The Precepts of the Lord are Right
Musings on commandments and parenting
By Zach Dietrich
“The precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad” (Psalm 19:8).
“I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
All of God’s commands are good and for our joy. We want our children to know that. We want them to know that the goal of all commands is their happiness. As parents, we are either reinforcing or contradicting our theology of God’s character and law by our actions.
Sometimes – or rather, all too often – our actions accidentally teach a theology opposite to our words. One of the accidental theologies that we teach our children is that commands are all bad.
Commands are the no’s: “Stop jumping on the chair.”
Or, they only mean work: “Come here and clear the table.”
When I do premarital counseling, I enjoy reminding couples of the very first command in the Bible. Most people assume it is: “Don’t eat from that tree.” Wrong. That’s the misdirection of Satan to blind us to all of God’s yeses by focusing on a few nos.
The first command in the Bible is this: “Be fruitful and multiply!”
“Think of what that implies!” I joyfully tell the couple, as they squirm in their seats. Too often, they’ve come to view God’s commands as the squasher of all joy rather than the source of joy.
God’s commands are for our joy. What might that look like in our homes? Perhaps we ought to be more conscious about commanding good things. For every “Stop it!” in my house, I want to have a joyful command.
That means on the other end of shouting “Come here!” I want my kids to find big hugs just because, little snacks that Mom doesn’t know about, and looking at that rabbit out the window together. How awful if my children associate “Come here!” only with chastisement or chores.
Lest I be accused of legalism, hear me loud and clear: commands – the Ten Commandments, the Old Testament Law, and your house rules – cannot change hearts. Law cannot save. Repeat that. Law cannot save.
If Eve, in a garden of only one “no,” was blinded to God’s goodness, we should not be surprised if our children, like their parents, are also deceived into interpreting commands as God withholding some good thing. The fact that we bristle against commands and the authorities who deliver them speaks less about the nature of the command and more about the depravity of our hearts.
My point is not that we can change our children’s hearts by socially engineering more positives than negatives. That is textbook futility. We’ve all had our children – completely oblivious to the irony – balk at the request for help cleaning up the wrapping paper after they open Christmas presents.
Right now, I’m really not addressing the children side of the equation of parenting at all. I’m reminding Christian parents that we ought to represent God accurately to our children by commanding their joy. The law of God reflects His holy and joyful character. Our parenting must mirror that as well.