As parents, can we identify one special quality that we should aim for in raising our children? Yes, I think we can. Let’s look at a verse that describes the childhood development of Jesus:
“Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52, New Living Translation)
What is the first quality that Jesus grew in? Wisdom. What parents could ask for more than that? Any person who has wisdom will become a complete, mature individual– a young man or woman ready to bless the world and honor God.
There’s a big difference between being smart and being wise. Presently many societies work really hard to produce smart children. But, consider. What good is an education if a person doesn’t know how to live? Can top grades guarantee a child’s success as a human being? Haven’t we all known intelligent, gifted people who didn’t know how to live? They had a brain stuffed with information, but they lived reckless, thoughtless lives. They may have been at the top of their class, but because they lacked wisdom they sank to the bottom of the barrel.
Remember: parents have the responsibility to raise wise kids. Teachers can help, but parents need to see teachers as assistants, not as substitutes. As parents we must approach the task of raising wise children as though no one else will do it. Are you wise enough to see your child’s need for wisdom?
Think for a moment about the people you most respect. They may be smart; they may be talented. Nevertheless, are those your reasons for respecting them? Probably not. You respect people who know how to live wisely and manage their lives well. They know how to live in a society with people different from themselves. They make few enemies. To the wise, success is much more than what they know, what they have, and what they can do. They know how to live, and that wisdom gains our admiration.
King Solomon had it all. Such a handsome, intelligent man! He had the best education. He came from the best of families. His financial portfolio was extremely impressive. Yet with all his assets, Solomon considered wisdom the most valuable legacy he could give his children. Listen to him as he writes to his children in the book of Proverbs:
“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, ‘Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.’
“Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
“Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.” (Proverbs 4:1-8, NIV)
Clearly, Solomon had learned the high value of wisdom. His collection of Proverbs is the most wonderful gift he left to his children, and to us. It is a priceless collection of wise principles for successful living.
True wisdom never comes cheaply. Solomon inherited much of his wisdom from his father, David. Yet much of it came from difficult personal experiences, too. He paid the high price for wisdom, and left what he learned as a legacy to his sons. Will our children receive such a legacy from us? Or will they only inherit possessions and an intellectual education? The world’s cities are full of young people who have it all, but aren’t wise enough to use it.
You cannot teach children wisdom in the same way you teach them mathematics. In many schools much of the teaching is by rote memory. Drill until you know the material so well that you can repeat it without error. Fine for mathematics, but wisdom is different. You can give a child the principles, like Solomon did, but the real teaching takes place in day-to-day life. Unfortunately, because many parents have such busy lives, they miss the opportunities that repeatedly occur to teach their child to live wisely.
Such opportunities usually happen spontaneously. As one family counselor says,
“In real life, children – especially teenagers – don’t talk to their parents on demand. Children like to have their parents in the background at home or in the car before they come forward with their thoughts, reactions and feelings. It’s hard for stressed-out parents to develop this kind of relaxed atmosphere, especially since it’s a law of life that we become more self-centered when we are overburdened.”
(Patricia Dalton, The Parent Trap. Article appeared in The Washington Post, July 20, 1997)
What is Wisdom?
Wisdom is the science of successful living. What is most important in life? How should I use money? How do I maintain good relationships with my family, my friends, and my world? How do I care for my mind, my body – my soul? How do I make good decisions? They seldom teach such things in the school room.
If we have not learned wisdom, how can we teach it? Many of us may have received some sound insights from our parents, but we might have inherited some very unwise ideas as well. Perhaps you think, “How can I raise my children with good, godly values when I didn’t get them as a child?”
I can understand your concern. Perhaps you look at your past, as I did, and wonder how you could ever raise wise children. You feel insufficient for the task.
God’s Good News
Good News! Wisdom is currently available to all who need it and heartily ask for it. The Bible says that anyone who lacks wisdom can ask God to give it. “If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.” (James 1:5, TEV)
Good News! You don’t have to be a perfect parent. In fact, you can’t be! God will help you overcome your imperfections if you’re honest about them. Ask for His help.
“Father God, thank you for making me a new person and a new parent. Teach me your wisdom so I can teach my children your wisdom. I confess my imperfections to you and pray for your strength to overcome them. Thank you for your love for me and for my children. Your love is changing our lives.”