Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Little Children and Large Millstones

Today I want to revisit an issue I have talked about in the past and that is the behavior we model for children.  I have addressed the issue generally and in regard to parents, but today I want to address specifically the issue of whether we are examples to righteousness or are we ones to drag children into sin and bitterness.  Something I saw this weekend really offended me to the point where I think it is an issue that needs to be addressed.  This weekend I actually saw to adult Christian men coax a child into using profanity and laughing all the while.  I am not meaning to pick on them specifically because this is something done by so many and when it happens we think it is funny or cute.  The Bible says differently.
But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.  Matthew 18:6 NKJV
I think that it is abundantly clear that God does not take it lightly when we manipulate children into sin.  We laugh and joke, but we fail to realize that we have kindled the anger of God.  It is one thing to set a bad example to children, it is an entirely different thing when we cause them to sin.  

Perhaps you think this verse is not applicable to you.  Perhaps you have heard this verse taught in regards to child abuse and forgot about it because you are not a child abuser.  If you cause a child to sin, though, this warning is just as much for you as it is for the worst child abuser.  If anything, it may be more applicable because a child abuser is the sinner, not the child.  In our case, we are manipulating a child into sinning.  Note the warning is for "whoever."  There is no one exempt from this warning.  Not only that, it is for whoever causes a child who believes in Jesus to "sin."  It does not specify what kind of sin, but uses just a general word for sin.  What we see is that this warning is for anyone who causes any Christian child to commit any kind of sin.  So let us look at a few of the common things we do that are causing our children to sin. 

First there are those times when we teach them to disrespect their elders.  This is often done in fun where we teach them to talk to adults as though they are on their level.  A child who does not respect his or her elders is a rebellious child and it is only a matter of time until that disrespect is expressed even against his or her own parents. Unless you are the child's parent, you should never question the authority of another adult over the child.  If there is a disagreement, it should be discussed between the adults  The child should never be given permission to rebel against, disrespect, ignore, or disobey an adult who should legitimately have that authority over the child.  Children need to be taught to respect their aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, pastors, and other people who have legitimate authority over them.  And they should never be taught to disrespect any adult.  Sadly, every time we (even in "good fun") give a child permission to reject the authority of or disrespect in any way one of their elders, you are telling that child to sin. 

Another thing we do is that we allow them to watch television shows that lead them into sinfulness.  Do you let them watch movies or television that portrays sin in a positive light?  Do you let them watch shows with profanity?  Even if you teach the children under your care that those things are wrong, you are still planting those sinful seeds in their mind.  Once those ideas are planted, all the teaching in the world will not wash them away.  They are set in their minds forever and can very well become a stumbling block for them.  You can not just let them watch glorified sin and try to explain it away.  This is not just limited to television or movies but also to music, video games, books, or anything else where sin is glorified.  Doing so only creates a growing stumbling block in their impressionable minds. 

We also abuse our children.  I am not talking about the kind of abuse we commonly associate as abuse.  Those are merely extreme examples of the abuse that has become all too acceptable.  This is basically when we see children as entertainment and toy with them as some kind of fun.  What this does is works to embitter them.  It may not directly lead to sin, but it certainly sets them on that path.  We tease them, we make fun of them, we make promises to toy with their emotions only to laugh when we tell them that we were just kidding all along, and we abuse their feelings toward us to make them into personal servants.  Oftentimes in this case, the child may even laugh along with us, but that laughter is merely a mask for the hurt we cause inside.  It should never be fun to hurt a child's feelings nor should it ever be acceptable.  You are causing bitterness inside them while teaching them that picking on others is acceptable.  What it is saying about yourself is that you enjoy picking on the weaker and manipulating the feelings of others for your own entertainment. 

And, finally, there are those times we manipulate them into sin.  I am not just talking about the extreme examples of certain kinds of abuse or even those cases where parents use children to commit crimes.  I am talking about examples like the one I began this post with.  We get them to say a bad word and think it is a funny thing.  We get them to hit someone and giggle.  We get them to sin as part of our entertainment.  What we do not realize is that the positive reaction we give to their bad acts justify those acts in their minds.  We are teaching them that whatever wrong thing we got them to do is actually right.  Later when they repeat that behavior and get in trouble, they are quite confused as to why.  Innocent children acting out sin or manipulating a child to do something even they know they should not do is not entertaining, it is disgusting. 

What this all boils down to is our perception of children.  Do we see them merely as entertainment, given to us for our enjoyment?  That is a terrible perception of children and, taken to its extreme end, that idea has led to some horrible things being done to children.  What we need to do is see children for what they are.  Children are a gift from God, entrusted to us to bring them up in the ways of the Lord.  While that responsibility ultimately falls on the parents, we all play a part in that child's growth.  Children will naturally look up to adults and it is for us to give them a good example to look up to.  We need to model for them righteous living for Jesus Christ.  More than that, we need to teach them to live that way as well.  We should never be involved in getting them to sin on any level as that only serve to undermine the example set forth by their parents and others. Children are very impressionable and the examples we model for them while they are young can leave a lasting impression on those impressionable minds.  That is why Jesus is so serious in His warning.  He knows the effects that our behavior can have on the rest of their lives.  Those children will be the leaders of tomorrow, not just in the world but in the church as well.  We would be wise to heed the warning given by Jesus, not just for our own sakes, but for the sake of the church of tomorrow. 
Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 18:10 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. We are praying every day to raise Audrey in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I think we're doing a great job so far because of all of the questions she is asking as at age three about asking Jesus into her heart, her kind and gentle ways of hugging every kid and teacher when she leaves pre-k, and her ability to keep us on our toes if we say the word, "stupid." I love that!! Parenthood is the ultimate responsibility. I wish more people thought of it that way.