In a letter to the believers in the city of Ephesus, the apostle Paul instructs the children to obey their parents, “for this is right.” To do something because it is the right thing to do is what we teach James. Along with this, our aim is that he develops a life-long love of righteousness. There are natural consequences to wrong behavior, as well as the consequence of punishment. These are definitely motivations to do the right thing, but we don’t want those to be his main motivation.
It was said of Jesus, “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness.” I don’t know what “the oil of gladness” is, but it sure sounds good to me. To love righteousness, to love truth, is what I hope for my son.
And to show that the parents of this house follow this philosophy also — Just as I was writing this post, I see Jack putting on socks and I ask if he is getting on the treadmill. He replies, “I was thinking about it because it’s the right thing to do.” I promise that he had no clue about the topic of this post. Isn’t it a beautiful thing?
This is so nice to read.
I sometimes forget that it feels GOOD to do the right thing. Maybe that’s the “oil of gladness” – that deep, good feeling when you’re doing the right thing??
Your post reminds me that we need to look up Ephesus and find out why it declined from being a bustling metropolis. That question came up in our lunch-time reading last week, and good ol’ mom’s answers was, “I dunno.” We need to “do the right thing” tomorrow and look it up!
What were you reading at lunchtime about Ephesus? I too am curious about what became of Ephesus — especially after the warning John relayed in the Revelation.
This mom often has the “I dunno” response. Yesterday it was about “what makes White?” And so we head to the internet or the Dad.
Doing the right thing doesn’t always mean freedom from conflict. There’s still nasty corrupt people out there who don’t care that you did the right thing. But it often does bring about much better results than doing the wrong thing. And our conscience is at peace and integrity is intact. “He who walks with integrity walks securely” — a Proverb that James copied last week. My hope is that it gets etched on his heart too.
This is such a fun topic for discussion! Your post on Plato’s Republic is a fun one too, but I need at least an hour of quiet to think and write about that one. Maybe when it gets nice and warm this week the kids will go outside and give me a long quiet spell… a girl can dream.
James will thank you all his life for teaching him integrity, I know I thank my parents for teaching it to me!
So, if the right thing doesn’t have a reward attached, or at least a good consequence, how do we know it’s right?
I think that God gives us commandments as instructions for gaining rewards. He wants us to have good things, so he tells us how to get them. How can right be its own reward? That would make right arbitrary, wouldn’t it? Tell me what I missed 🙂
Kay, we were reading A Child’s Geography: Explore the Holy Land by Ann Voskamp.
The Proverb writer says that the one that walks with integrity walks securely, so I guess a secure walk is a reward. But what in the world does that mean? I don’t think it means security from all harm. Personally, we had to flee a town because my husband was doing the right thing. (If you need to know more, one day I’ll tell the story.) There wasn’t much security there — if we’re looking at it from that angle. At the time of our little town encounter, I expected that we would have support from the community and the law professionals because, after all, we were doing the right thing. But nope, all was quiet. Wasn’t much obvious reward for doing the right thing there. Costly, yes. I suppose a reward is that we don’t “feel” dirty because we did not compromise.
I think being motivated to do the right thing because it is the right thing and developing a love for righteousness and the truth helps us to get through those times when sticking to the narrow path is very hard or when the temptation is exceptionally strong. In the moment, the punishment doesn’t seem so bad if I get to do the thing I’m desiring.
You asked how do we know when something is right. Some things are obvious. Children obey your parents, for this is right. It’s good to know the law when it comes to driving. If you want to know how your city is to be run, then you read the city code. Rules and codes and constitutions and such are mighty handy for making some right things not arbitrary, true?
Then there’s the day to day choices in life. A mind and heart in the habit of doing the right thing is way better qualified to make these little judgments. It is about “the walk.” The man of integrity walks securely. The apostle John talked about walking in the light.
I am in agreement with you about there always being rewards for right behavior. I just think that often the reward is less obvious than at other times. I’m very happy with the immediate reward of a clear conscience. Sometimes that’s all I have.
