Training Children for Life in the New World
“Let the young children come to me and do not try to stop them.”—Luke 18:16, NW.
1. What problem faces parents today, and what are the prospects for successfully solving it?
A PROBLEM of great concern to all devoted parents in this pre-Armageddon period is that of properly rearing children in divine favor. In proportion as the state encroaches upon the field of parental rights the problem becomes more difficult. By assuming increased control over the field of training and educating the young the present decadent old world society seeks to reduce to its inferior unchristian level the high standards of Biblical training offered by God-fearing parents. Those who have a vision of the incoming new world society take a serious view of this matter. They note that true worshipers of Jehovah in previous ages were confronted with the same problem and solved it by applying the well-tried, sound principles of training and education rooted in the Scriptures. That these early Godfearing parents were successful is attested to by the Bible record of many faithful servants of God who from early youth were trained in godly devotion. These met Jehovah’s favor and received an assured hope of life in the new world.—Heb. 11:8-40, NW.
2. What training brings divine favor, and what has this meant for Jehovah’s people?
2 The training that brings divine favor is not American, British, French, Germanic, nor according to any other culture of the old world society. Rather the training that counts is theocratic, Christian. This means that all prospective members of the new world society old and young must be reeducated to learn new ways embracing higher standards. That is exactly what has been happening during the past many years to the world-wide community of Jehovah’s witnesses who have been undergoing a matchless course of divine training. Their teachers have been Jehovah God and his Son Christ Jesus. (Isa. 30:20) From their uniform textbook, the Bible, they have learned the pure language of Bible truth. (Zeph. 3:9) So while scattered over the globe, Jehovah’s faithful people of many national origins have been forged into a unified social group. They stand as a distinct new world people with a brilliant vision of an enduring theocratic civilization for the future. Even now they persist in training themselves and their children according to the high Christian standards set out in the Bible for prospective new world subjects.
3. What interest did Jesus manifest in children?
3 Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry of three and a half years was the perfect model that Christians imitate today in their training to become subjects of the new world. While Jesus was an extremely busy man preaching and teaching, he was not so busy that he ignored the children of his time. Jesus had affection for the young of others and put his loving arms about them. (Mark 9:36, NW) He warmly put his hands upon young children and offered prayer for them. (Matt. 19:13, NW) To his disciples he commended the spirit of childlike meekness. (Matt. 18:3, NW) He sanctioned the giving of good gifts to children and used them as examples in his lectures. (Matt. 7:11; Luke 9:48, NW) Children attended his meetings along with their parents and he performed three of his great miracles involving them. (Matt. 14:21, NW) One was the resurrection of the little girl, Jairus’ daughter, and another was the healing of a demon-possessed boy whom Jesus lovingly delivered back into the anxious hands of his astonished father. A third case was where Jesus cured by remote control the young child of an attendant of the king. Jesus even affectionately called his own disciples “little children”.—Luke 8:42, 54; 9:42 and John 4:49-51; 13:33, NW.
4. What attention did the disciples of Jesus pay to children?
4 The disciples imitated their Master by also showing great love and consideration for children. Peter used properly trained children as an example of obedience. He showed how the precious promises of the new world come also to the children of Christians. (1 Pet. 1:14; Acts 2:39, NW) Paul counsels to cherish children and that parents should love their children dearly. (1 Thess. 2:7; Titus 2:4, NW) The apostle John in writing one of his letters included children in his address. (2 John 1, NW) Both Paul and John refer to Christians as a whole as “little children”. (Gal. 4:19; 1 John 2:1, NW) So we see that children and their innocent ways came in for considerable attention in the days of Jesus and the early congregation. Who are we, then, as Godfearing people in this twentieth century not to give careful heed to the training of children and their association in our congregational midst?
