines
and jail are the motivation of the godless, not Christians, to
obey the law. Christians obey because of their love of God and
virtue which reflect Him. It is because our society has turned
away from God and the internal obedience that so many new laws
and expenses have been generated. The new air travel regulations
are a pain, but they are designed to keep us safe from
terrorists. Insurance costs escalate because fraud has become
rampant. Military expenses have skyrocketed because we are trying
to deal with evil people who would like to destroys us.
Parents, how are you doing at teaching your children to
respect and obey authority? They not only learn it by having to
obey you, but by your example to those in authority over you. Do
you obey traffic laws, tax laws, signs in parks, etc.? Do you
grumble against authority? (Complaints should be expressed
privately to the one you have the complaint against). Don’t
let your example undermine the lessons you want to teach them.
III. Respect for Parents
One area of respect for authority that needs at least a brief
emphasis is respect for parents. I have discussed Ephesians 6:1 (Children,
obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right) in several
of my previous sermons, so I will not go over it again here
except to repeat that if you are not requiring your children to
obey you, then you are teaching them to sin. Teaching them to be
obedient to you helps them learn to be obedient to God and please
Him. Colossians 3:20 states, "children, be obedient to
your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the
In teaching your children to be obedient you will train them
through four general stages of growth. The age of each phase will
vary with each child and your diligence in teaching them. Some
parents are more diligent and some children mature more quickly
while other parents get a late start applying Biblical principles
and some children are just more stubborn and difficult to train.
The Discipline phase is first and it usually goes from birth
to about 5 years old. In this phase you are setting the
boundaries and seeking to get your child’s outward behavior
The second phase, using a sports term, is the Trainer phase.
This is usually from about 6 to 12 years old. In it you are
preparing the child to play the game of life by teaching him the
rules and training him in the skills for life. This phase is more
focused on heart training.
The third phase, again using a sports analogy, can be referred
to as the Coaching phase. This is usually from about 12 to 18
years old. In this phase the child has entered into the game of
life. You are helping them by calling the plays and giving them
practice sessions, but they are now in the game of life.
The last phase is Friendship. This will be from whenever the
child has matured into adulthood through the rest of your lives.
Your influence upon them is through advice instead of telling
them what they must do. As they get older they can even become
peers from whom you seek advice.
IV. Respect for Age
The next area is training our children to have respect for
age. We live in a time in which youth is given supreme value and
some even think children are better and wiser than adults. The
scriptures make it clear that the opposite is true and that we
are to show respect for age.
Leviticus 19:32 states, "You shall rise up before the
grayheaded, and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I
am the Lord." This verse links giving honor to the aged
with giving honor to God. Both deserve respect, and the act of
standing when an elderly person enters is a way of showing such
Proverbs 16:31 states, "A gray head is a crown of
glory; It is found in the way of righteousness." Job
12;12 adds, "Wisdom is with aged men, [With] long life is
understanding." Part of the reason for such respect is
the wisdom that the elderly have gained. 1 Peter 5:5 adds, "you
younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders. . .". Training
our children to honor those who are older is part of our training
them to honor God.
Leviticus 19:32 proscribes the particular action of standing
up when an elderly person comes in. That action was to
demonstrate honor and respect. While we have freedom in Christ in
regards to the particulars of how we demonstrate honor to those
who are older, we are to figure out how to do so within the
culture we are in. Here are some examples of ways such honor is
demonstrated in our own culture. These can be done to show
respect and courtesy not only to those who are older, but to
others as well. I realize that some of these may seem "old
fashioned," but that is only because much of our culture
does not show respect to others.
First, it is still proper to rise as a sign of respect when
others enter a room and we greet them. In formal settings it
should be done by those on a platform when a guest comes up on
Another way to show honor, respect or just be courteous, is to
give up your seat to others when conditions are crowded. In
general children and those in good health should give up their
seat for those who are older, or a woman, a mother with a baby or
small child, or anyone else that is in obvious need of the seat.
Obviously anyone with a medical condition or other valid reason
may need to keep their seat.
Another way of showing respect is learning how to interrupt
someone else properly. Most adults have learned to wait for a
pause in the conversation before joining in it, but we have all
experienced rude people who have not learned such basic courtesy.
Their world is themselves and much like the fool in Proverbs
18:2, their delight is in revealing their own mind instead of
gaining understanding. We want our children to be respectful and
learn to interrupt in a courteous manner. Exactly how you do that
is up to you. A method that has been helpful to us in teaching
our children this lesson has been to train them to place their
hand on our arm or side and quietly wait for us to pay attention
to them. This trains their attitude as well as action as they
also learn patience.
