Developing Character In Children

Note: The following is a continuation of the “Successful Home & Marriage” series by Jimmy Swaggart.

WORK

Children need to be taught to work. There are many problems facing our land and world today, and one of the basic causes of this is that a generation of children has been raised to believe that work is “undignified.” When I was a boy, work was taught as an ethic. It was a virtue. It was taught as the basic component of character development.

My mother and father taught me to work, and I’m grateful they did. As the depression gave way to opportunity, Americans had a real zeal for work. There was a vibrant urgency in America that helped immeasurably when we entered World War II. It would be a disaster to see another depression, but, at least in those days, whenever anyone was offered any work, he accepted it eagerly.

Today, children are no longer being taught to work. In numerous ways they are even being taught and encouraged not to work—by our government and other social forces. More often than not, labor organizations discourage hard work. It is a tragedy that many of the most influential elements in our society hinder the work ethic and encourage “feather-bedding” and more-and-more pay for less and- less work. Many labor groups want everything reduced to the lowest possible level of activity, and the result is a situation where an energetic individual is prevented from producing what he could.

Another tragic element in our society is government’s determination to pay individuals for not working, while the more ambitious element is penalized for working. For many, not working pays better than working pays. This destroys the fabric, the fiber, and the soul of a nation. Incredibly, it is being imposed by our own government.

Only people who are truly incapable of helping themselves should receive help. Able people ought to work, and society should intervene only to provide constructive work when it isn’t otherwise available. Today we reward laziness and slothfulness.

BEING ACCUSED OF LAZINESS WAS THE WORST KIND OF INSULT

It is common knowledge that many refuse to accept such work as washing dishes, pumping gas, or other menial jobs. In truth, it doesn’t matter how menial the task. If it’s honest labour, it’s worthy of respect. Everyone should work. Even the person without real financial needs should work because filling your days with hobbies, television, or similar non-productive time-fillers is spiritually corrosive.

Laziness will destroy a person’s character. Anyone who is able to work and chooses not to work is a parasite. He lacks the fundamentals of good character and doesn’t understand the first principles of God’s kingdom.

Moms and dads should teach their children the work ethic at an early age.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Children should be provided jobs and should then be compensated for the work they do. This is the foundation of a later understanding of what money is, where it comes from, and the value of it. My father never gave me an allowance. He gave me work to do, and I was then rewarded for that work. By the time I was 8 years old, I had started doing things to earn a little money. I would dig potatoes, chop wood, pick tomatoes, pick cotton, and pick all kinds of vegetables. My mother and daddy taught me the work ethic early, and I soon learned that money was something that was earned and not handed out. Being accused of laziness was the worst kind of insult in our house. I had a constant dread of anybody thinking I was lazy. My mother and dad instilled this in me.

Learning how to work when I was young has enabled me to work hard as an adult. Being involved in a ministry that circles the globe is a time-consuming task. I was taught responsibility and respect for work when I was a child, and it remains deeply ingrained in me today. I look back now with thankfulness as I can see how this has contributed to what success we have had. There are all kinds of little jobs that can be performed by children, such as mowing lawns and having responsibility for many household maintenance chores. Little girls should be taught to babysit. Boys can wash cars, work after school at a grocery store, deliver papers, or take responsibility for any of the other myriad jobs available to those who want to earn spending money.

SPEND OR SAVE?

Parents should also teach their children to spend wisely because they will need this ability as they grow through life. Lamentably, the majority of American adults have no concept of intelligent purchasing, and this is demonstrated in the fact that every credit crunch finds a large percentage of American families on the brink of bankruptcy.

Learning how to shop intelligently should be a part of every child’s training. In addition, children should be taught how to save. While this may sound old-fashioned, it is completely scriptural. Proverbs 6:6-8 says: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard: consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

The Lord is telling us that there are times when we should save for the future. I worked hard, doing all the jobs I previously mentioned. Many were not pleasant, such as picking cotton or curing cow hides. I was often dirty and, afterward, my back ached, but with the monies earned from these tasks, I opened a bank account. My first account was opened with something like $8, and it gave me a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and responsibility. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life and one of the finest lessons I ever learned.