5. What of interest does Luke 18:16 have for us today?
5 Contrary to the Caesars of this world who exclude Biblical training from their schools, Jesus definitely said, “Let the young children come to me and do not try to stop them.” (Luke 18:16, NW) Here Jesus is unequivocally advocating a Christian training for the young of God-fearing parents. Christian parents will heed this injunction ‘to let young children come to Jesus’. They will not bring upon themselves condemnation as does the world which tries to stop children from following after Christ, the King of the new world. We need only to mention the shameful practice in many countries where Caesar’s educational authorities expel well-behaved children of Jehovah’s witnesses because they cannot conscientiously salute national flags, this being rank idolatry and contrary to Biblical commands. (Ex. 20:4, 5) In spite of misunderstandings and opposition Jehovah’s faithful people and their children will continue to obey God’s law first. (Acts 5:29) As part of their true worship to Jehovah God Jehovah’s witnesses will render this duty toward God by paying back what belongs to him and resist the Caesars who have no authority to interfere with Christian rights of parental education in Biblical ways and commands. (Luke 20:25, NW) What, then, are the Christian ways and principles for the training of the young which run counter to educational methods of this present evil system of things?
6. Describe Jesus’ early training as a child and youth
6 When a child Jesus himself received a proper sound Biblical education. His Judean mother Mary and his foster father Joseph of the house of David gave him the customary Jewish upbringing of the day. As a youth in his early teens Jesus continued to render honor and obedience to his earthly parents in complete godly subjection. In these formative years he grew wholesomely in wisdom and physical stature. At the same time he studied the Hebrew Scriptures and apprenticed as a carpenter. (Luke 2:47; Matt. 13:55) Of this early period of his human existence it is written: “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and he continued subject to them. . . . And Jesus went on progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:51, 52, NW) Nowhere in Jesus’ later life does he speak disapprovingly of the principles and customs used for his rearing in divine favor.
7. In the interview the young ruler had with Jesus what is revealed as to training of children?
7 On one occasion in his ministry a certain young ruler questioned Jesus. “‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?’ Jesus said to him: . . . ‘You know the commandments: “Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.”’ The man said to him: ‘Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth on.’ Jesus looked upon him and felt love for him and said to him: ‘One thing is missing about you: Go, sell what things you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.’” (Mark 10:17-21, NW) From this we see that, while Jesus advocated the new and more important requirement for the youth to become a ministerial disciple of Christ, he did not set aside the basic righteous principles found behind the law covenant of Jehovah God with the nation of Israel. For example, Jesus mentioned in the above list the continued necessity of the obedient subjection of children to their parents. Years later Paul also employed this same principle of the fifth commandment, enjoining it upon the Gentile Christians of Ephesus. (Eph. 6:1-3) So while the sanctioned laws of Moses came to an end as laws for Israel when Jesus was impaled on the torture stake A.D. 33, yet the eternal principles underlying the law still stood as applicable. (Col. 2:14, NW) So let us examine some of the early basic principles and customs which governed the typical theocratic society of the days of ancient Israel.
TYPICAL CHILD TRAINING
8. How important was the training of children considered in the typical theocracy of Israel?
8 In the social structure of theocratic society the family is the basic unit. Just as Jehovah God teaches, trains and disciplines with the rod of theocratic authority his entire universal family of sons and daughters, so the natural parents have the primary responsibility for the teaching and training of their young ones. When God organized the theocratic nation of Israel in 1513 B.C. this parental responsibility was incorporated as part of the law of the land. It enjoined upon the parents to train their children in early childhood as to their duty toward God the great Life-giver. This was important for that nation, for it guaranteed that the nation’s future citizens would be lovers of God and the nation would thus continue to walk in his wholesome way. The Mosaic law says: “Hear, O Israel: . . . 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. 6:4-7) How did the Israelites apply the above divine injunction, and what was their understanding of what training of the young comprised?
9. What did the Israelites understand by the term training? Illustrate.
9 By training the Israelites understood more to be involved than just the giving of knowledge to their children. Training meant to them to discipline the child according to strict theocratic authority. It meant to subject the child to fixed paths of righteousness. The intellectual instruction must be put into practice and an indelible impression made upon the tender mind of the young as to its value. It would be like planting and raising a young tree or vine. First the tree or vine must be set in good soil that is well watered. (Jer. 17:7, 8) The child must have a good heart condition likened to “good soil” and then be subjected to a constant supply of the waters of Bible knowledge. (Luke 8:8, NW) But this was not all: the tree or vine must then be directed as to its path of growth, either vertically as in the case of a tree or horizontally as in the case of some vines. Likewise in the case of a child the father and mother must carefully direct its course of growth in a set channel. “My son, do your father’s bidding, and reject not your mother’s directions; fix them ever in your mind, tie them fast round your neck; for their bidding will throw light upon your life, their directions will enlighten you, and to be trained thus is the way to live.”—Prov. 6:20-23, Mo.
