Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How (Not) to Raise a Pharisee

Kurt Gebhards @http://www.sfpulpit.com , the Pastor of Children’s Ministries at Grace Church, suggests a few ways how not to raise a Pharisee. Raising Pharisees
He notes that the Bible gives us some definite character traits of the pretentious pietist, and here is what they may look like in a child:

Bullet His outward behavior and adherence to rules are driven by a desire to please men, not by a love for God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk. 12:30).

Bullet Doing good works and having them observed by adults is more important than the action itself (Mt. 6:5).

Bullet The child is openly obedient and responsive — asking to pray before bedtime with you — while maintaining a quietly deceitful and rebellious attitude (Gal. 6:7).

Bullet He scrupulously observes the letter of the law — like religiously bringing his Bible to church — but neglects the weightier spirit of the law — like sharing his favorite toys with his siblings (Mt. 23:23).

Bullet He craves the verbal praises and tangible rewards of his parents and teachers, but cares little for the approbation of God Himself (Jn. 12:43)

Left unchecked by the grace and Word of God, by the time such a child reaches his teenage years, hypocrisy can have entrenched itself.

Bullet This teen prefers well-defined, black and white rules, for they give him a sense of certainty that God must surely reward those achievements (Lk. 18:12).

Bullet He adds a layer of rules to the Word of God (like not watching any movies, not listening to popular music, et cetera), giving the impression that he holds to a higher standard than Holy Scripture (Mt. 23:4).

Bullet He tends to propose personal preferences as, or elevate them above, divine imperatives (Mt. 15:2-3).

Bullet He pursues perfectionism (Phil. 3:6), not excellence (Phil. 3:12-14).

Bullet He separates himself from others he considers of lesser cultural morality — people whose table manners, courtesy of speech, and refinement of mannerisms do not match middle-class norms (Lk. 15:1-2).

Bullet He is judgmental — he excels at fault-finding, he loves to pick verbal fights — and the standard by which he condemns others is not primarily biblical, but personal, preferential, or traditional (Mt. 7:5). He fights against many people, against many issues, but he does not know who he is fighting for.

In his final section the notes that we can certainly teach and militate against hypocrisy in the following ways:

Bullet Instead of just dealing with external behavior issues, we should seize every opportunity to help children understand that it is their hearts that generate their actions (Mt. 15:19). In His judgment of man, God looks at the heart (1 Sam.16:7). We should never equate occasions of good behavior (professions of love for Jesus, acts of compliance, et cetera) with saving faith in Jesus. We need to go beyond fixing wrong behavior to helping the child understand that his evil heart can only be changed by the Lord in regeneration.

Bullet Emphasize the affections of NT religion. Make sure that we are not just aiming at a young person’s understanding, but that we reach for the heart and its affections.

Bullet Do not encourage children to exhibit their talents and gifts to impress others. They should be reminded that all that they are and have are gifts of grace from God (1 Cor. 4:7), and they should not regard themselves more highly than they ought (Rom. 12:3).

Bullet Teach the truth about integrity — which comes from the word for “integer” or “whole.” For a child with integrity, whichever way you turn them, they look they same. Who they are at church, is who they are in school, is who they are at home. This is what our kids should be.

Bullet Do not be afraid to share our spiritual and moral failures with children in instances where they can identify with our shortcomings. This allows us to be authentic with them. It also allows us to demonstrate our response to God when we have done wrong, and our reliance on Him to continue molding our hearts.

Bullet Be authentic in your love for Christ. Genuine desire for Christ is not easily faked. Let your zeal be a barometer by which they measure their own affection for Christ.

Hypocrisy is an insidious danger in Children’s Ministries today. It also threatens each individual home. As parents, it is our job to honor the intention of Psalm 78:4-6:

We will not conceal [the Word of God] from their children, But tell to the generations to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done, that they should teach [the law] to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children.

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