(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click here)
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, 5h Edition)
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 we do.
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 character.
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 honor.”
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 Lord.”
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 under control.
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 respect.
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 the platform.
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 cannot replace.
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 another point.
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 example?
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 Character
Respect for Authority
Respect for Parents
Respect for Age
Respect for Siblings / Peers
Respect for Property
Respect for Nature
For comments, please e-mail gbcwfny@Juno.com – Mark the subject line “Web Comment” or “Web ?” so that we know your e-mail is not SPAM