10. What was meant by the “rod”, and why was its use necessary?
10 This constant direction over the young impressionable mind was seen to be necessary in view of the truth stated in the Proverbs: “Folly clings to the mind of a child; the rod will drive it away.” (Prov. 22:15, Mo) Unless properly trained by the parent, the heart or mind of a child was bound to go in the way of worldly foolishness or deadly folly. “Leave not your child unpunished; if you whip him, you save him from death. You must whip him with the rod, and so preserve his life.” (Prov. 23:13, 14, Mo) The use of the rod here was not necessarily that of a literal stick but that of the assertion of the rod of parental authority. Mere words without the support of parental authority were found to accomplish little. “Mere words will never train a slave; he understands, but he will not obey. A spoiled boy sinks to be a slave, and comes to grief at last.” (Prov. 29:19, 21, Mo) Manoah, the father of Samson, actually prayed to Jehovah for guidance in the training of his boy: “O Lord, . . . pray let the man of God whom thou didst send come back to tell us how we are to train the boy that is to be born.” (Judg. 13:8, Mo) So training sons and daughters was no light matter. Not all children profited by the wise training of their parents, and thus later some fell away from true worship.
11. Why is it that not all children profit by the same wholesome training? Give examples.
11 Two sons might receive the identical training and theocratic education. Yet if the heart condition of the one was evil, no matter how excellent and strict the training, the latter end of such a one might not be firmly established in the ways of righteousness. “Even a child is known by what he does, as he behaves well or ill.” (Prov. 20:11, Mo) Take the examples of Ishmael and Isaac. Surely Abraham gave both boys the best of theocratic home training. Yet in later life Ishmael lost faith and departed wholly from true worship, but Isaac held fast to the precious promises of the new world. Yet again, the examples of the twins Esau and Jacob. The parents Isaac and Rebecca certainly must have given the twins the same careful and diligent training in harmony with God’s revealed will of that time. Esau turned out bad, but Jacob came to be a God-fearing servant. Parents then as now were not responsible for the evil hearts found in some of their offspring. Yet as long as the parents had jurisdiction over such ones an effort was made to keep stirring the “soil” of their hearts with Bible knowledge, as it might be that the weak hearts of these evilly inclined ones might be transformed. Of the children that had good hearts and were wise in their theocratic growth it is written: “Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king, who knoweth not how to receive admonition any more.” (Eccl. 4:13, AS) For cases like that of faithful Isaac and Jacob, who had good hearts, the Scriptural proverb is true, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”—Prov. 22:6, AT.
12, 13. (a) From where was juvenile training administered in pre-Christian times? (b) Describe the training that was given in the Jewish homes.
12 It appears there were four distinct places where training of the young was administered in pre-Christian times. First, at home; second, on the work; third, congregationally; and fourth, nationally in Jerusalem. We will consider each in turn.
13 At home the faithful Jewish father took the lead in educating his children. The father spent some part of each day in giving specific instruction. (Deut. 6:7) The chief device used was that of oral instruction together with repetition and drill. Important Bible passages of the Law, the Psalms and the Proverbs were memorized by both the boys and the girls. From an early age it seems the youngsters were taught to read and write. Correct manners and behavior before older ones were also inculcated. At all times the father maintained order in the household and used the rod of authority to discipline his children and to keep respect. The children were taught the art of singing and some few learned to play musical instruments. The songs learned by heart were those of the psalms which had been beautifully set to music. Singing these psalms enabled the children to learn to emotionally express themselves fully from their hearts in their love and devotion to Jehovah. In this way the many Bible truths contained in the psalms were made their own. This is illustrated in the case of the chorus of boys who repeated from memory part of Psalm 118 when they greeted Jesus on his entry into the temple on Nisan 10 A.D. 33. (Matt. 21:15, NW) Apparently the children found it easier to recognize Jesus as the Messiah in fulfillment of Psalm 118 than the religious leaders of the Jews.
