The first “D” in the 3 D’s of Biblical parenting is DEVELOP. Develop is about creating an environment that consistently reinforces content that helps your child discover who God wants them to be. “Develop” only works if there is discipline.
Necessary to the development of a child are boundaries. There must be discipline when boundaries are crossed. When it comes to discipline, many parents consider it begrudgingly. The Bible looks at discipline lovingly.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Every parent must remember, you may have a beautiful child, but you are raising a natural born sinner. If you love your child, you will discipline your child.
Many people mistakingly equate discipline with abuse. The Biblical discipline of a child does not put them in any sort of physical danger and is in no way abusive.
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
Discipline is not manipulation. You don’t discipline a child because he or she annoys you, interrupts you, or frustrates you. As a parent, you discipline yourself before you discipline your child. You should never punish your child out of anger, but out of heartbreak. You also must be careful that the child understands that they have not just done something to disappoint you, but they have ultimately sinned before God. A parent is a servant of God, not His replacement. If we use discipline to point our child toward the Lord, the child will develop a higher sense of accountability. If you help a child understand that they are ultimately responsible before God, not just to you, they will respect God’s authority throughout their lives.
Discipline in Balance
When it comes to discipline we cannot be too soft or too harsh. Proverbs 22:15 says that folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but that the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
Discipline is a positive and a negative. It is exposing wrong and reinforcing right. If folly is truly to be driven from the heart of a child, there has to be a tipping point. Your value has to become their value. If folly is bound up in the heart of a child, that means they innately do not understand why something is wrong. You simply getting angry or disappointed is not discipline. Discipline involves discipleship. Your child is unlearning folly and replacing it with the Biblical values you reinforce.
If folly is bound up in the heart of a child, being their friend won’t help. God has called you to be a parent, not an enabler. A soft parent doesn’t want to hurt or to offend. In doing so, a soft parent only fosters the folly in their child’s heart and the older the child gets the more difficult it is to drive that folly very far!
Your child may not be happy with you when you discipline them, but they will be thankful for you in the end. Hebrews 12:11 says that discipline is painful and not pleasant, but that it yields “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Part of your problem with discipline may be that YOU don’t like it! It should break our hearts to discipline our children, but remember, it’s not about you, but about what’s best for them.!
Discipline is Shepherding
At the heart of discipline is not enforcement, but shepherding. Discipline is not breaking a child. Discipline is about loving guidance with consequence. A parent must realize that discipline is not as much about spanking, grounding, or whatever method you use, as much as it is about connecting with a child’s heart. They have to see that the choice they have made is not a good choice. It is one that has hurt them and others. You as the parent help them through discipline to realize that the world is not all about them.
Discipline cannot be too harsh. In Psalm 103:13 the Bible uses the example of a father’s compassion for his child to illustrate the compassion God has for those who fear Him. If we separate discipline from love and compassion all we have left is physical abuse and emotional manipulation; and that is not at all a loving parent.
Children will fail. Discipline gives a child a safe place to fail. If a parent lovingly disciplines a child he is safe. His folly will not be allowed to forfeit his future. His mistakes will turn into teaching moments. His failures will not destroy him, but disciple him.
Children need boundaries and loving discipline that brings them back when they cross the line. Discipline is like a guardrail on a highway. When you hit them at high speeds there will be a sudden and perhaps painful collision. But think of what a guardrail saves you from. Had you not hit the guardrail you may have ended up in a ravine, wrapped around a tree, or at the bottom of a pond. Guardrails are not pleasant or beautiful, but they are safe. A home without discipline puts a child in greater danger. Discipline brings them back. Loving discipline creates a much safer place to fail.
Dogs and cats reach maturity in about one year. Most species of songbirds leave the nest in 3 weeks. A lion is considered to be a fully-grown adult at age 3.
If you have children, you’ve probably figured out by now, this may take awhile!
And it should take a while to raise a human. While animal maturity is generally measured by height or sexual capability, there is a lot more involved in teaching a person how to be an image of God. While the lioness teaches her cub how to find food, your job as a parent should involve a little more than finding a burger for Bubba. God has entrusted you to not just tell your child about sex, but to teach them sexuality. You are not just trying to see how tall your son will be as a man, but you are to teach him how to be a godly man. Your objective as a parent should be to just find your kid a scholarship but to release them into the world as a mature image of God.
