Are Your Children Christ’s Disciples?
“These words that I am commanding you . . . you must inculcate them in your son.”—Deut. 6:6, 7.
1, 2. (a) How do some parents feel about raising children? (b) What reasons are there for being interested in better child training?
WHY even take time pondering that question in our title? Why not simply provide what Caesar’s law demands—food, clothing, shelter, a secular education—and then allow the child to decide religious or ethical matters for himself when he is old enough? You would not be alone in following this course.
2 But there are good reasons for asking the question. Has the increase in violence robbed you of a sense of security? Has the growth of dishonesty saddened you? Has the mushrooming of drug abuse and immorality been at least somewhat disturbing? Have the resultant tax increases affected you? If so, then in view of the involvement of youths in these problems, you have good reason at least to wonder if better child training would not have helped.
3. What indicates that most children can be trained to be what their parents want them to be?
3 Make no mistake about it. Children usually can be trained to be what their parents want them to be. Researchers in child development have learned that most of a child’s personality has been established before he enters school and that such personality traits are not thereafter easy to alter. The Creator of man, in his Word the Bible, says: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” (Prov. 22:6) Fundamental principles governing conduct inculcated during childhood usually are not forgotten even though one might temporarily turn aside to wrongdoing because of imperfection. This thought is incorporated in Jesus’ illustration of the prodigal son who asked his believing father for his inheritance and then “traveled abroad into a distant country, and there squandered his property by living a debauched life.” (Luke 15:13) What brought him back? For one thing, he remembered his father. Not just the material provisions that his father always made but his father’s love of spiritual things. He said: “I will rise and journey to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.’” (Luke 15:18) Yes, right training during childhood is a major factor in shaping a child’s life.
4. (a) Why is planning necessary in child training? (b) What should the goal be?
4 To be successful, of course, such training must be planned. Parents must know what they want and what it will take to accomplish it. It is good to have in mind a picture of the desired end result and to discuss it together. (Prov. 21:5; 15:22) The goal here should be to produce an adult able to think for himself, one devoted to righteousness, knowing God, having the will and determination to serve God in imitation of Jesus Christ, and finding pleasure in doing things for other people. But when training is left to chance, the result is as stated at Proverbs 29:15: “A boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame.” This can be avoided when parents use their authority with loving concern for the child’s lasting welfare.
THE ROD OF AUTHORITY
5, 6. (a) What must parents keep in mind regarding disciplinary measures that they have to take? (b) How does Jehovah set the example in the exercise of parental discipline?
5 One having authority must eventually render an account to the one delegating that authority. Thus parents have a heavy responsibility in rearing their children in that they must answer to God for the trust placed upon them. As Psalm 127:3 reminds parents: “Look! Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah.” So the apostle Paul counsels: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) Doing this includes teaching your children that, in harmony with Jehovah’s will, Jesus left a ‘model for us to follow his steps closely.’—1 Pet. 2:21.
6 In Israel, a rod was an instrument of chastisement. In 2 Samuel 7:14 Jehovah said concerning King David’s successor: “When he does wrong, I will also reprove him with the rod of men and with the strokes of the sons of Adam.” Also, to the members of spiritual Israel, the apostle Paul writes, in 1 Corinthians 4:15-21: “You certainly do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have become your father through the good news. . . . What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and mildness of spirit?” The book of Proverbs says: “Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol itself.” (Prov. 23:13, 14; 22:15) How this parental rod of authorized chastisement is used is a serious matter. Parents are accountable to God, who gives the authority to chastise, to use the “rod” properly. Failure to do so may well result in death to the child, as the proverb states, as well as divine disapproval of the parents. Jehovah himself sets the example in the proper exercise of fatherly authority to discipline, as pointed out at Hebrews 12:7, 9, 10: “God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is he that a father does not discipline? Furthermore, we used to have fathers who were of our flesh to discipline us, and we used to give them respect. Shall we not much more subject ourselves to the Father of our spiritual life and live? For they for a few days used to discipline us according to what seemed good to them, but he does so for our profit that we may partake of his holiness.” Jehovah disciplines his people, not because he is irritated, but “for our profit,” that we may have his approval and live. He expects Christian fathers to do likewise toward their children, with a view to their becoming true disciples of his Son.
THE FATHERLESS BOY
7, 8. (a) Describe Jehovah’s concern for the fatherless boy. (b) Why was a household with no father a tragic thing?
7 The manner in which Jehovah commanded the Israelites to care for fatherless boys impresses upon us the good that a godly father can accomplish within the family circle. Note Jehovah’s loving concern for such bereaved ones: “You must not pervert the judgment of the alien resident or of the fatherless boy, and you must not seize the garment of a widow as a pledge. And you must remember that you became a slave in Egypt, and Jehovah your God proceeded to redeem you from there. That is why I am commanding you to do this thing.” (Deut. 24:17, 18) There is no mistaking God’s recognition of the void that existed in such a bereaved household.
8 A household with no father was tragic in many ways. The father was the one who would provide material necessities. He could protect them against those who might steal, defraud or otherwise oppress. He would provide the son with fatherly guidance and counsel, companionship and love. So, in the absence of the father, the Law provided reminders of the need for special concern.—Ex. 22:22-24.