14. What opportunities were offered for education at the evening mealtime?
14 The evening meal was the great occasion of the day and generally one of much delight for the youngsters. Very often father entertained guests. (Luke 14:12) Thrilling experiences of the day or news of happenings far and near were recounted by all the older ones present. Then, too, always wise sayings and Biblical discussions fell upon the ears of the young ones. (Deut. 6:7) The children were there only to listen and to learn. At times perhaps an older son would be asked to read a certain portion of the Scriptures or recite some Biblical passage under discussion by the mature ones. Once each year on Nisan 14 at the Passover meal a custom existed for one of the boys to ask his father the following question, “Why is this night distinguished from all other nights?” Thereupon his father had the duty to tell the entire passover story to his family. (Ex. 12:3-27) The theocratic home in every respect continued to be the basic center of training. Wise and loving mothers and fathers became the bosom companions of their sons and daughters. They were drawn close together in their daily associations and interests. Lasting sound impressions were constantly being made upon the very receptive minds of their young.
ON THE WORK
15. How were the boys trained for their life’s work?
15 The children learned mostly not only by what they heard at home but also by actual demonstrations as to what their parents did in their daily work. (Deut. 6:7) So the second place of instruction was to be with their parents while on the work. During the day the boys would accompany their father into the fields or into the workshops to watch their father perform his chosen occupation. While the boys were still youngsters they played around near their father and enjoyed themselves. But as the boys grew older they became apprentices to their father, who gave them small jobs to do and personally supervised their doing the work well. In time the sons became as skillful as their fathers in what ever activity he was engaged in. This reminds us how David learned the art of shepherding and practiced the same when he was only ten years old. (1 Sam. 16:11) Then also the youth Jesus (or Joshua) must have learned the trade of carpentering from his foster father Joseph, whom he had watched expertly perform all the techniques of his craft. (Mark 6:3) In this way the little Davids and the little Joshuas received their practical training for their life’s work.
16. How were the girls trained for their life’s work?
16 The little Sarahs and the little Rachels also learned by being with their mother on the work. While very young the girls played about the house in sight of their mother. When they became older they were soon put to helping their mother with various little jobs. In this way they learned the arts of domestic science in all its forms, such as cooking, housekeeping, weaving and sewing. They got to be as expert as their mother in these necessary duties. The girls found pleasure and delight in assisting their mothers, too. It must be mentioned further that Israel’s daughters were accomplished at singing, playing of musical instruments and in the dance.—Judg. 11:34.
17. Describe the contribution made by the local congregation in educating the young.
17 The local congregation or community played its part in educating the young. In later Biblical times each community maintained a synagogue where the congregation of older ones and younger ones would gather each Sabbath to hear the Levites and other mature ones read and expound the Scriptures. (Acts 15:21, NW) These weekly meetings proved to be a great source of Biblical education for the Jewish lads and maidens. In the course of the years the entire Hebrew Scriptures would be read and discussed by these congregational leaders. The young men and women as well as children sat quietly giving full ear to every word that was read or spoken. Then occasionally traveling prophets or other national spokesmen visited the local community to address the synagogue assembly or to speak in the market place. (Matt. 4:23) Their messages provoked much thought, and for days following discussions would be heard at the home evening meals by the parents and their guests. Thus communal education made its contribution to mold the hearts and minds of the young in the ways of the Lord.
18. What provision was made nationally for education?
18 Jehovah the master educator arranged for yet a fourth place for the theocratic training of Israel’s youth. That was the periodic assemblage of all the peoples, rich or poor, at the center of worship designated by Jehovah, namely, the temple at Jerusalem. (Deut. 12:5) Three times a year parents took their young ones for an exciting trip to the great city of Jerusalem to attend the theocratic festivals there. As the happy parties journeyed toward Jerusalem geography lessons were taught at firsthand range by the parents to their children. We know that Joseph and Mary took the child Jesus with them annually to Jerusalem. No doubt in this way Jesus came to know personally all the historic spots in the Promised Land. Jesus at 12 years of age also took the occasion to question the learned leaders at the temple to satisfy his keen inquiring mind as to the prophecies.—Luke 2:41-47.
19, 20. How did the children benefit by their visiting Jerusalem?
19 Not only did travel broaden the minds of the young as they saw Palestine in all its paradisaic beauty, but at Jerusalem they learned to become part of a vast family of Jehovah comprising hundreds of thousands. They met relatives and made new friends from every part of the country. But it was at the temple services themselves that further education was administered. The children having memorized important Bible passages and having been trained in the art of singing they could follow closely all the significant ceremonies performed by the priests. They understood the stirring singing responses sung by the thousands of trained Levite singers. (1 Chron. 25:7, Mo) All this impressed upon the children the majesty of Jehovah their God, whom they served. They were also strongly reminded that as sinners they required an atonement. In this way they realized the seriousness of their spiritual relationship as Jehovah’s called-out people.
