Rare Words Lead To Useless Children

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By | July 1, 2010

1st Samuel 2:30-33″Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and your father’s house would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your family line and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, in your family line there will never be an old man. Every one of you that I do not cut off from my altar will be spared only to blind your eyes with tears and to grieve your heart, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.”{{more}} The other day I read an article in the newspaper where a father and son were sentenced to 100 years a piece for drug dealing. Why in God’s name would a father drag a son into that that kind of life? So that is how this message came to life.Nothing delights us any more than the birth of a new baby. Everybody gets sort of squishy and sentimental around a baby. I suspect that it is not only because they are cute and cuddly and helpless and small, but also it is because they are full of promise. Babies are nothing more than a bundle of promise; what they might become, what they could be, it’s limitless. It’s boundless. When you hold that tiny life in your arms, you do not know what you are holding a future president of the United States or some kind of rocket scientist or someone who will discover a cure for cancer or whatever. You only know that this little life has infinite promise. This child may have the potential for greatness. Somehow you never think I could be holding a future mass murderer in my arms! I could be cradling the next Charles Manson or Jim Jones, the next drug kingpin or compulsive wife-beater. You do not think that way. You do not like to imagine all those negative possibilities. And yet, as someone has so eloquently put it, every baby is nothing more than a few pounds of flesh with an insatiable appetite at one end and total irresponsibility at the other! Babies, children, have infinite possibilities for good, but also for evil. We do not like to think about them becoming totally irresponsible, but it can happen. It has happened and there are reasons why it happens.In ancient Israel there lived a man who was called upon to carry out two sets of responsibilities. There were two kinds of demands placed on Eli. He was a priest and he was a father. And without question he was expected to discharge the responsibilities that go with both tasks. The picture we get of Eli the priest is of a reasonably capable and conscientious man. So far as we know, he got the job done. He showed up every Sabbath and did what was expected of him. On the surface, anyway, Eli was a good churchman, but the Bible is ruthless in its assessment of Eli the father. It minces no words at all in describing the character of Eli’s two sons: “The sons of Eli were worthless men; they had no regard for the Lord.” “Worthless men”. How did they get to be that way? Hophni and Phinehas, once little bundles of joy held in the arms of their mother and father, but now grown into “worthless men.” They were once sweet little children, playing and delighting their parents with their charm, but now written off as “worthless”. How could it happen? There is a significant clue in the scripture. I want to make the connection between two verses a chapter apart. Every one of us who is a parent, every one of us who teaches, every one of us who is in a position to provide for children, whether in the schools or in the community or in the church every one of us who cares about how children grow up needs to make this connection. As I have said, chapter two of 1st Samuel opens with the harsh judgment that the two sons of Eli the priest were “worthless men; they had no regard for the Lord.” At the beginning of the third chapter there is also a harsh judgment about the whole climate, the whole scene, in which they lived. We are told that, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” There is your clue; there is the explanation for the worthless children. Connect these two assertions and the result is: “Rare words yield worthless children”.Let me expand on that. Clearly Eli, the priest, had plenty of knowledge of the things of God. Obviously anyone in his position had to have been well aware of God’s laws, God’s expectations. Then how can it be that “the word of the Lord was rare in those days”? Somehow Eli never found the right time or the right way to share that with his boys. Somehow Eli bottled up all his knowledge and never uncorked it for the people who mattered the most. Amen!So rare words, rarely spoken teachings, rarely used insights, the word of God, seldom brought forward, rare words yielded worthless children. Children who were never carefully and lovingly taught the word of God, children who saw their father at work and knew what his commitment was, but never really heard him express it. So they grew up ignorant of the truths of God, devoid of life-giving vision. Someone said to me once, “Well, I think that Christianity is better caught than taught. I think that the children will learn more about God by what they see us do than by what we say.” That has a certain ring of truth about it. Of course they will learn from what we do. Of course they will pick up what our real values are by the way we treat them and not just by what we tell them. But that is only half the truth. They must also be taught. This, you see, is the “osmosis” theory of Christianity. If you just sort of snuggle up next to a Christian, it will seep in by osmosis. Not true. Ask old Eli, man of God, who cradled these infants and grew them up in the shadow of the tabernacle. Osmosis just won’t work. It won’t work because you and I are not very good incarnations. We do not embody the truth of Christ very well. We make mistakes. We sin. We do all sorts of things that are a long way from what we ought to be. And they catch by osmosis the bad as well as the good, the ugly as well as the beautiful. Amen!Children must be taught the word of God. They must see the truth fresh, for themselves, without its getting all blurred. Children must discover God’s word themselves. Otherwise, I am afraid, rare words yield worthless children. If your child never sees the Bible opened and used except at church, what will that say to him? Will it not suggest that this book has very little to do with real life? If the Bible is a book dusted off when the pastor or the deacon is coming over to the house, but is never used to help anybody find real answers to real problems, will that not say to a child that it’s unreal and pointless? Let’s teach the truths of God; let us teach them regularly, frequently, consistently, specifically. Let it not be said of your house that the word of God was rare and that there was no frequent vision, lest it also have to be said, from that household there grew up worthless children. What does it say to a child if Mom and Dad pack him off to Sunday school, while they themselves get in a leisurely look at the Sunday paper and a second cup of coffee? What does it suggest to a young person if the adults he knows do not use the principles of the Bible as the bases for the way they make decisions? What is really being communicated if the only time prayer is offered is at church, in some formal setting, but never at home, never in the crunch where real decisions are being made? Amen!Eli was a churchy man, a man busy with the things of God. But it seems entirely possible that in all his business he lost touch with what was primary. He lost his own sense of new discovery, and his boys went stale. Rare words and an infrequent vision yield worthless children. Children must learn at home, from you that the word of God speaks to their lives. The church has them Sunday morning. You have them every day and every night. They must see, at home and at church that you, the adults, are in serious study of God’s word. Even if you have no children, you can model spiritual growth and intellectual curiosity for them. Some have even suggested that the day will come when we should offer a distinctively Christian preschool program, so that solid foundations can be laid at any early age. That would be a tough one to do, but if that is what we need to do, then let’s dream big dreams and catch powerful visions. Ladies and gentlemen, if it means and it will spending more money on our children, investing more dollars in facilities and training and staff and materials and whatever else they need, then dig down and do it. You have to pay the price to teach the children. Otherwise, we know we have only one alternative, just as Eli found out that rare words yield worthless children. Amen!