Another way to show respect is by responding to people when
they talk to you. It doesn’t have to be much, but it is rude
to ignore someone who is talking to you. Even more so when it is
a child ignoring an adult. Some parents seek to excuse this rude
behavior by saying the child is shy. Perhaps the child is shy,
but you can help them overcome their shyness by training them to
respectfully respond to a greeting by saying "hello"
back, or saying "thank you" when they are given a
compliment. We practiced this with our kids before we went out in
public so that they would be prepared. Sometimes they still did
not respond the way we would have liked, so we had to apologize
for them and then work on it some more at home. Let me add here
that this area, like any of these areas, is not something to make
into a major lesson while still in public. That becomes
embarrassing to everyone. Gentle correction is fine in public,
but severe reprimands should be reserved for when you are in
private. Simply apologize for whatever rudeness or misbehavior
your child may have had, tell the other adult you are working on
it, and then when you are in back a private setting with our
child, work on it.
Another way of showing respect for those that are older or
those in a position of authority is to address them with the
appropriate title – Mr., Mrs., Miss., Aunt, Uncle, Doctor,
Teacher, Pastor, Officer, Sir, Ma’am, etc. It has become
common in parts of our society for people to call everyone else
by their informal name, their first name. Frankly, it is rude for
an adult to call another adult by their first name unless they
are given permission either formally or by how they introduce
themselves. It is extremely rude for a child to address an adult
in that manner because time has not made them equals yet. Titles
keep the lines of responsibility and obligation from blurring
while giving honor. I realize that some adults will reject what I
am saying and point out that there is not a specific verse that
demands that children use titles for adults, but the issue here
is not the title itself but the honor and respect that children
are to show to adults and those in authority over them. Using
titles is a means of doing that.
There are many other ways of showing honor in addition to
these examples. Cultivate the heart of your child to be
respectful and then train them in the various ways in which they
can practically demonstrate that respect in honoring others,
especially older adults.
V. Respect for Siblings and Peers
It is not just the elderly that are to be shown respect.
Children also need to be respectful to other children – their
siblings and peers. A sibling is a brother or sister, and a peer
is someone of the same rank or dignity. This would be their
classmates, friends, and playmates
In many ways it is easier for children to have and show
respect for authority, parents and age because they look up to
them as people who are superior to themselves. Other kids are on
the same level, so there is less inhibition of their pride and
self-centeredness resulting in them openly exhibiting themselves
in rude and selfish behavior. There are many general scriptures
that would apply to peer relationships including all the
"one another verses." Love one another (Jn 13:34);
In honor preferring one another (Rom 12:10; Phil 2:3), Be like
minded with one another (Rom 12:16; 15:5); Edify one another (Rom
14:13); Care for one another (1 Cor 12: 25); Serve one another
(Gal 5:13); Bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:1); Forebear one
another in love (Eph 4:2; Col 3:13);
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted (Eph 4:32), etc.
All these things apply to siblings and even more so since
siblings are to have a greater commitment to one another and help
each other out in adversity (Prov. 17:17) and even provide for
needs (1 Tim. 5:8). In the Old Testament, a brother had the first
right and responsibility of redemption (Lev. 25:25, 47).
It is normal for conflict to occur among siblings and peers.
That is part of growing up and learning how to get along with
each other. Parents need to help their children by training them
to apply God’s word, and specifically in this area the
"one another"verses, in their lives. Usually, siblings
are the first peer relationships most children will know, and
what they learn in getting along with brothers and sisters will
be carried out in other relationships too. Because of all of
this, siblings should be each other’s best friends.
Parents, you must train them to be considerate and giving
instead of selfish. You must train them to rejoice when a sibling
or friend wins a game or gets a reward instead of being upset
that they did not win or get the reward. You must teach them how
to be caring and comforting when a sibling or friend is sick or
hurt. You must teach them to respond in a godly manner to the
many unfair things of life. Every child has different abilities
including your children. They will do somethings well and others
not so well. They must learn to be thankful to God for who they
are regardless of their abilities or inabilities. You must teach
them to be excited and happy when others do things better than
they can and compassionate toward those who cannot do things as
well as they can.
VI. Respect for Property
A fifth area in which we should train our children’s
character is in having respect for property. The key verse for
this is the eighth commandment that we are not to steal (Exodus
20:15) which is repeated in the New Testament in Ephesians 4:28
where it is also added that not only should we not steal, but we
should labor so that we might have something to share with those
who have need.
Again, the basic character trait is being more "other
centered" than self-centered. Stealing starts in a heart
that covets what others have. It then acts upon that desire if
the reward of getting it is greater than the risk of getting
caught and punished. Stealing is a selfish action that ignores
the preciousness of others and tramples on their rights. It also
does not trust God to provide what is needed.