20 Definitely, attending the vast assemblies of Jehovah’s people annually climaxed the training program for the Jewish young folks. We can be sure that life for the young people in theocratic Israel was colorful, rich, wholesome and stimulating. No other peoples of ancient times took such an interest in their children as did the Godfearing Israelites. What other ancient peoples took their young on expensive long trips three times a year to worship their God in one central place? None.
IS IT POSSIBLE TODAY?
21. What conditions existing today make the giving of theocratic training difficult?
21 The question now poses itself, Is it possible today to rear children in divine favor, and to what extent can the methods used by the Israelites be employed today? Modern theocratic training of the young presents many problems, but none of them are insurmountable. Today, as long ago foretold, political regimes both totalitarian and so-called “democratic” have arisen, which deprive children of instruction by parents who fear Jehovah God. (Rev. 13:16, 17) But the careful theocratic parents will resist the encroachment of the state in this field of family rights. They will obey the superior authority of God by continuing to teach their offspring that obeying God’s laws and learning of God are matters of highest importance. (Mark 12:17) Furthermore, modern theocratic parents have to combat a rising tide of old world propaganda calculated to capture and twist the minds of the young. The radio, the television, the cinema, the comics and the press in general are all full of untheocratic, unwholesome instruction. The prudent parent must minimize these sources of demon-inspired utterances and shield the minds of their young from their evil influence. (1 John 4:1, NW) If and when the radio, television and the cinema are resorted to the wise parent should be selective.
22. What is “family responsibility”? How important is it today to develop “family merit”?
22 At this point we must consider the matter of “family responsibility” as legally presented in the Scriptures. Under the Biblical principle of “family responsibility” where the father or the mother or both become iniquitous, adverse judgment comes upon the entire household of minor children. Take the example of Achan, who committed a fatal trespass against Jehovah. By so doing Achan brought condemnation upon his whole family of children and they were all stoned to death with him. (Josh. 7:1, 24, 25) Paul speaks of this principle in the reverse, which might be referred to as “family merit”. If the father or the mother of a family is a believing and practicing Christian he or she brings merit to the entire family of children. Paul writes: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in relation to his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in relation to the brother; otherwise, your children would really be unclean, but now they are holy.” (1 Cor. 7:14, NW) Therefore this proves that minor children of Christian parents are indirectly sanctified or counted worthy of protection in God’s sight until they reach the age of individual responsibility. Hence in this day of final judgment since 1918 parents are responsible for the final destiny of their minor children. When Armageddon strikes all minor children who are not under such “family merit” arrangement will meet annihilation with no hope of a resurrection. This is strongly indicated at Ezekiel 9:6 (AS), where it is written: “Slay utterly the old man, the young man and the virgin, and little children and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark.”
23. Give some points of counsel found in the Christian Greek Scriptures as to rearing children.
23 Theocratic parents are familiar with what the Christian Greek Scriptures say as to rearing children. Paul shows that a wise father should ‘preside over his own household in a right manner, having children in subjection with all seriousness’. (1 Tim. 3:4, NW) Further Paul writes: “Fathers, do not be irritating your children.” (Eph. 6:4, NW) That is, do not unmercifully tease a child or discourage it in any way. On this point the Bible also says: “Fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.” (Col. 3:21, NW) Additionally it is written: ‘Go on bringing your children up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah.’ (Eph. 6:4, NW) To properly discipline a child the “rod of correction” must be used. (Prov. 22:15, AT) If parents unwisely fail to correct the foolishly inclining heart or mind of children while young and manageable, then in the certain outworkings of God’s purposes a correction will catch up with those children. The “rod of correction” that is used to turn the children from the way of death in disobedience to God does not need to be a literal stick. The rod symbolizes parental authority and power, and applying the “rod of correction” means for parents to exercise that power and authority entrusted to them in whatever way may seem Scripturally wise to correct the child. The parent’s grip on the rod of power, authority and responsibility should never be relaxed. Respect for it should be impressed upon the young mind and heart. This leads to eternal life for them in the new world.
Remember also thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.—Eccl. 12:1, AS.