The middle years of 5 to 12 are years of transition. One aspect of this transition is preparing for war. Parent, you are the active combatant as you protect your 5 year old. But when he turns 12 he must be ready to fight spiritual battles without always having your oversight. We are often shocked at seeing young children carrying weapons and being in the middle of gun battles in other parts of the world. But this uncomfortable picture is much more fitting for our children than we care to admit. Developing character in your children is preparing them for a war that is real and even more deadly than the ones we cringe at seeing on the nightly news. No, your 12 year old may not running in the streets carrying an AK-47. But he is a target nonetheless. His enemy wants more than his physical life; he wants his soul.
The weapons that you are to teach your children to use are spiritual in nature. If your children are unskilled in using spiritual weapons they will be easy prey for a vicious enemy. As your children gradually spend more time away from you they will have an increasing need to be skilled combatants in the war that really matters. For example we know that one strategy that the enemy will use to attack your kids is obscene, foolish speech. The enemy knows that if he can lure children into immoral, obscene speech his battle is already on the way to being won.
So what spiritual weapon is the right one to fight immoral, obscene speech? The answer may surprise you – gratitude! This is what Paul says in Ephesians 5:3-4 about combating immoral speech:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality,or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather Thanksgiving.
Sexual immorality arises from being discontent with the restrictions God has placed on human sexual conduct. One can either resent these restrictions or rejoice in God’s wise provision. Being resentful or regretful that we cannot do what we want sexually, leaves little room for gratitude. Obscene, coarse joking does not flow from a thankful heart, but from a lusting heart.
So when you teach your children to be grateful for God’s gracious provision each day, you are also training them to use the sophisticated spiritual weapon of gratitude. A heart that is thankful is much less likely to succumb to the call of lust. Being thankful for food, for a difficult little brother, for God’s care even when life is hard provides training to actively combat sexual immorality and profane speech.
Thanksgiving is part of an arsenal of spiritual weapons that have more power than any of the weapons of the flesh. Become skilled in its use so that you can teach your children how to use this powerful weapon for God’s glory!