Friday, October 14, 2016

Securing Their Hearts #2

The Good and Honest Heart
by Betty Jackson

In the Parable of the Sower, the Lord taught about different kinds of hearts (Matt. 13:1-23; Mk. 4:1-20; Lk. 8:1-15). The good soil represents the “good and honest heart” (Lk. 8:15). This kind of heart responds to the word of God by clinging to it and obeying it. If heaven is to be ours and our children’s, we must have honest hearts.
Gardeners can enrich poor soil, so that it will bear fruit. While we do not compare a child to poor soil, work must be done to develop the good and honest heart. Soil may be too alkaline or acidic. Amendments will change the soil so that it can support a particular kind of plant. Different plants require different soil composition. One interpretation of Proverbs 22:6 is “train up a child in the way of his goings,” implying the difference in the make up of children. Some children are mild in temperament, others are eager to keep things alive from the time they hit the floor in the morning!
There are, however, basic truths that apply to every child. Parents are key for the development of honesty within the hearts of our children.
Considering Luke’s use of the word honest as it is translated in most versions is interesting (Lk. 8:15). It has several possible meanings. (Barclay, 151). Some translate it noble, a word that embraces every desirable sense of being honorable. Treating God’s word in an honorable way demands a good, honest, obedient attitude. 
The Bereans were described as being noble, because they “received the word with all readiness of mind.” Here “noble” is a different Greek word, but it carries with it what honesty and goodness mean in accepting the will of God. (Acts 17:11).
In the future, we will consider the love-bond between parents and children and how important that is for the development of one’s offspring. For now we will focus on the good and honest heart. Once I heard a non-Christian exclaim her love for her little daughter, “I would give my life for her.” She had so much love and passion in her voice, I knew she meant that. Sadly, she wasn’t giving her life for her baby in every-day living, by seeking God and his will. 
As Christian parents, we love our children too. But we must be the kind of servants of God that will be productive (Matt. 13:23). Let us pray that first fruits of our labors are good and honest children who love the Lord with all their hearts.
How? What a complex task it is to train children in all areas. Young mothers need to be humble enough to seek the advice of kind and faithful older women (Titus 2:3-4), who have successfully brought up children for the Lord. Those ladies have made mistakes, and now understand better. They have had some wonderful successes, and can share wisdom from the Scriptures.
Our examples speak volumes to our children. Are you honest? Most of us believe we are. Upon some serious self-evaluation, perhaps we find that we have room for improvement.
Honesty demands that we guard our own hearts. The conscience is a fragile part of our being. It is easily misled, if we do not protect it (cf. Prov. 4:23). We are instructed to, “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” (Prov. 23:23). How important is truth to us? Will we expend every expense, every tireless effort to obtain or know it? Christ said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” (Matt. 5:6).
Do we accept truth, even when it is difficult, or upsetting to our lives? Are we willing to repent for teaching our children error? Truth is demanding, but it will set us free from the burdens of guilt. (John 8:32).
How can we communicate the value of truth and honesty to our children? Consider a few suggestions.
Some would argue that it is wrong to punish a child, especially by corporal punishment. The Bible is clear (Prov. 13:24, Heb. 12:5-11). Ephesians 6:4 instructs parents to bring up (nurture) children in “the admonishment or discipline of the Lord,” which includes physical restraint, correction, and verbal reproof. How honest is it to withhold just and measured discipline? (Mercy is a different topic.) How honest is it to unfairly punish a child? How honest is it to expect a 2 year old to behave like a 12 year old, or a 12 year old to act like a 19 year old, with the same understanding? A woman I knew said, “I wasn’t raised, I was just jerked up by the hair of my head!” To provoke a child to wrath by unfair, overly harsh methods is the easiest way to disturb the development of an honest heart (Eph. 6:4).
“Little white lies” don’t seem so bad to some. Someone may ask her youngster to lie by telling the salesman that she is not home. Perhaps the cashier gave you too much change, and you exclaim how much you needed that money. Would you return it? What about the little lies someone may tell about how she is serving the Lord, her husband, or the church to impress others with how much she serves in the kingdom? Lying parents will not produce honest children. (See: Eph. 4:25).
Haven’t some of us set our child up to lie? A scenario such as this: Mother tells three year old junior not to bother or get a cookie from a plate you plan to deliver to someone. But junior disobeys and you catch him with melted chocolate chips on his face and crumbs on the floor. And you ask, “Did you get a cookie?” By your voice and stern appearance, he panics and says, “No.” So you spank him for lying. It would be better to make it easy for him to tell the truth, when possible. But he should not have been asked that question. Rather, he needs a lesson in obedience. Perhaps time out, perhaps a couple of swats on the backside or both. He doesn’t need 20 lashes! That would be an over reaction.
Manipulation is also a form of lying. Some women are really good at this device to get their way. Some even manipulate their children. Most children know how to do this very early in life. They will cry (or put on a good act!) until they get their way. Giving in isn’t a good idea. Now we aren’t talking about a little child whose parents have kept him out without a nap or past bedtime who has melt downs! If you have a child that habitually cries or pouts to get his/her way, train them to quit that behavior. Older children may use anger as manipulation. That kind of manipulation will lead a child into a grave life-style as he gets older.
Parents need to set the very best example. To ignore the Scriptures about anything will not influence our children for good. To manipulate or lie to our mates, to lie to others about our service in the Lord, to fail to attend as we ought (Heb. 12:25), or give as we ought (1 Cor. 16:2), will teach our children that the Lord’s commands are arbitrary. How sad that is!
Have you ever apologized to your child? Perhaps you punished the wrong child! Or failed to communicate as to why you did not keep a promise. For good communication in the home, noble parents will apologize, and do their best to correct their mistakes. Arrogant parents will not be the best communicators of honesty.
Regardless of how emotionally we’re attached to our children, we must love them with the highest form of love (agape) so that they will develop honest and good hearts. Your example of integrity will help your children trust you, not only for comfort, but in your efforts to teach them God’s word.
This article is too short to deal with this topic fully. However, the paramount importance of training our children to be honest has been stressed. May we strive for nobility in serving our Father so that we will help our children to walk with us in that narrow way that leads to eternal life.

Recommended Reading
Barclay, William. New Testament Words. 1974. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press.**
White, Jerry. Honesty, Morality and Conscience. 1986. Colorado Springs:CO:NavPress.**
** The sources above are recommended with the caviat that we do not endorse all the writings of these authors because of some doctrinal error. However, principles of the Bible are still true even when recognized by those whose teachings are imperfect.
Jackson, Wayne.What is Truth—A Question For the Ages.

Study Questions
1. Define the word noble.
2. Why do you think the virtue of honesty is so crucial to one learning God’s truth?
3. What does “Buy the truth and sell it not” mean?
4. Why is it important to guard the heart of conscience?
5. Explain why manipulation is a form of lying.

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