Parents are famous for telling their children what is wrong about a particular thing or activity. While it is certainly appropriate to warn about dangerous things, it is easy to be fixated on the negative. Inadvertently, this may lead to an inability to encourage positive goals. For example, Philippians 4:8-9 directs the thoughts of Christians towards those things and ideas that are excellent. Noble and praiseworthy thoughts are to dominate our minds. Yet often, when a particular course of action is considered or requested, it is the negative concerns that we focus on. Read Paul’s words carefully:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is
pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or
heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be
This practice of using excellent things as a benchmark for evaluating activities has become a lost art. The Christian life is much more than avoiding negative things. It is primarily about engaging in thoughts and activities that bring honor to God–things that enhance his reputation here on earth. This perspective focuses on parenting goals and objectives that lead to a biblical perspective on productivity. Here are a few examples of what I mean. Please remember that when I use these types of examples in the blog, I am assuming that positive biblical interaction has been taking place in other venues also, such as family worship or just informal conversation about biblical wisdom. I will not say everything that could be or needs to be said in these examples, but just enough to illustrate a difference in direction.
Two young children are fussing and complaining about each other.
Negative response: Why can’t you two just be quiet! Being noisy and fussy is a distraction to everybody in this house. I don’t want to hear any more unpleasantness, and I mean it! Do you understand?!?
Response that encourages excellence for God: God’s Word says that we should be thankful for each other. Sarah, remember that we talked about things we can be thankful for about your brother? Well, I think this would be a good time to remember those things. How does God want you to respond when your brother doesn’t respond well? That’s right, he wants you to return good for evil. Excellent. (A similar conversation should take place with the brother.)
A middle-school child has a difficult schoolwork assignment.
Negative response: You are still behind on this assignment aren’t you? If you had just listened to what I told you last week, you wouldn’t be behind now, would you? What did I tell you? Well, I hope you learn from this, young man. If you don’t solve this problem now it will plague you for the rest of your life. This time, stay with it.
Response that encourages excellence: Hey – you still struggling with that assignment? Okay, why don’t you tell me what is hard for you about this assignment? After the explanation: Let’s take another look at what is confusing you. But first, let’s ask God to help you with this. Now, what does your teacher want you to accomplish with this assignment? Good, so you understand that part. I know you have a problem remembering some of the dates, but for now just make an outline of what the steps are to finish this project. When you’ve done that, bring the outline to me, and in the meantime I’ll help you make some 3×5 cards to remember the dates. You understand the concept, you’re just kind struggling with where the dates fit in. Come find me in 30 minutes with your outline and we’ll figure out a way to get this done, and also to help you with the rest of the assignments in this class. I know this is not great fun, but remember that God planned for you to have this class just so you could learn to work through these issues. Hang in there!
By focusing on what is right, the things that are negative will often be addressed as well, but from an encouraging perspective.
There is another aspect to asking what is right that I want to examine. We will do that in the next post.