Twelve Rules for Raising Juvenile Delinquent Children

Some years ago the city of Houston Texas waged an ad campaign to deter juvenile crime.  The Houston Police Department distributed “Twelve Rules for Raising Juvenile Delinquent Children”

  1. Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. In this way he will grow up to believe the world owes him a living.
  2. When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. This will make him think that it is cute.
  3. Never give him any spiritual training. Wait until he is twenty-one and then let him “decide for himself.”
  4. Avoid use of the word “wrong.” It may develop a guilt complex. This will condition him to believe later, when he is arrested for stealing a car, that society is against him and he is being persecuted.
  5. Pick up everything he leaves lying around. Do everything for him so that he will be experienced in throwing all responsibility on others.
  6. Let him read any printed matter he can get his hands on. Be careful, that the silverware and drinking glasses are sterilized, but let his mind feast on garbage.
  7. Quarrel frequently in the presence of your children. In this way they won’t be shocked when the home is broken up later on.
  8. Give a child all the spending money he wants. Never let him earn his own.
  9. Satisfy his every craving for food, drink and comfort. See that every sensual desire is gratified.
  10. Take his side against neighbors, teachers and policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child.
  11. When he gets into real trouble, apologize for yourself by explaining, “I never could do anything with him.”
  12. Prepare for a life of grief.  You will definitely have it.

(Chuck Swindoll, “Shaping the Will with Wisdom,” Part 1, April 9, 2013 )

Shepherding at Church and at Home

I read from 1 Timothy 3 this morning.  1 Timothy 3 contains qualifications for overseers (vv. 1-7) and qualifications for deacons (vv. 8-13) and concludes with a statement on the nature of the church (v. 15) and the exalted Christ (v. 16).  I was struck by v. 4 in particular. 

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive (1 Timothy 3:4)

The overseer is to keep his children submissive.  Most of us are aware of the reputation pastor’s kids have.  Undoubtedly part of the reason for this is because they hang out with deacons’ kids.  Kidding. 

The overseer is to have his house in order.  But in what manner?  By barking out orders and establishing himself as a heavy-handed authoritarian?  Paul says he is to do this “with all dignity.”  It is possible, but less likely that the phrase “with all dignity” refers to the submission of the children (Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 480; Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 177), though the NIV, NRSV attached the phrase to the children, as does John Stott (Stott, Guard the Truth, 98) and Quinn and Wacker (Quinn and Wacker, The First and Second Letters to Timothy, 261). 

The Greek word translated “dignity” in the ESV, NASB; HCSB; KJV, “gravity,” NKJV, “reverence,” is only found three times in the Greek New Testament, and only in the Pastorals (1 Timothy 2:2; 3:4; Titus 2:7).  It means, “a manner or mode of behavior that indicates one is above what is ordinary and therefore worthy of special respect” (BDAG, 919).  According to BDAG, the Latin equivalent is gravitas

So what does this mean for the overseer of God’s household and the father of his own household?  As the overseer parents his children, “he maintains his personal dignity in the process” (Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 177). 

Ah yes.  Dignity under the strain of children who have a different agenda than submissively and sweetly obeying the words of their father.  Ugh.

This is a call for fathers to “sober up” as they deal with their children (cf. Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 190).  Additionally, the word “all” demonstrates that there is a “full demonstration” of this characteristic (Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 162). 

Now that’s meddlin’! 

This is an important reminder for the overseer who is also a shepherd to children still under his care.  When chaos surrounds me, do I respond in kind by flying off the handle?  If I do I’m training my children to respond to the volume of my voice rather than my words.  It means I keep my composure, thereby leading and instructing my children not only with my words but with my life.  In doing this, I am more apt to reach their hearts not merely conform their behavior.  This is nothing less that the requirement to be an example in the church and in the home (1 Timothy 4:12).  This is not only the ideal, but a mandate of every overseer. 

May God give me, and my other brothers who have also been called to shepherd a church and a home, the grace to have obedient and submissive children with all dignity.

Beware of Compliant Children

What parent does not rejoice in a compliant child?  Yet Christian parents need to always concern themselves with their child’s heart.  The life of Robert Murray M’Cheyne is an evidence of the inner ungodliness that may reside in the heart of an outwardly compliant child.  Andrew Bonar writes,

Some would have been apt to regard [Robert Murray M’Cheyne] as exhibiting many traits of a Christian character; but his susceptible mind had not, at that time, a relish for any higher joy than the refined gaieties of society, and for such pleasures as the song and the dance could yield.  He himself regarded these as days of ungodliness–days wherein he cherished a pure morality, but lived in heart a Pharisee.  I have heard him say that there was a correctness and propriety in his demeanor at times of devotion, and in public worship, which some, who knew not his heart, were ready to put to the account of real feeling.  And this experience of his own heart made him look with jealousy on the mere outward signs of devotion in dealing with souls.  He had learnt in his own case how much a soul, unawakened to a sense of guilt may have satisfaction in performing, from the proud consciousness of integrity towards man, and a sentimental devotedness of mind that chastens the feelings without changing the heart (Andrew Bonar, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, 4).

As Bonar mentioned, M’Cheyne himself admits the outward complicity was not sourced in a converted heart but in pride.  In other words, he wanted his self-righteousness displayed, rather than the righteousness of God in Christ.  In a journal entry dated May 6, 1832, a 19-year-old M’Cheyne laments,

What a mass of corruption have I been!  How great a portion of my life have I spent wholly without God in the world, given up to sense and the perishing things around me!  Naturally of a feeling and sentimental disposition, how much of my religion has been, and to this day is, tinged with these colours of earth!  Restrained from open vice by educational views and the fear of man, how much ungodliness has reigned within me (Andrew Bonar, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, 16)!

So parents, especially Christian parents, shepherd the heart not behaviors.  Let us not delight in any compliance we might be able to command from our children.  Rather, let us delight in a genuine work of God’s grace that results from heart-focused, gospel-centered parenting.