Do As I Say, Not As I Do!

Joan Lunden, as well as others, wrote, “Our Children may not always listen to us, but they never fail to imitate us.” This truth has come back to haunt almost every parent who has reared children. While some may actually state the title to their children in some form or other, most don’t realize what they really teach the child happens over a lifetime of modeling behavior. I have been impressed by the stories of several people who have been great examples of this truth (mine isn’t one of them).

I have recounted earlier about the comment made by Dr. James Dobson as a young boy living in a Christian family during a time when his father was a traveling evangelist. Sometimes he would be called to hold evangelistic meetings at a church usually for a week or so, after which the church would take up an offering for his pay. Coming home after one of these meetings, his wife could tell by his look that he once again gave his pay away to a needy family, which was fine with her. God would provide. Young James watched this life of his parents and later stated, “Oh how I wanted to know the God of my father.”

Our church recently held a “Gospel Meeting,” where the entire service was singing Southern Gospel Music and old hymns of the church. This is not a common occurrence since, as with many churches today, Contemporary Christian Music is the norm. During the service, the pastor related how as a young boy he watched his grandfather stand in church, hymnal in hand, one hand raised in praise, singing one of the old hymns (normal at that time) with tears of joy running down his face. But, it didn’t end there.

At home, before retiring for the night, the grandfather would go into his room for a time of prayer. The young grandson would listen outside of the bedroom door as his grandfather lifted up prayers to God. He prayed for just about everything and everyone including family members by name. The young grandson listened expectantly until his name was mentioned, which made him feel so excited and special because his own name was being brought before God. These recollections were powerful examples of role model behavior that helped shape the life of our pastor.

David Green, founder of the Hobby Lobby chain of stores, was raised in a family of six siblings all of whom grew up to be either pastor’s, or wives of pastor’s. All in the ministry. That is, all of them except him. He recalls how he felt somewhat inferior at times, in that God had not called him to be a pastor, too. God had different plans for David Green. Through his business acumen, he has managed to give over five hundred million dollars to a variety of Christian ministries. He claims that the business belongs to God and he is the caretaker.

While David Green’s story became high profile for many reasons, the most remarkable thing is that God called all of the Green children into ministry. The family grew up in meager surroundings while their father pastored very small churches around Oklahoma. David recalls how the children would have to traipse through the parents’ bedroom to get to the only bathroom in the house and often find them on their knees in prayer. This is but one of the myriad examples recalled. The powerful impact of the parent’s faith and practice had such a profound effect on all of the children that they, too, wanted to be like them.

There are a couple of child rearing examples in the Old Testament with interesting outcomes. Eli was High Priest of Shiloh and served as the next to last Judge of the Israelites for forty years. His two sons Hophni and Phinehas served under Eli as Priests of the Lord. The sons were corrupt and “had no regard for the Lord” (I Sam. 2:12). Eli heard from all the people about his sons’ behavior and rebuked them, but they paid no attention to their father. God delivered a message to Eli that not only were his sons going to die on the same day, but also the priestly line of the House of Eli was being taken away entirely; now and forever. While Eli rebuked his sons for their behavior, he did nothing to stop them from their wicked ways, and worse, may have joined in with them in violating the eating of sacrificed meat.

Then we have Samuel, a prophet of the Lord and last Judge of the Israelites. Dedicated to the Lord as a child, he grew up under the care of Eli. Early on his faith and godly dedication were evident and, “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up… all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord” (I Sam 3:19ff). “Samuel continued as judge over Israel all the days of his life” (7:15). When Samuel grew old, “he appointed his sons (Joel, Abijah) as judges for Israel… But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice” (8:1,3). Well, here we go again.

Scripture doesn’t say anything about Samuel’s sons’ behavior until he appointed them judges. Samuel was such a Godly man, that without a doubt he was not aware of their potential sinful inclinations until they were placed in high positions. It didn’t take long for the elders of Israel to tell Samuel, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” (8:5). This began a long series of God using Samuel to anoint Saul, and then David as kings over Israel. Israel did not fulfill God’s perfect plan for his chosen people.

These are two interesting families who both had sons that did not follow in the fathers’ footsteps. Eli, while a High Priest and judge of Israel, did not provide the example for his sons to follow. Samuel, a prophet of the Lord and judge, was one of the most faithful men of God and yet his sons did not follow him either. We have seen both of these examples play out in our time in both the called ministry and we common folks. God has given us all free will to follow Him or not regardless of the influences and growing up experiences. He speaks to the hearts of all His creation and we have the freedom to follow or not.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6). “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth” (Psalm 86:11). Amen!








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