Children should be taught thrift. They need not be encouraged to be misers or stingy, but they should be encouraged to save, and the value of thrift should be ingrained into them at an early age.

GIVING

Children should also be taught the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over (Lk. 6:38).

Children should be taught how to save. While this may sound old-fashioned, it is completely scriptural.

I was taught to pay my tithes at the age of 8. My parents instructed me that out of every dollar earned, a dime belongs to God. This was instilled in me from the very beginning of my life. They showed me where this could be found in the Word of God. I believed it, and I have practiced tithing from that moment on—and it has been one of the greatest lessons ever learned.

Children should not only be taught tithing, but the giving of offerings in addition. My parents taught me to be generous with God. They taught me kindness and generosity.

Children should be taught to give money. I don’t remember a Sunday as a child that I didn’t put my tithe in the Sunday offering plate. As I did so, I always felt happy because I knew it was the right thing to do within God’s sight.

Sometimes my grandfather would give me a dollar, or I would earn one. I was taught that I owed God a dime of that dollar. My mother and daddy practiced this before me as an example, and I think this was responsible for convincing me of the propriety of doing so.

COURTESY AND MANNERS

In addition to being taught how to handle money, children should be taught courtesy and manners. Manners and morals are closely aligned, and no person can be what he should be without courtesy.

Parents should teach their children to say “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am” to adults and supervisors. You don’t hear much of this today. There is a considerable lack of respect within our society. It goes back to a lack of authority in the home, which then radiates throughout society. Children should be taught courtesy and to say a simple “thank you” or “no, thank you.”

Children should also be taught to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. The simple act of saying, ‘I am sorry,’ involves some of the most difficult words in the English language.

Another principle that needs to be reestablished is that of living peacefully with others. Fighting should not be allowed. Respect should be taught for another’s possessions, and one should not take what isn’t his own. Children should be encouraged to share.

Children should also be taught to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. The simple act of saying, “I am sorry,” involves some of the most difficult words in the English language. The only phrase harder to say is, “I was wrong.” Teach both of these phrases to your children early in life, and they will be much better persons for it.

CHILDREN ARE TO HONOUR THEIR PARENTS

God’s commandment to honor mother and father should be taught to children.

This is the fifth commandment and is the first to deal with man’s relationship to man. It is the only one that carries with it a special promise. The first four commandments refer to man’s relationship with God, and the last six sum up all of man’s duties toward mankind.

The first of these relationships is, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” The promise— for compliance with this commandment— is that one will live “long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

The implication in this seems to be that if one properly deals with his parents in honor, other duties will likely be observed also, resulting in a healthy and lengthy life.

Even though this basic command was given in the Old Testament, all commands regarding man’s relationship to man continue to be valid. There is no evidence that these commands, concerning man’s relationship to man, have been done away with by Christ.

The fifth commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” is recorded in the New Testament, and it is also elaborated upon there, with its applications explained. In Matthew 15:3-9, Jesus preached a brief sermon on this text. He repeated and expounded upon this thought of honoring father and mother.

SET A HIGH STANDARD

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.

In every area of life, parents are to set high standards. Agreeing with Joshua, we are to declare that, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). The home is the place of worship and training. This is where character is built and lives developed. Parents must set the example. The Word of God must be read and explained, and prayer must be engaged in.

Family worship and training of children is an urgent need in every Christian home. You should train up a child in the way he should go. If done properly and scripturally, with love, he will not depart from the godly way. 

(This message was derived from the book by Jimmy Swaggart, “NOVEMBER 2017 THE EVANGELIST”.)

Scriptures from: (The Expositor’s Study Bible)[KJV/ESB]. iPad & iPhone & Hard Copy: by Jimmy Swaggart. 
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