The Bible has a lot to say about parenting. This is no surprise since raising a mature image of God is such a critical responsibility. There’s a million ways to slice this, and most will do it much better than I, but when it comes to the basics of Biblical parenting, think 3D!
The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6,
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
At the outset I need to say about this verse, this is a Proverb, not a promise. A Proverb is a general observation about life. It does not guarantee a result, but it gives you guidance toward wise ways of dealing with things. The formula for a proverb is this is what works, but there are exceptions. In this case, the exception is seen in a passage like Deuteronomy 2118-21. The indication there is that this child departed when he got older. The fact that his parents did train him in the way he should go is what makes the Deuteronomy 21 scenario so tragic. This is not a child brought up in neglect or abuse. This child is a rebel.
Rebellion is a tragic possibility in the parent/child relationship, but this does not negate the parental responsibility to “train the child in the way he should go.” What does that mean? Two things are critical for development. Train = an environment of reinforcement. In the way he should go = content. As a parent, develop means that your home is going to be one of consistent content.
Train Up a Child – An Environment of Reinforcement
The idea of training in this passage is the idea of reinforcement. Training is the environment of the home. It is an intentional, nurtured culture that offers a consistent pattern of opportunity to help the child grow in maturity.
A child is not just told to mind, a child must be trained to obey. A child cannot simply be told to share, they must be trained to be generous.
Much like a trainer at a gym sets goals for the athletes he trains, the parents have in mind the values and core beliefs that will be reinforced in the home. The trainer sets up his gym so that his athletes can make consistent gains through repetition. Is your home set up for consistent gains?
Have you taken time as a parent to think through the core values and beliefs of your home? If you were asked by someone to list them, could you? If you can list them, could you give examples of how those core values and beliefs are being reinforced with your children?
As they say, you inspect what you expect. Parenting is takes intentionality and kids need reinforcement. If you tell your child, “I’m only going to tell you this once” then it must NOT be important!
Revisit your values. Reinforce them over and over. Be consistent as a parent. Be willing to say it over and over again, each time training your child how to behave and why good behavior is a blessing.
In the Way He Should Go – Content
Training involves content. What is the content of your home? The primary content that is being reinforced in your home, does it come from television, social media, or video games; or does it come from conversation and interaction with you as a parent? As a parent, you can’t farm out content. You are the gatekeeper of the content of the home.
I recently listened to a podcast that told the story of a young girl who kept asking her father questions. Being a busy man, he told his daughter to write down her questions and he would answer them later. At 9 years old, the girl returned to her father 50 deep, meaningful questions like, “What is love?”, “Is there life after death?”, “What is the purpose of life?” Heavy stuff for a third grader! Three years later, dad is STILL trying to answer her questions!
As the podcast continues, you find out that the little girl wasn’t as concerned about having her questions answered, as she was about getting her father’s attention. Her father was always on his computer. The reason she wrote down so many questions was because she wanted conversation, interaction – CONTENT.
Parental Advisory, Don’t Over-Parent
In our culture we have not only a propensity to “under-parent” by putting a device in our kid’s hand and sending them off to fend for themselves, but also to “over-parent.” By “over-parent” I mean that the reinforced expectations of training are too much, they are overbearing, they are impossible.
The word “train” that is translated here in the Bible implies that you do not raise the child to be what you want them to become, but that you raise the child to be what God wants them to become. In this instance, train means that you are paying attention to your child’s giftedness, talent, and interests. You see their inclinations and you adjust your training accordingly. Parenting is not cloning, it is development.
I work with a high school football team as chaplain. From time to time I stop by practice through the week to connect with the players and encourage them during the tough grind of game preparation. As a pastor, I always enjoy watching the coaches as I am interested in how they lead, motivate, and develop student athletes.
Most of the men on the coaching staff were great high school and/or college athletes. One of my favorite coaches I have ever worked with was a quarterback at NC State. He was a young guy and an extremely gifted athlete. At the time he was working with our team there were not five bodies we could tie together that would even come close to accomplishing what he was able to do as a high school quarterback. But what I loved about him was that he NEVER compared the kids to himself. He very seldom used the word “I.” He was not trying to produce another version of himself, but he was trying to push the kids to become the best version of themselves as men and as athletes.
