Thursday, January 16, 2020

Why Kids Need to be Taught Right

Years ago I was subbing as a para-professional in a middle school when the student I was helping flew into a temper tantrum when we arrived at a class he didn't like. As a sub, I was asked to step away and they called in a counselor to deal with him. Eventually the rest of the students were moved into the hallway so the counselor and one misbehaving student could have privacy. Not knowing exactly what was expected of me, I watched the scene (and it was a scene!) through the classroom window. That’s when another regular para came up beside me and whispered, "His parents have never made him do anything he didn't want to. They have never taught him what is right." 

I have to admit that I was thinking the same thing, but I was surprised she would voice it in a public school. I pondered what "teaching what is right" had to do with "doing things you don't want to do.”  Then it struck me, we often have to do something we don't want to do -  whether it is homework, taking out the garbage, cleaning up after someone's vomit, or saying, "I'm sorry.”  But these things are the “right thing” to do.

Why should we do what is right? And why should we want to do what is right? The short answer is, because of God. We are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). We are exhorted by Paul in Ephesians 4:24,  “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (NIV) God placed in us a knowledge of right, or righteousness, to do what is right because we are made in His image, in His likeness. But the knowledge He placed there has been corrupted by sin in the world and in our lives, so doing what is right now has to be learned; it is no longer our natural bent.

How can we get back to the foundation for knowing what is right? Again, the short, and definitive, answer is God. Of course we can't measure up completely to the holiness and righteousness of God, but we can use it as our measuring stick. One definition of the Greek word often translated "righteous" in our English Bibles is "straight." This gives me the mental picture of God being an absolutely straight line against which I need to measure my behavior. He is our unbending standard.

There is an absolute right, just as there are things that are absolutely wrong. We need to teach this to our children so that they will do what is right. But the reason they should want to do what is right is because God is righteous. God wants us to imitate Him. He has made us in His image and wants us to emulate His character. This means more to Him than any possible sacrifice we could make for Him. "To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice." (Proverbs 21:3)

If you think about it, sometimes doing what is right is a huge sacrifice to our own desires and pride, even if it is as simple as picking up the paper that missed the trash can. Our children need to be taught "right" because God is righteous. If they learn about God, then they are learning what is right. Sometimes they miss the God lesson and we do need to "make them do it even if they don't want to,” because it is right.  If we teach them this, then when they are older, they will know the right thing to do and the reason for doing it, and hopefully they will choose to do right as well.

Our children are watching us to see if we have learned to live out God’s right. If they see it in us, they are more likely to make the right choices when we aren’t telling them to. I remember my dad often giving extra change back to cashiers when he had calculated faster and more accurately than they. He exemplified right by not taking what was not his. Once as a teenager I made plans with an acquaintance when a good friend called. She offered me an extra concert ticket to see my favorite Christian artist. I was tempted to dump my first commitment and go. But then I remembered that she who walks in integrity and righteousness “swears to their own hurt and does not change.” (Psalm 15:4) I missed the concert, but was learning the lesson.

These days we attend the same church as our sons and their families and I’m proud to see them faithfully bringing their families to church, midweek meetings too, and watching them train up their children in what is right in a better way than my husband and I parented them.

God is righteous. We bring Him glory by behaving in His image, by doing right. Our example will prompt others to seek to be more like Him as well. 

That’s right!

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