I’m doing some more pondering on this statement of yours — “I think that God gives us commandments as instructions for gaining rewards. He wants us to have good things, so he tells us how to get them.” and I’ll get back to you on that. I’ll just say for the moment that I believe that there are natural consequences (good and bad) for our choices. (And i realize that “natural” would point to the Creator of nature.) In an everyday example for us homeschooling families — The child who does the right thing and focuses on his work and does it well is rewarded with more play time simply because they limited their sit-down school time by their focus. Doing it well allowed them free time because they didn’t have to do the work again. No lolli-pop here or sticker for good work. Just more free play time which came naturally because they chose to make their work time short by doing it quickly and well. It works for us big kids too. If I will just get the work done (that I dread), then I free my mind and body to do the funner things for me. Nobody gives me a lolli-pop or a massage for making the bed, but oh the peace it gives me to see it made and how good it feels to get in a made bed at night and how wonderful to not have to trip over the covers on the floor every time I walk in that room. Guess I’d better go do that now.
Your examples are perfect, but I would take them even farther. Having an eternal perspective, or even a next-generation perspective, it’s easier to know the right thing. You do this every day, you just don’t realize it. When you make your bed, I’m sure you weigh the value of making your bed against say, washing your windows and decide which task you’ll perform in the limited time you have in your day. When your husband had a choice to make, Jack was more concerned with the example he was setting for the next generation (James), and Jack’s immortal soul than the temporal unpleasantness of the town’s ire. When you encourage your son to do his work, I’m sure you explain to him how the arithmetic he does today will help him provide for a family when he’s older. Since you have the long view, and help your son to have the long view, he’s more likely to continue educating himself all through his life instead of heaving a sigh of relief when he finishes all the steps society requires. When the right thing to do appears arbitrary, we are unable to discriminate between right and wrong – that’s why highschools are failing all over the place.
This concept has a special application in government. If citizens see “the way things are” as sacred yet arbitrary, corruption runs rampant because citizens are unable to make necessary judgements about government officials’ performance. I think God expects us to be very judgmental when it comes to right and wrong. He provides us with brains and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and lets us figure it out as we go. In fact, I think this life is for us to learn exactly that.
Okay, I’m honing in on your use of “arbitrary.” You’re talking about a rule without a why, correct? You said that high schools are failing for this reason — because the kids don’t know why they are to do the things they are to do? I agree that by the time high school age is reached, a kid ought to be knowing the why. In the beginning though, a young one need learn only to obey. The why comes later. Do you agree?
As to my making of the bed…Every time I’m making that big ol’ king-sized thing, I am spurring myself on with thoughts of the good that comes from it. Every time! I’m not kidding. I am no mindless, robotic, Stepford Wife housekeeper : ) The Why certainly reigns on that one.
There’s a pile of things to say about the citizenry of a corrupt government. There has been much success with dumbing down and pacifying the general public. In a discussion with a very educated and responsible older woman, my husband was questioning a government checkpoint and this good citizen responded, “It must be okay or they wouldn’t be doing it.”
Yes, God expects us to make judgments of right and wrong. Many stop Jesus at the point of “Judge not” and read no further. They don’t see that there was an expectation of Jesus for his audience to judge what were pearls and swine and specks and planks. And he told them they would know a false prophet by their fruits.
I agree that the eternal consequences for ourselves and our children’s future is motivation to do the right thing. I certainly have made some choices to rid myself of bad company since becoming a mother. If I wasn’t concerned enough for myself, I certainly am for this child.
Yes, high schools and teen-agers fail because there seems to be little or no framework to support “the right thing to do.” Somehow our society has collectively forgotten the reasons for virtue. It’s our responsibility to give our kids a framework to support moral choices. Before I go further, let me just say that James seems to be an OUTSTANDING young man, and I know you’re doing a great job, because it shows.
I think my kids are old enough for why by around 2 1/2. Our family policy is, “obey first, then ask why.” I love your example in a previous post of Ma and Laura and the bear and Laura’s need to obey without question. I always want to laugh when I hear questions like, “how do you make your kids treat each other kindly?” It doesn’t matter how it’s done, Mom just needs to make it a priority so kids know that’s what you do – you treat each other kindly, you get in the car when it’s time to go, you respond politely when an adult talks to you. Kids need to learn to do it now without asking, but they also need to learn how to make choices and judgments for themselves. We require that our kids understand why we make them do chores, school work, be polite, play nicely, give Mommy and Daddy a break, etc. We also make sure they have the opportunity to make age appropriate choices (is biting worth soap in my mouth? is being a pill in church worth sitting quietly on the couch for 30 minutes after church? is memorizing scripture worth the satisfaction of reciting it to Grandma and Grandpa? is playing soccer worth missing some Saturday birthday parties?)