Respecting property is more than just refraining from theft –
physically stealing objects, for it also encompasses the
inappropriate usage of what belongs to others and infringing on
the rights of other people and what belongs to them, including
their time, space and personal rights. In addition, the value of
an object is not found in the object itself, but the owner of the
object and the value they place upon it. For example, a toy may
only cost a couple of dollars at the store, but the child that
owns it may value it beyond any monetary amount because his
grandma, who recently died, is the one that gave it to him. There
is often an intangible value placed upon objects which money
Training children to respect property starts in the home by
teaching them when they are small what they can and cannot touch.
While you need to take care of any safety issues, don’t baby
proof your house by putting away every object you don’t want
them to touch, house proof your children by training them to have
self-control and not touch. That becomes the foundation for them
to learn to not take (stealing) what is not theirs. This includes
toys from other kids when there is group play, which brings up
Be as much or more concerned about the child who keeps trying
to take a toy from another child than that a child does not want
to "share" it at the moment. It is amazing how much
children, and even adults, are willing to share what they have
until someone tries to force them to "share." That is
why we resent taxes and government waste in social spending, yet
will freely give to someone we meet that has a need. The first
forcibly takes what belongs to us to give to others, and the
latter appeals to us to give freely.
Respecting property also includes playing fairly and taking
your turn in the proper order. We all know how irritating it is
to have people cut in line in front of you. We inherently know
this is wrong and unfair. Why? Because it is stealing from you
your proper turn and therefore your time.
There is more that could be said here including teaching your
children to respect property by learning its value through labor,
but time is short and we have one more area to cover.
VII. Respect for Nature
There are three reasons to respect nature.
First, because God created it as explained in Genesis 1.
Christians should understand that nature has inherent value, not
because it exists, but because the source of its existence is
God. Because we value Him, we value what He has made. We worship
the God who created nature and not nature itself which the
pantheist does because he thinks God is in nature. That is
idolatry and does not keep God’s priorities.
Second, in Genesis 1:28 God gave man dominion over the earth.
This made man a steward of nature and responsible to God for His
care of it. Nature does not belong to man to exploit however he
would wish, but it is under his care to use with wisdom in
fulfilling God’s will. Some have tried to blame Christianity
for the ecological disasters of the last two centuries, but the
blame lies on evil men who rejected Biblical theology for
philosophies that allowed them to exploit and destroy without
regard for God who created it or the rest of mankind including
the generations that would follow. We are to use the natural
resources God has given us to meet the needs we have for life,
for that is part of the Genesis 1:28 mandate, but we are not to
exploit and destroy indiscriminately. For example, there is
nothing inherently wrong with hunting, but it is wrong to hunt
just for the pleasure of killing or to kill what belongs to
others. Extinctions occurs for a variety of reasons, but man
should seek to preserve life forms as much as is reasonably
possible. Mining is a good and necessary industry, but the
methods used should seek to minimize environmental impact as much
as is reasonably possible.
Third, other people are precious and should be allowed to also
enjoy what we have enjoyed. Man’s first responsibility is to
God, but then it extends from Him to the rest of mankind.
Aesthetic appreciation for natural beauty is part of this too.
It is for all these reasons that we teach our children to
respect nature. We teach them to be kind to animals, to refrain
from littering or polluting, to not pick the flowers in the park,
strip the leaves off plants or deface the trees. We teach them
how to enjoy outdoor sports and activities and properly use
nature without abusing it.
Our goal is to raise children who will become godly adults.
Teaching them to show proper respect in each of these areas:
Authority, Parents, Age, Siblings/Peers, Property and nature is
simply part of that. What are they learning from you by word and
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your
children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you
hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents
at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the
following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon
and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the word
"respect" is said. Talk with your parents about how you
are doing at showing respect.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is the Biblical role of each member of the family?
Explain. What is character? How is it developed? What is
authority? Why should you obey authority? What exception is
there? What happens to those who do not willingly respect
authority? How do you show Respect for Parents? What are the four
general stages of parenting? What is Respect for Age? Why should
age be respected? What are some of the ways in which we can show
respect in our culture? Why do siblings so commonly fight? What
Biblical principles need to be applied to siblings and peers? How
do siblings differ from peers? Who do you get along with your
siblings? If not well, how can you improve your relationship with
them? What Biblical command shows respect for property? What is
included in "property" besides physical objects? How
can you train children to respect property? Explain. Why should
you respect nature? How do you show that respect?
Sermon Notes – December 7, 2003
Holy & Free, Part 13 – Teaching Children
Respect for Authority
Respect for Parents
Respect for Age
Respect for Siblings / Peers
Respect for Property
Respect for Nature