This is the last part in the series of my highlights from The Ten Commandments by A.W. Pink. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here if you missed it. The title of this post comes from the closing chapter. After going through each of the ten commandments, Pink closes the book with some words for parents on application in the family and at home. Being a father, I found many of his statements helpful and worth taking some time to ponder. Again, if you use an eReader, there are some free resources available online. To read it for free on your iPhone/iPad click here; on your Kindle click here.
In the vast majority of cases the children are not nearly so much to be blamed as the parents. Failure to honor father and mother, wherever it is found, is in large measure due to parental departure from the Scriptural pattern.
The character of parents is to a very large degree reproduced in their offspring.
Statements such as these should not be understood to justify a child’s bad behavior or to eliminate their responsibility as a person to make good decisions and be respectful. Rather, they put the focus on the powerful influence parenting has on children’s lives. Many factors play a role in the development of a child, but we cannot escape the reality that the majority of the way a child comes to understand their own life and the world around them is through the influence of parents. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) And if this is true, could it not also be said that if your child is trained up in a way that they should not go, then when they are old they will not depart from it?
Instruct Your Children
First, it is your duty to instruct your children. “And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deut. 6:6, 7)
“They are too young to understand such things” is the Devil’s argument to deter you from discharging your duty.
When I hear these words I am encouraged to be intentional in teaching my kids. Regarding our children especially, we are to be talkers, “thou…shalt talk of them [God’s words]”. I don’t want to be a source of silence for my kids. Let’s not let our children hear about all the most important things in life from other sources. More than that, I want to bring things up to my children before they bring it to me. God’s word applies to our every day lives, and we should be using it as our guide to talk with our kids about God, sin, life and death, morality, sex, purpose and meaning, joy, suffering, and everything else down to the smallest moments in life.
In addition to understanding the task of teaching, and being an active voice, the word has something to say of the frequency. There is the time when you lie down and when you get up, so morning and evening are clearly intended. Now, I don’t know what it meant to walk by the way in the times of ancient Israel, but between that and “when thou sittest in thine house,” it seems to suggest the whole period of your regular daily routine. So this talking, imparting knowledge and wisdom to children, is to be happening all the time.
Be a Good Example
Second, good instruction is to be accompanied by good example. That teaching which issues only from the lips is not at all likely to sink any deeper than the ears. Children are particularly quick to detect inconsistencies and to despise hypocrisy.
The parent is not only to instruct his children in the ways of holiness, but is himself to walk before them in those ways, and show by his practice and demeanor what a pleasant and profitable thing it is to be regulated by the Divine Law.
“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Cor. 3:3) Paul said this to the Corinthians who were familiar with the practice of circulating the Apostle’s letters among the churches. Just as the Apostles had written letters to teach the truth, Paul says that the Corinthians became a living, breathing letter that could be known and read by people. As this should be true of believers to the world, so it should also be of parents to their children. Let’s teach the Bible and read the Bible together, emphatically yes. But don’t stop there. I want to be for my son (and any of our kids after him) a walking letter from Christ that he can read. In a sense I want to inhabit the text, become the text, and display the text of Scripture for my children.
Discipline Your Children
Rules should be simple, clear, reasonable, and inflexible like the Ten Commandments—a few great moral rules, instead of a multitude of petty restrictions. One way of needlessly provoking children to wrath is to hamper them with a thousand trifling restrictions and minute regulations that are capricious and are due to a fastidious temper in the parent.
Pay close attention to the unconscious influences of a child’s surroundings. Study how to make your home attractive, not by introducing carnal and worldly things, but by noble ideals, by the inculcating of a spirit of unselfishness, by genial and happy fellowship.
The thought of just trying to have a few truly important rules as opposed to a lengthy list of insignificant ones was probably the greatest light bulb moment of the whole chapter for me personally. I read that one to Amber as soon as I came across it, because we both knew I needed that one. Because of my meticulous personality in the order and arrangement of our home, it’s something I can quickly become frustrated about. But what we’ve tried to do now though is simply lay down a few ground rules that are really important to an orderly home and within that provide a framework where Jonah (our son) is able to make many of his own choices.
In advising us to pay attention to the influences of a child’s surroundings, Pink had also advised to be mindful of more readily noticeable influences like friends and entertainment. This is done not in a critical or cynical way, but with sober understanding that the people our kids spend time with will have an affect on their lives. Remember the three C’s, company contributes to character. I just made that up and I’m pretty proud of myself 🙂
Pray for Your Children
Fourth, the last and most important duty, respecting both the temporal and spiritual good of your children, is fervent supplication to God for them; for without this all the rest will be ineffectual. Means are unavailing unless the Lord blesses them.
A prayerful atmosphere should pervade the home and be breathed by all who share it.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) Lest we slip into merely practical advice and will power, let us remember this great truth. Let us ever be mindful of the Lord who is at work in our lives and the lives of our children. Let us be mindful that as we were being formed in the womb, even before birth, all our days were already written in His book (Psalm 139:16). And the same is true for all of our children. May we continually be boldly before the throne of grace on behalf of our children, knowing that He alone is able to establish and keep them in the love of God.
It is not too much to say that in their [parents] hands are deposited the hope and blessing, or else the curse and plague, of the next generation. Their families are the nurseries of both Church and State, and according to the cultivating of them now will be their fruitfulness hereafter. Oh, how prayerfully and carefully should you who are parents discharge your trust. Most assuredly God will require an account of the children from your hands, for they are His, and only lent to your care and keeping.