Recently as I was reading John MacArthur’s book Brave Dad, I found a section in which He gives “Ten Crucial Lessons Every Father Should Teach”. Obviously, MacArthur is known for his expository, verse by verse teaching. But sitting under his preaching for almost ten years I always loved his “lists” many he came up with while sitting at a restaurant writing on napkins. Obviously, it wasn’t the bread and butter of his ministry, neither should it have been, but when you’ve preached through the whole New Testament and know the entire Bible so well, you are bound to see patterns in Scripture and are able to come up with lists like these.
MacArthur takes these lessons out of Proverbs 1-10 and though he directs it from fathers to sons, it is obvious that mothers and daughters can benefit from this list as well. He also adds a warning at the end of this section showing how our failure to teach each of these areas gives the devil the opportunity to teach the exact opposite.
- Teach Your Children to Fear God
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7).
Macarthur talks about the fact that we must teach our kids the attributes of God. When we do so properly they will come to fear him. Not only will they fear Him in a reverential way but also they will fear sinning against Him, this will help your children to recognize that God is worthy of honor and invokes in them a desire to live righteously. In order to teach this properly the parents must fear God as well and in turn, sin will be hated in the family. If we don’t teach our children to fear God, the devil will teach them to reject and hate God.
- Teach Your Children to Guard Their Minds
Proverbs 3:3-4 says, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So, you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” The word “heart” here refers to the mind in the Hebrew. The mind is the seat of thought, emotion, and will, this passage then is calling parents to teach their kids to guard their minds. Macarthur goes on to say that as a father you are the guardian of your children’s minds. Our duty is to protect them from the world. But it doesn’t stop there. We must then do our best to fill their minds with truth, kindness and ultimately God’s word. We are to tell them, “Guard your mind, for out of it comes your conduct.” If we don’t teach our children to guard their minds, the devil will gladly teach them to have an “open mind”.
- Teach Your Children to Obey Their Parents
The proverbs are filled with statements like, “Hear my son your father’s instruction.” In doing so the writer of Proverbs is reinforcing the “first commandment with a promise,” namely, to honor your father and mother. MacArthur goes on to say that when your children learn to obey you, they will learn to obey societal authority, and more importantly this is how they learn to obey God. A child who is taught to obey will be a child who learns self-control and true wisdom. If we don’t teach our children to obey their mother and father, the devil will teach them to rebel and break our hearts.
- Teach Your Children to Select Their Companions Carefully
This parental responsibility is one where you go on the attack. We can’t sit back and wait to see how our children turn out and what friends they naturally choose. We need to teach them how to choose their friends. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that “bad company corrupts good morals.” The friends our children hang out with will have a direct influence on who they will become and that’s why we go on the attack in helping them choose the right type of friends. Proverbs 1:10 says, “My son if sinners entice you, do not consent.” Excitement, adventure, and ill gain are what worldly people will entice our sons and daughters with, but we are to train them to resist such enticements. We must equip our children with wisdom so that they will develop the discernment they need to choose friends wisely. If we don’t teach our children to select their companions carefully, the devil will gladly choose their companions for them.
- Teach Your Children to Control Their Body
The dominant theme throughout the early chapter of Proverbs is on the topic of controlling our bodies. (As a father of three boys, this scares me). Proverbs 2:16-17 warns about this, and Solomon says that only wisdom will, “deliver you from the strange woman, from the adulteress who flatters with her words; that leaves the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God.” The parent warns his children of people like who seek adultery, knowing that the consequences of adultery are devastating even unto death. As extreme as that sounds, MacArthur says that lust for sex in some men outweighs their desire to live. We must teach our kids sexual purity, to keep their hands to themselves, to stay far away from temptation and to guard their eyes. If we don’t teach our children to control their bodies, the devil will teach them to give their bodies over to lust.
- Teach Your Children to Enjoy Their Spouse
Sex outside of marriage is obviously forbidden, but inside marriage it is exalted. Proverbs 5:15-19 says,
“Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love.”
In others words, a man or woman who is sexually thirsty must find satisfaction in their spouse alone. The way we treat our spouse will be a great way to teach our children to be satisfied in their spouse alone. If we don’t teach our children to enjoy the marriage partner given them by God, the devil will teach them how to destroy their marriage through adultery.
- Teach Your Children to Watch Their Words
Proverbs 4:24 says, “Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.” We must teach our kids to speak the truth and only the truth. MacArthur provides some great questions for our children to ask before they speak: Is what I’m about to say edifying? Is it appropriate? Is it gracious? Our speech as Christians must be uplifting, instructive, and helpful. If we don’t teach our children to watch their words, the devil will fill their mouth with gossip, slander, lies, and foul language.
- Teach Your Children to Work Hard
We must teach our children how to work. This must be done by both word and example. In Proverbs 6:6-8 the father tells his son to, “go to the ant…observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.” We must teach our kids to work hard even when there is no supervisor. Self-motivation is key to being successful in life, and planning ahead is a part of that. The father in Proverbs also warns against being a sluggard; one who gives excuses for not working and always procrastinates when it is time to work. The consequences for the lazy person are hunger, poverty, and failure. We must teach our kids to work hard and to avoid the pitfalls of laziness. If we don’t teach our children to work hard, the devil will teach them to be lazy, which will impoverish them.
- Teach Your Children to Manage Their Money Well
Money plays a huge role in life, and that’s why Proverbs speaks so often about how we manage it. If we are careful with our money it can be very useful, but if we’re careless, money can become the source of much anxiety and heartache. MacArthur goes on to provide two lessons the book of Proverbs teaches about money. The first is to be generous with God. Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so that your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” Our money does not belong to us. It is God’s and we must teach that to our kids. Our kids will know if we are generous with our money and will follow our example. Secondly, Proverbs warns us not to cosign with a stranger. We are not to become liable for other people’s behavior that we can’t control. This includes get-rich-quick schemes and other businesses that can have serious consequences if done in partnership with untrustworthy people. We must then teach our children to use their money as the Lord leads. If we don’t teach our children how to manage their money properly, the devil will teach them to spend it carelessly and go into debt.
- Teach Your Children to Love Their Neighbor
Although Proverbs does warn against partnering with untrustworthy people it doesn’t say that we shouldn’t be generous to those in need. Proverbs 3:27-28 says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you.” If we have it, we should help those in need. In order to honor God, we must be generous in showing sacrificial love to our neighbor. Jesus included loving our neighbor as one of his two greatest commandments. And so, we too must not only teach our children to love God, but also we must teach them to love their neighbor. If we don’t teach our children to love their neighbors, the devil will gladly teach them to love only themselves.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg and my summaries of each point are lacking. On top of that, there is a lot more gold in Brave Dad and I highly recommend it to all parents.
Some words of reminder are in order. First, ultimately God is the one who will save our children. Even the best of parents have experienced heartbreak with their children. Secondly, our children learn a lot more from our example than from what we teach them verbally.
May we take what we’ve learned here from Proverbs, strive to live it out in our own lives and to faithfully teach it to our children, praying that God may make it fruitful in their lives for His glory.