Parenting is not Cloning
Parenting is not cloning, it is development. Too many kids fail to launch because they feel like they have failed long before they even got to the starting line. Because they are different than their parents or may have made some choices that their parents would not have made, they have been made to feel as if they failed.
Another scenario I see too often is a parent trying to make up for his own disappointments and failures through his or her kids. While every parent wants his or her child to learn from their mistakes, your kid is not your best chance at a state championship, or a better job than yours, or even a better life than yours. You can’t live vicariously through your kids and think that sets them up for success. It only pigeon holes them for a pathway to failure.
Development means that you are helping your child find their God-given calling. As a parent, you are God’s steward to help train, develop, and reinforce the critical content that will help them fulfill God’s call in their lives.
In my own home, I have two daughters. Though we raise them reinforcing the same Biblical, core values and beliefs, we realize that they are very different people with distinct personalities. My eldest daughter is a leader. My youngest daughter is an artist. Daughter #1 got a kayak for her birthday. Daughter #2 got a guitar for Christmas. One daughter doesn’t want to be talked to before 9am while the other can’t get enough hugs.
Know your kids and tailor your content.
Taking Steps Toward Development
As a parent, think reinforcement and content. Reinforcement, sit down and write out the core values of your home. Evaluate your consistency in reinforcing these things. Is it working? Is your child getting the message? Are they beginning to demonstrate those desired values in their behavior? Why or why not? Are there things in your life that make that message inconsistent that need to be reprioritized?
As far as content, are you acting as the gatekeeper of your home or are you farming out parenting to a device, television, or video game system? Is your child getting attention and conversation from you? Are you paying attention to their bends, gifts, talents or are you just trying to make them another you? Are you seeking God’s direction for their lives?
In my previous post I asked, what is the point of parenting? A great passage in the Bible that I think encapsulates the concept is Psalm 127:4-5.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them. He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gates.
An arrow in the hand of a warrior is not effective until it is released. In the same way, the point of parenting is not to keep a child but to intentionally and effectively release him. This is a critical, Biblical principle for parents.
In our society, we are spending inordinate amounts of time and money on coaching, training, clinics, tournaments, recitals, rehearsals, and lessons so that our child can get a scholarship, but we are missing the point of parenting. Your child may win a state championship, but what will become of him once he is released? We have too many men already who were amazing second basemen in high school, who now at 32 can’t get it together at home. And just like Psalm 127:5 says, that’s a shame!
By examining the warrior and the arrow we can better understand the point of parenting.
I am no archer, but I have done just enough of it to know that there are two pieces of equipment that are critical to the sport; the bow and the arrow.
I remember vividly one of my first introductions to archery at Boy Scout camp back in the ’80s. Allow me to put this in its proper historical context. The movie Rambo, First Blood came out in the ’80s. Every kid that grew up in that decade dreamed of shooting an arrow tipped with a nuclear warhead and blowing up the neighbor’s trash can. The good folks at Skymont scout camp were about to help me release my inner Rambo.
What happened next was a total let down for an 11-year-old. We were marched down to the archery range and handed over to an instructor. Mr. Archery was more like Mr. Rogers than Rambo. And FYI, he had no intentions of blowing anything up. Mr. Archery was all about safety.
Looking back I now appreciate a man’s concern for safety when you are about to put high-velocity sharp objects into the hands of about a dozen awkward pre-teen boys. But when you’re 11, the safety spill seems like overkill. Before he would allow us to even touch an arrow, Mr. Archery lectured us about the parts of an arrow. Boring! But important!
Inspect the Arrow
Like an archer inspects his arrows we must pay attention to our kids. The wording of this article at Eastenarchery.com will PREACH to parents!
Any arrow can become damaged. A damaged arrow could break upon release and injure you or a bystander.
Like a damanged arrow, a damaged kid becomes a damaged man or woman who injures others. If you don’t pay attention and do damage to your children, they will break upon release and injure innocent bystanders – ie. the future spouse, your future grandchildren, their friends, etc. Giving attention to your kids now could prevent a lot of damage later!
