When you read the letters in the New Testament, it becomes obvious a large part of the work of the early Church was helping those in poverty. The causes of the poverty may have varied, but the message was clear – Christians needed to show God’s love to the poor.
If you live in a city like Atlanta and are middle class, there is a very real chance your child has never really been exposed to poverty in a meaningful way. Even if you occasionally volunteer to help the poor, your child may only have the vaguest idea of what life is like on a daily basis for those living in poverty.
Recently I read a great paper on educating children in poverty. One of the interesting findings was something I have always suspected. Things a middle class parent would consider “common sense” are really not common sense, but are behaviors and attitudes passed on from middle and upper class parents to their children. Children in generational poverty are never taught these “hidden” rules for success. Unless parents in poverty are actively coached on these rules or have stumbled upon them on their own, they are almost certain to pass the poverty lifestyle on to their children.
Christian parenting also has hidden rules. Actually, they are in the Bible, but many parents don’t catch them or don’t think they are important. They parent with the best of intentions, but are raising children who will leave God and the Church or grow to be lukewarm Christians.
Ever watch a bunch of young boys try to “out tough” each other? It’s a wonder any boys make it to adulthood!. These sessions designed to prove one has no weaknesses, have probably resulted in the creation of more than one extreme sport and quite a few body parts in casts.
There is something in all of us, that wants to put on a brave front. Maybe it is because we fear showing our weaknesses will turn us into the laughing stock of our neighborhoods and workplaces. Perhaps there is a little bit of pride and ego in the mix. Maybe we have been taught by society that only the strong survive, and fear exhibiting weakness will place us at the bottom of the pecking order.
Unfortunately, God expects us to show our weaknesses. Whether it is sin in our lives or just fear, we need to be able to share them with God. Our children need to see us admit our sins and ask for forgiveness. Society may mock weakness, but God values our honest appraisal of our need for Him.
As an adult, have your parents ever said something they obviously thought was common knowledge, but which surprised you? When you ask why you weren’t told, they will often say they thought you knew.
As parents, it is easy to assume your child will naturally pick up certain knowledge and skills. After all, they learned to talk didn’t they?
Some children are very savvy. They can be born into horrible environments with no support and turn out to be adults you would think had been raised with every possible advantage. The vast majority of kids though, need intentional training to develop the skills to be successful in life and in the Church.
Have you ever stopped to ponder that the person who is the most likely to be able to keep your child from going to Heaven is your child? We, as parents, can train, teach and model. Our churches can provide additional mentorship and training opportunities. Our children can attend the “best” schools and have the “best” friends and still not be faithful Christians as adults.
Why? Because ultimately the battle for our child’s soul is in our child’s heart between our child and Satan. Have we taught our children how real the spiritual war is and will be throughout their lives? Have we taught them how to fight off Satan and their body’s own selfish desires? Do they know Satan’s schemes and tricks to lure them into sin and unfaithfulness? Have we fully prepared our children for spiritual battle?