9. (a) How was the attitude toward ‘fatherless boys’ an indication of the spiritual condition of the nation? (b) What does one’s view of such afflicted ones have to do with Christianity?
9 The expression “fatherless boy” was even included when God was describing the degree of faithfulness of the entire nation of Israel. When the nation became spiritually impoverished and began to pervert justice, the fatherless boy would be one of the first to feel the bad effects. Thus Jehovah caused the prophet Jeremiah to write: “If you will positively make your ways and your dealings good, if you will positively carry out justice between a man and his companion, if no alien resident, no fatherless boy and no widow you will oppress, and innocent blood you will not shed in this place, and after other gods you will not walk for calamity to yourselves, I, in turn, shall certainly keep you residing in this place, in the land that I gave to your forefathers, from time indefinite even to time indefinite.” (Jer. 7:5-7) God’s view on this matter has not changed. One way to identify true Christians today is to note their care for bereaved ones. At James 1:27 it says: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.”
10. (a) How might a boy today have a father and still, in a sense, be a fatherless boy? (9) What part do parents have, then, in their children’s becoming Christ’s disciples?
10 Is it possible for a boy today to have a father and still, in a sense, be a fatherless boy? This could, unfortunately, be true. If a boy finds it necessary to go alone to Christian meetings, though his father really could be with him, then the boy is fatherless on at least that occasion. If, to receive any training at all in the Christian field ministry, the boy must look to someone else, then he is fatherless in that area of his life. The same is true in other ways. But what a fine thing it is when the Christian father shoulders his responsibilities: taking the lead in family Bible study, providing for recreation, making himself available for consultation when problems arise, and personally giving training in caring for responsibilities around the home so as to lay a good foundation for shouldering responsibilities later in life. Practical instruction in the whole scope of Christian living is needed. Children do not automatically become Christ’s disciples simply because their parents profess to be such. They need personal help. The father who is a helper at all stages in a child’s life is, indeed, a blessing.
YOUR DAILY ROUTINE
11, 12. What does Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 say concerning worship, and how can application of that counsel affect the members of our families?
11 In Christendom, those who are still churchgoers usually listen to a brief sermon on Sunday, and children have a brief weekly session in Sunday school. This is expected to care for the religious needs of the family. How does this compare with what Jehovah outlined for the family circle? Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 says: “And these words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” From this it is obvious that worship of Jehovah was to be a way of life and that discussing his purposes was to be done on appropriate occasions throughout one’s daily routine.
12 How good it is when one’s first thoughts on awakening are of Jehovah and of his Son! Are there better things to talk about in starting the day’s activities than God’s doings? Worship of Jehovah cannot be separated from the daily routine of life. When the speech and conduct of parents reflect the conviction that this is so, the children will grow in appreciation of the fact that God sees each thing they do and is interested in how they do it, that it is important to be an imitator of God’s Son in everything that they do. God and his Son are then in the child’s thoughts at all times, not only when special times are set aside for worship. They will be looking for Jehovah’s blessing on each task performed and will seek the direction he gives through the Holy Scriptures. When a child receives this kind of training, it will most likely be true that “even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.”—Prov. 22:6.
13. Why is it important to keep God in our thoughts at all times?
13 But how easy many persons find it to go about their daily routine and leave God out of their thoughts! Allowing oneself to do this, however, could in time cause one to become like those of whom Jesus said: “As they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matt. 24:37-39) But the apostle Paul wisely encouraged keeping God in mind throughout the day no matter what we are doing. He said: “Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Cor. 10:31) He gave the same kind of exhortation to the Colossians: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” (Col. 3:23) That is what a disciple of Christ does. Are you teaching your children to do that?
14. Give an example of how God can be brought into the discussion as father and son work together in some daily routine.
14 Do you and your son occasionally work together on the family car? What relationship does this part of the daily routine have with the Bible? Well, the car had to be engineered and manufactured in harmony with laws established by the Creator, and you must continue to recognize those natural laws if you are to keep it operating effectively. Periodic tune-ups and adjustments, lubricating and oil changes all are necessary because of God’s laws. Do you remind your son of these things as he works? Another matter: Does governmental Caesar have certain safety laws governing automobile operation in your state? Must the tires, lights and brakes measure up to certain standards so that accidents can be avoided and lives protected? How important is it to conform to these requirements? At Romans 13:1 we are told: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.” Are you impressing these thoughts on your son as you work together?
15. Give an example of how God can be brought into the discussion as mother and daughter work together on some constructive project.
15 Do mother and daughter ever work together in making a dress? What connection does this have with the Scriptures? Well, what style will it be? Will it be in harmony with 1 Timothy 2:9, 10, which says: “I desire the women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind”? With what will you trim it, and what accessories will your daughter wear with it? The rest of that same scripture says that women who reverence God should adorn themselves, “not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive garb, but . . . through good works.” Possibly if one does not always wear the most expensive garb, one will learn reasonable economy and “have something to distribute to someone in need.” (Eph. 4:28) There are many Scriptural principles that your daughter can learn as you work together to get the daily work done in the home, ‘doing all things for God’s glory.’
