Day 23: Love
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
Raising children requires a foundation of love. Hall-of-Fame baseball player Harmon Killebrew once shared how, as a child, he destroyed the lawn fielding grounders with his dad. When his mother commented on the trampled grass, his dad replied, “Honey, we’re not raising grass here. We’re raising boys.” Similarly, Proverbs 15:17 explains, “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Dads, even if your mouth waters over a really juicy steak, it is still better to chew on salad surrounded by a loving family. Your kids rarely need more stuff, but they do need your love. Labor to build a relationship with your children because all the money in the world can fill your house with things, but it cannot make a family.
Love your children with your time by remembering four basic words . . .
Love your children with your time by remembering four basic words: Read. Pray. Work. Play.
Spend time reading God’s Word in family devotions and personal discipleship. You don’t need to be a scholar to read the Bible. In our family worship before bedtime, we try to read a five-minute devotional and count any subsequent discussion as a victory. Children have the uncanny ability to listen even as they sing and turn cartwheels. Secondly, pray for your children and also pray with them. Show them by example your intimate parent-child relationship with God. In our family, we don’t expect our children to pray like Puritans, but we do encourage them to pray simple prayers: “Thank God for one thing and ask him for one thing.” We also try to model a relationship with God by praying about major decisions as a family. Third, work alongside your children. Help them with tasks and projects they have been assigned for school and enlist them to help with household chores. Remind them that they are a contributing member of the household. Your patient instruction is well-worth the added effort and will teach them skills for a lifetime. Fourth, don’t forget to play. Explore what each child likes to do and spend quality time with them both individually and together. You don’t even need to enjoy the activity yourself to enjoy being with them, but it helps to share common interests. Read, pray, work, play, and reach your child’s heart.
Love your children with your time and also with your words, for “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (18:21a). Words can either encourage or criticize; build up or tear down. So are your words gracious like honey (16:24) or do they break your child’s spirit (15:4)? Your child must hear in your everyday speech that she is loved. Dads, this past week, what kind of power did you wield with words?
Finally, love your children by your example. You can tell but never teach, unless you practice what you preach. So live the way you want your child to become. Sadly Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, was a poor example to his son. Although the wisest man to ever live, he squandered the bulk of his life (see Eccl. 1). His son, Rehoboam, then followed his example instead of his instruction (1 Kgs. 12:1-19). Dads, there will be days when you are exhausted, pulling out your hair, and crying to Jesus because you do not know what else to do. You will find your children scribbling with permanent markers on the wall, yelling at you in rebellious anger, or telling lies about their grades in school. In that moment, you must make a choice. Do you address their sinful character with sinful character of your own or do you address their shortcomings with the love of Christ? If you see your role as discipling your child to become more like Jesus, then you will set a Christ-like example especially when addressing their sin. As J. C. Ryle writes in The Duties of Parents: “To give children good instruction, and a bad example, is the same as pointing out the way to heaven, while we take their hand and lead them down the road to hell.”
It seems absurd that any father must be told to love his children. Yet how often do you choose your convenience over theirs? How often do you instruct behavior without caring for their souls? How often do you speak unkind words without asking their forgiveness? Dads, loving your children begins with knowing that you yourself are loved by God. Reaching their hearts begins with God first exposing yours. “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). God is the source of love. So when you love, your children see God in you. They will know you are a follower of Christ by your Christ-like love for them. Therefore, your most loving role as a father is to train your children to love Jesus with all their heart.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Help me to love my children well with my time, my words, and my example. Remind me in moments of parenting exhaustion that I am loved by you and have the unparalleled privilege of showing my children the love of Christ. Change my heart to help change theirs. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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