So much is written now days about children. Questions are asked such as: is the child emotionally happy? Is he secure? Does he feel wanted? Do his parents accept him? These questions are asked by those who have made a study of children’s behavior. These people write much on child psychology. We do not need child psychology. We just need the Word of God.
In the first place it is necessary in this discussion to consider the place God has given the family unit. God made the family unit the basis of all society. The family is extended into the school. The state organizations are an outgrowth of the family unit. Because of the importance of the family unit the family is a tremendous educative force. Attitudes and ideas learned at home are ingrained in the children before they enter school and remain influential in adult relationships.
Since God has made the family unit of such importance in the society, He has also devised His commandments to be a guide for the family. There are three types of relationships in the family. They are the relationships of husband and wife, children to parents, and parents to children. Now God has in His abundant mercy given us the commandments to guide us in each of these relationships. The guide for the husband-wife relationship is in the fifth commandment. So too, the sixth commandment is a guide for the relationship of parents to children. Thus we have three family commandments. Three means the Trinity, God’s family. So now the first four commandments are our relationship to God and the next three are our relationships to family members making a total of seven. Seven means that God’s people together have covenant fellowship of friendship with God through Christ Jesus.
In this article we will consider the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Positively stated the sixth commandment says that we, parents and teachers, must love our children. We do love our children. We teach them to pray at a very early age. We take them to church and Sunday school. We tell them Bible stories and sing songs about Jesus. We sacrifice for a school of our own. However, these things show only one phase of the love spoken of in the sixth commandment. There is another phase, the love of the neighbor’s person. The neighbor is the one who crosses our path and limits our purposes, alms, reputation and any activities which we wish to carry on. The neighbor is the one who sits next to us in church. It is the child that sits next to us. Is it possible that we should hate the person of our child? We can only answer that we do sin against all God’s commands continually, so we must be sinning against the sixth command, “Thou shalt not kill” meaning thou shalt not kill the person of the child. That we do kill our children we will never confess. But we never confess any sins we commit, we love sin and wish to remain in sin by nature.
This Word of God nevertheless is spoken in our hearts and we have answered that testimony with many excuses and seemingly soothing conscience balms. These are the things parents and teachers have said. The child is spoiled, he is aggressive, he is a born tease, he is like his uncle (and by the way, it is usually the brother of the parent that the parent himself never got along with), he is selfish, he wants to be the big cheese around here, he thinks he knows it all, he is not nice like the other children, and most soothing against the testimony of God’s spirit in us is the remark, he is totally depraved.
There are many more things we say. But we will consider just the last one mentioned, totally depraved. To say that the child is totally depraved is not correct. It is dangerous. It is a half- truth because everyone is totally depraved and parents and teachers may not forget this. To say that children are totally depraved implies a bias and it is not good to be biased against our children. However, there are differences between children and adults. Children do not have a veneer like adults. But neither do they have capabilities to sin developed to the extent that adults have.
That the child may be these things that the parent says about him is beside the point at this time. We must see first the nature of hating the person of the neighbor. This hating is rooted in rebellion against God. Furthermore the person of the neighbor is not the cause of the hate. In the parable of the Good Samaritan we see the priest and Levite ignore the robbed man. They left that man to die and are therefore killing him by withholding any aid they might have given him. Next the Samaritan comes and he has compassion. All three persons saw the same dying man. The difference is that the priest and Levite in themselves had hate but the Samaritan had compassion. So it is with parents. If they have the hatred of the person in their hearts they too will leave the child to die or as will be shown later, will by their hate of the child’s person actually kill. A compassionate parent, on the other hand, will love the person of the child for God’s sake. The condition of the child is not a determinant for compassion or hate on the part of the parent or teacher.
Now to return to the things that parents say about their children. It must be conceded that these things might very well be the description of the way the child acts. We will show how that the parent has by his hate of the person brought this behavior which is wicked to be manifest in the child. Paul says: “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discourages.” Col. 3:21. Provoking means to stir up, to stimulate. So parents stir up wickedness that is in children. As was mentioned before, children are not as developed in the capabilities to sin like adults are. Now to stir up the sin in a child is to develop the capabilities to sin. It must not be thought that the child does not develop his own capabilities. He does, but not as efficiently as an adult who hates the person of the child.
When do parents begin this tunneling into the child’s sinful nature so that the motions of sin have clear sailing? We say clear sailing because the young child has no veneer by which he can hide the motions of sin. The parent starts this hate of the child’s person sometimes before the child is born. One must bear in mind that this hate is rooted in rebellion against God. Maybe a child is coming at the wrong time according to the plans of the parents. This is the occasion, not the cause or reason. The child has crossed the path of the parents before he is born. In fact no matter what the occasion of the crossing may be, the parent often begins the provoking early in the child’s life. Moreover, intense hating may not always fall on the first child. Following through with the occasion mentioned, the parent will show his hate when the child makes his first self-will manifest. That is the signal for the hating parent to begin. The provoking starts. The parent may use diverse methods. Usually the first one he uses is to ignore the child. The child in response to this killing, because it hurts, reacts with sin. The parent is now stirring up the wickedness within the child. A tunnel is being chiseled and the motions of sin are given a freeway. The parent capitalizes on the resulting sin of the child. He uses the sin as a reason to hate the PERSON of the child with intensity but the parent piously calls it hating the SIN of the child. The more sins a parent can find in the child the better he feels he can answer the testimony of God’s spirit in his own sinful heart. The parent who hates has countless other methods of attack. We will not discuss them here.