16. (a) What kind of language should both parents and children use, and why? (b) Though we cannot be reading the Bible and Bible literature all the time, what can we do?
16 What kind of language do you use in daily association with your children? Disciples of Jesus know that proper use of the tongue is important. (Matt. 12:36) The Bible admonishes: “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29; Titus 2:6-8) No matter what the subject, the ideas expressed should be in harmony with the inspired guidelines recorded by the apostle Paul, when he said: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” (Phil. 4:8) It is true that we cannot be reading the Bible or Bible literature all day long. But, in imitation of Christ, we can always be thinking, speaking and working in harmony with the Scriptures. Reflecting this outlook, Psalm 119:97 says: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.”
SPECIAL PERIODS SET ASIDE
17. Why is regular family study an important factor in training children?
17 In addition to teaching and training your children during the day’s normal routine, for real success it is necessary to set aside special periods for family study on a regular basis. Regularity in this is as important as is regularity in eating and drinking. Small wonder that we just naturally refer to Scriptural truth as spiritual food, having in mind the strength it gives, the enjoyment in partaking and the continued need for it.—Matt. 4:4; 5:3.
18. Who should decide what the family will study, and why?
18 The material to be studied should be selected by the family head. Just as he decides what the family will have with respect to material things, so it is his responsibility to decide what the family will study. He is in the best position to know what the family needs. Additionally, he can inquire as to what the others think will be beneficial and then take this into consideration. Each family will have particular needs on occasion. Articles on drug abuse, conduct with persons of the opposite sex, honesty, associations, kindness, and so forth, might be appropriate, depending on conditions developing.
19. Usually, what will the family find themselves studying?
19 Generally, the family will find that they will profit much by following the course of study that has been arranged for the congregation, preparing for participation in the meetings. Unless there is a special need in the family, why not focus your attention on the study material that all others in the congregation are thinking and talking about? What a unifying effect it will have and what a fine contribution each one can make to the discussion at the meeting if families prepare at home in harmony with the congregation’s program. Of course, those blessed with more study time can do additional research.
20. If preparing for meetings sounds dull and uninteresting for some, what might be the problem, and what could be the remedy?
20 Preparing for meetings might sound uninteresting to some children. That is because of their viewpoint. The goal such ones likely have in mind is simply to prepare a comment on the study questions. While this might be an acceptable goal to begin with, the real goal should be to grasp the Scriptural subject and then to help others to do so by the comments made. With this objective, study soon becomes a delight to one who is a lover of truth.—Ps. 1:1, 2.
21. What else can parents do to make the family study cheerful and interesting?
21 There are other things that parents can do to make the family study cheerful and interesting. Allowing the atmosphere to be friendly and relaxed will help. No one learns well when he is tense or apprehensive. Young minds will not be as receptive if parents are stern and demanding. While there needs to be sufficient firmness to maintain order and to demonstrate the seriousness of the occasion, yet there is plenty of room for the kind of warmth and loving concern for one another that draws the family together.
22, 23. (a) Why need parents not feel inferior to their children just because of differences in secular education? (b) What can the children beneficially be helped to appreciate?
22 It is true that in some instances the parents do not have the secular education that their minor children are now receiving. Some parents have come from another country, and when their children go through school they master the new language, but the parents do not. In worldly family circles the children under these circumstances often adopt a superior attitude toward the parents. But how can this obstacle be overcome in the Christian family circle as the parents seek to shoulder their God-given responsibility toward the children, “bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah”?—Eph. 6:4.
23 Parents need never feel inferior to their offspring just because some of the conditions mentioned above develop. Their position of authority in the household is God-given. Furthermore, their years of experience and background in living make them better fitted to support the family materially, to manage the household, and to take the lead in family study and worship. In a parallel situation there might very well be young brothers in their late teens or early twenties in the congregation who can give more polished student talks than some of the older brothers, but this does not qualify them to be elders. Far more is involved in eldership. The same is true of children as compared to their parents within the family circle. Regardless of the education and background of the parents, they ought to schedule the time for family study, and then allow each one to contribute what he is able, for the benefit of others. The children, if they have greater ability in certain directions, can be helped to appreciate that it is not merely intelligence that counts with Jehovah, but humility and depth of devotion. Jesus said: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12) Jehovah’s spirit will make up for any lack that a parent might feel. Confidently follow the Scriptural arrangement for family study, irrespective of the different mental abilities of various family members.
24. How will parents know if their children are really Christ’s disciples?
24 Are your children Christ’s disciples? Well, if they have not only presented themselves for Christian baptism but also make it a practice to base their decisions on what Jesus said and did, if they do not show love for the unrighteous ways of the world but keep an eye on the goal of always serving the Kingdom interests, if they submit willingly to your authority and enjoy discussing Jehovah’s ways, if they fill your heart with warm love because you see these things in them, you will not have to guess. You will know that they are indeed Christ’s disciples.
[Picture on page 85]
Scriptural principles that apply to clothing can be taught as a mother and daughter make a dress together
[Picture on page 86]
Regularity in teaching your children is as important as regularity in eating and drinking