The easiest way to distinguish what is genuine from its pretender is to become intimately familiar with the genuine article. Therefore, if we want to distinguish biblical instruction from its pretender, we must be intimately and passionately committed to biblical instruction. This is the kind of instruction that Tedd Tripp calls formative instruction in his book, “Instructing a Child’s Heart.”
In it’s truest sense instruction means to teach children about God and his ways so that they are challenged to long for a deepening relationship with God. (see Deuteronomy 6:5-7 & Ephesians 6:4) A careful reading of these two passages leads to this conclusion. In Deuteronomy, the emphasis is on the parents and teachers being deeply in love with God so that his words overflow from their own hearts. In other words, the diligent instruction of Deuteronomy 6:7 is to flow from a heart that is overwhelmed by love for God. If this love is not present, truly biblical instruction will not occur.
A parent must have a deep and conscious love and recognition of God when instructing children. This parent will see not only the immediate problem but also the danger that this problem will lead to if it is not responded to as God has directed.
This means biblical instruction is given with a deep love for God, using a few pleasant words (Pro. 6:20-24; 10:19) with an informed understanding of the needs of the one who is instructed (Ephesians 4:29). If this is true, biblical instruction is not something that is done lightly. In the pressure of our over-scheduled world manipulation appears to come running to the rescue.
It is compelling to think, “who has time for these nice-sounding spiritual ideals?” Compelling in the immediate, perhaps, but this kind of thinking can turn into a sad compromise.
Let me interject a word of grace here. Many times, in these posts, you have read that God does not treat us as our sins deserve. This applies to parenting as well. I don’t have to get it all perfect to know his blessing. However, this should not be an excuse to do only that which is pragmatic and convienenent. It does mean what is important is the orientation of my heart to change for God’s glory and my children’s good. Biblical instruction is our goal, but we must pursue it with the realization that we will never fully attain it in this life. If you tell your children about your battle to do and say what is right before God you will model for them the life-long struggle that is the Christian life.
Okay, back to the point of the post. Manipulation says something like this:
“Look, you don’t have time to go through the biblical instruction stuff. Just promise the kids whatever works to get through the day. You can deal with the Bible and God stuff later. A little ice cream or a new toy or 30 minutes longer on the video game is certainly worth the price of sanity.”
I know this example may be a bit overstated. But I think you get the point. This is why manipulation is attractive as a time-saver. But is it? How much time is lost arguing with a teenager who just wants to be out a little longer than you told him he could? You see, if he has been trained by manipulation he now knows it works both ways. Relying on manipulation means that arguments about seemingly small things become the norm.
Manipulation is a cruel pretender to the genuine article of biblical instruction.
In the next post we will take a look at Proverbs 16:12 and some practical questions that some of you have raised.