I agree that sometimes the right thing is difficult to do and can even seem hardly worth doing considering the consequences. Sometimes we have to do the right thing not knowing exactly why, but knowing in our hearts it’s what we have to do. I think each of us is able, through using our noggins and listening to that still small voice, to find what’s right for ourselves and know without doubt that the right thing is right. I’ve had sad experience with people and even whole groups that refuse to take responsibility for their own choices and point to an arbitrary phrase in a document or a leader who has ulterior motives as an excuse. I’m a little paranoid about teaching my kids the difference between right and socially/religiously acceptable – maybe I’m starting that lesson too young…
I don’t know if this is where you’re going with that last line, but we do have things that we talk openly and freely with James about (political things, religious things, etc.) that we tell him that he shouldn’t talk about with others because they don’t want to hear it or they would misunderstand. It feels strange, but James understands. We’re not telling him to be dishonest, but because people are who they are, we have to use discretion about the truth that we do tell. I’m very grateful that James understands.
I love that you have taught and insist that your children treat each other kindly. I so wish we had had the chance to do this. James looks so puzzled when he sees a sibling make fun of another. He even counseled a new neighborhood friend not to talk to his sister the way that he did. (That’s another lesson to learn. Do we tell him that he shouldn’t go around correcting friends — especially new ones — whose family may not have our standards? Or do we just let him do what his heart tells him to do? Does he bow to the socially acceptable here?) We know that if we had had more children, we would also insist that they treat each other kindly. My brothers, sisters and I got along fairly well growing up. I know it’s possible. “You only hurt the ones you love” is garbage. Just like the expectation that teenagers have to go through their rebellious stage is nonsense, so is the expectation that brothers and sisters will not get along and that there will be constant rivalry. What is up with these helpless parents? I think some of them love the expectations of rebellion and rivalries and therefore they can opt out of the work it takes to raise their children well.
Fighting in a big family can literally make life a living hell for everyone in it! Before I knew I wanted a family, I knew I would insist on kindness between my kids. It can be done – it just takes some work.
I love James’s response to his fighting neighbors! Ben told me that when he was in Kindergarten, a little boy hit a girl and Ben fought the boy. The teacher gave Ben and the future wife beater the same treatment. Ben says it took him years to understand that the teacher was trying to make him feel bad for enforcing justice – kind of cute. I think James can be a force for good in your neighborhood, and I’m sure he’ll figure out over time when to speak up and when to keep it to himself.
Ahhhh, it’s so nice to have a real discussion with a real grown-up! Talking about window treatments and make up is no relief from discussing boogers and tea parties 🙂
Ha! Yes, you’ve come to the right person if you want to have adult conversation that doesn’t involve window treatments and make-up 🙂 I need to quote you on that last line. It actually took me a minute to understand fully what you were saying. And I hope I did get it right.
I’ve thought about often about how schools treat both sides in a fight. My husband encountered the same treatment your husband did. I agree with Ben. I think they want to train them early that you don’t “take justice into your own hands.” Then we can grow up and rely on the professional government law-enforcers and do nothing ourselves. How stupid for a big kid to have to run in and get a teacher while a little one is being beaten up. “When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.”
Yes, an unarmed, mind-numbed populace makes the government’s job easy. I think Ben and Jack would get along as well as you and I do 🙂
You and your husband have so much to offer kids… have you thought about adoption, or at least teaching Sunday School?
Hi Kay, I just stopped by to see how things were going. Hope you guys had a wonderful school week.
Thanks, Traci! We actually were on “spring break” last week. I’m spending time right now planning our return to lessons on Monday. We were supposed to use the week to “get organized” – James’ idea. We weren’t successful at that and, in fact, I think the house is in more of a shambles since last week. And there wasn’t much Spring here. So basically we had a break — and James had no problem with that. I hope that you and yours are doing very well. Thanks for stopping by to say Hi.