I found this chapter to be especially helpful for applying a specific scripture in a practical manner. The first concept is presented as a graphic and demonstrates how God has established parental authority. This is a visual breakdown of Ephesians 6:1-4. Our directions are, as the chapter title suggests, "Holy Directions" because they are "set apart." The directions of a Christian parent are fundamentally different from those of an unbelieving parent, primarily because a Christian has a higher authority behind him. "Do this because I told you to do it" gives way to "do this because I am your God-given authority and He has commanded that you obey me." (Now I will laugh every time I see one of those cheesy signs that say, "Because I'm the mother, that's why.") For a parent, this is both freeing and binding. Freedom comes from knowing we are leaning on God's higher authority, but the weight of our responsibility is all too clear. We must consider our commands before we throw them out there.
Next, we are asked to consider how we give directions. Do we expect to be obeyed? Of course! But I easily find myself slipping into some of the wrong examples that Jay gives. The encouragement here is to give direct, clear instruction in a pleasant tone of voice, expecting to be obeyed. So easy, so hard! I do love this quote: "God wants your children to obey you because it pleases Him and blesses them." Children MUST obey (Ephesians 6:1). In our home, I constantly tell my children that they cannot do this in their own strength, but that they can pray that God will assist them. We are then reminded that the only God-pleasing response is a pleasant affirmative (Philippians 2:14).
The author then introduces Proverbs 16:20-24, noting poetic structure that was likely employed. This was especially interesting to me and was expounded upon at the end of the chapter. This poetic structure would place special emphasis on vs. 22: "Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it, but folly brings punishment to fools." Skipping ahead a bit, vs. 20-21 and 23-24 give the subject matter (listening to instruction and trusting in the LORD) and how this instruction should be delivered (with pleasant words, in a discerning manner). There is much more to be uncovered in these verses; this is just a taste of the riches found in God's word!
A few more needed insights to remember:
- Cooperation based on negotiation and mutual advantage is not obedience. Obedience is willing submission to authority.
- The parent is the one to blame when she does not see to it that she is obeyed the first time.
- Anger, manipulation, threats, and bribes will not get the job done.
- Pleasant words promote instruction!
Finally, Jay brings hope to those who despair from previous failures. He encourages us to turn to God for help, seeking His word to form our methods.
I will admit that I am not a big fan of questions at the end of chapters. I often find that the questions the author asks have typical "Sunday School" answers. But the questions at the end of this chapter were worth my time to reflect upon. In short:
1. Do I repeat commands?
2. Do I excuse disobedience?
3. What are my "hot buttons"?
4. What is the effect of angry words on my children....and on me?