“…lest they be discouraged.” Since the cause for the hate of the parent is in the parent himself there is no pleasing him. The parent will never be satisfied with the behavior of the child. Now is there power in the behavior of the child to remove sin from the heart of the parent. The provoking continues so that the child is discouraged. Lest we forget, we are discussing our transgression of the sixth commandment within the family circle. These things just written are not about people of the world; but rather about the priest and Levite. Us.
There are awful consequences because of the parent’s sin. God always punished sin with sin. Just look at the time when Jacob should have gone straight to Bethel. He went to Shechem and a trail of sin and misery comes to Jacob’s whole family because of Jacob’s carnality. Had not God saved them, they would have been destroyed.
The immediate consequence in the child is that he is discouraged. This discouragement can be defined by describing the four phases of sin the child develops. The first is the attention-getting devices, next is the battle for power (the child will fight for a toy and then drop it), the third is revenge and the last is inadequacy response. (There are adults who have humility but it is only the scar tissue of the final phase, in adequacy response.) A discourages child is one who has been taught and has tragically learned to hate the person of himself. But this hatred of the person of himself is rooted i9n rebellion against God. When this discouraged child, hating his own person, becomes a parent and sees himself in his child, (again, this is the occasion, not the cause or reason) he must hate the person of his child. The corruption of sin goes on from generation to generation. It is easier for a camel…
There are other dreadful consequences. The child being hated by the parents becomes miserable and hateable. The other children will hate him and he will hate back. Teachers must watch out for this hating and may not join. There will be jealousies, and strife of all kinds. Prov. 10:12, “Hatred stirreth up strifes.” Later in life the in-laws are enticed to join.
Sometimes there is love that a hated child can find. He may find it in the other parent. That parent, feeling that demand on himself for compassion, complains that the child needs more affection and he never gets enough. On the other hand, the hating parent will never talk about the child needing compassion. The parent who gives some measure of satisfaction to the child will be able to make a slave and shadow of him. For that child, the sun rises and sets on this parent so that the child dare not advance any activities on this own without the parent being involved. Suffice it to say, all the relationships in the family are distorted, lopsided and extreme.
What can be done? Nothing can be done for the world. They will love their children for self-preservation and become child centered. The church, thru the preaching of the Word and by God’s grace will be God centered in keeping the sixth commandment, for it is with Him with whom we have to do. Besides the ministry of the Word Paul says: “The aged women…that they may teach the young women…to love their children,: Titus 2:3-4. The aged women must first confess their sins against the sixth commandment and then teach the young women to love their children. The young women do not know they need instruction in loving their children. They say that they know their family. But really they are finding it easier to pick at the child’s sins and leave their own unconfessed. It is always easier to see the sins of others. Consider David’s first response when Nathan spoke to him in the case of Uriah.
The fathers may think they are not so involved as the mothers. They are not with the children as much as the mother is so they cannot be the cause of all the strife. It must be called to the fathers’ attention, however, that though they spend less time with the children yet those copious moments are a tremendous influence either way. Neither may we think that Paul, being a bachelor, and never having lived with children is therefore not qualified to speak on these things. This may not be said because Paul was informed by God that parents do not love, that they do provoke and that children are angered and discouraged.
Give our children new parents, that is, parents who walk out of the principle of the new obedience, a sanctified walk according to the sixth commandment and the child will revive. However, the child will not behave better but worse for a time. This can be explained. Those tunnels are still there but the child is happy once more, so he will speed through those tunnels since that is the only behavior he knows. But the parents must not be dismayed. Therapy, healing these tunnels, is a slow process and is a subject in itself and because of the nature of this article it cannot be discusses here.
Blessings. Peace in the family, natural affections is preserved. The rod again becomes the rod of correction rather than of hate. It becomes effective so that the same offense will not reappear three weeks late.
By the way, Paul does ot lay emphasis on the rod. It seems the rod passes out of focus with the rest of the Old Testament tangible fighting against sin. The fighting against sin in the New Testament is ethical and begins first within the parent himself. The emphasis in the New Testament is on obeying for God’s sake. Children will not find it hard to obey parents who serve God according to the sixth commandment. “When a man’s ways please Jehovah – he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him,” Prov. 16:7. Our children will obey not because they must but because they want to. So the emphasis must be one “for God’s sake.”
This article hits only the high spots so that if any idea herein expressed is not clear it must not be construed to indicate that the idea is incorrect but rather that explanation is insufficient due to space limitations. One warning. The world mocks about God punishing the sins of parents by more sins in the children. We may not mock. Moreover, the undersigned feels that our God fearing parents and teachers, once they understand the nature of their sins as parents and teachers, will welcome the guide God gives us in this sixth commandment with a holy eagerness.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 1 February 1959