One of the things missing from parenting in our busy, social media society is attention and inspection. You can’t farm out parenting to a coach. Dance lessons may make your child wonderful in a recital, but your child doesn’t just need dance lessons. They need life lessons. Your children need to hear from you. Children need conversation. Questions. Inspections. Your kids need table talk. They need less phone in their face (and your face). They need your face, your eyes, your ears. Your children need your attention. A damaged arrow can hurt a lot of people upon release! If we are to equip our kids, we must pay attention to our kids.
Load the Bow
Have you ever witnessed a warrior engage in hand to hand combat using an arrow? I hope not! Up close, it is no more useful than a Pixie Stick in a sword fight. An arrow is a long range weapon. It needs speed and velocity to be effective. The warrior uses the bow to create tension to launch the arrow.
Your home is your bow. If your home is to be a place where your kid is equipped to be launched, there needs to be a certain amount of tension. By tension, I do not mean unhealthy and undue stress, but I mean expectation and discipline. The further the warrior draws back the bow, the more velocity he will create to launch the arrow.
Kids need moral, social, financial, familial, and vocational expectations. Your child will have a hard time keeping a job as an adult if he or she has never worked in the home. Are you the one always making Junior’s bed and cleaning his room? If so, his future wife may find that you have sent her a husband who has no tension in the bow.
If your child is proficient at Snapchat, but can’t carry on a face to face conversation with an adult, this arrow will not fly with force. To let a smartphone raise your child is a DUMB move. You will end up with a Bubba in the basement trying to make a career out of tweeting reviews about Netflix.
Your child won’t raise himself. He needs the tension of discipline. Too many parents see discipline as a negative experience, but it is proven to yield positive results. True, your child may not like you for 30 minutes, but they will appreciate you in the end. More on this in my next post!
Having a home of healthy expectation and discipline gives your child the velocity he or she needs to encounter the world as an effective adult.
An arrow without direction is dangerous. So is a child.
There are a lot of factors to consider when a warrior aims an arrow. He considers the wind, the distance, as well as the target. Where is the most effective place to hit the target? Is it moving or stagnant? Where is it most vulnerable?
If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. This is especially true in parenting. As far as the Bible is concerned, as mentioned in my previous post, Genesis 1:27-28 is our aim. Would you rather have a child who can subdue the culture or would you rather have a child absorbed by it? Like God applied His Word to the chaos and brought it into order, the child you release should be able to apply the Word of God day by day and subdue the earth.
The conditions do not have to be perfect for a warrior to make a great shot. FYI – your child’s life does not have to be perfect for them to become a great kid. And just in case you didn’t realize it, you’re not a perfect parent.
There is no perfect school, coach, teacher, church, etc. A parent who is always propping up a child pointing the finger of blame at everyone else is only teaching the child that the world is not good enough for them. The way this will translate into their release as an adult is that there is no job, spouse, community, church, etc. suitable for you. If you teach your child this you may release a child with a lot of velocity, but he will have no direction. This is a dangerous child. You have raised Cain – literally. Like his Biblical predecessor, he will end up in the land of Nod, an aimless wanderer.
An effective parent helps their child take aim by giving them objectives and a safe place to fail. Let’s try this . . . correct this . . . and try this again . . . Allowing a child to make an F may be exactly what he or she needs to make an A.
Set some goals. Set some direction. Take aim with your children.
At some point the warrior let’s his arrow go. He does so with the intention that the arrow is on target and that it will hit with maximum velocity.
A recent survey by Barna Research found that only 4% of American adults have a Biblical worldview. Amongst professing Christians, only 9% have a Biblical worldview.
A worldview, as the name implies, is the philosophical lens through which you view the world. Your worldview is the filter through which you process information and make decisions. A worldview is critical to a person as he or she tries to process such questions as what is right and wrong? Is human life valuable? What is sexuality? Why are we here?
The problem with many Christian homes is that we are raising children without a Christian Worldview. The end result is that we are releasing children into the world who are way off target.
The end result is that our children are no different than the world they encounter. They have been coddled and controlled in our home when they were supposed to be armed and aimed with a Biblical worldview.
Children need encouragement, but they also need honest conversation and correction. A child who believes he is God’s gift to the world will think that he has no need of God’s grace for the world. We are raising kids who are so amazing that they completely miss Jesus!
If we are to release on target kids who impact our culture with maximum velocity we must become more intentional and truthful in parenting. What does that look like?
A Story of Effective Release
In April attended a Biblical Worldview conference in Washington, DC hosted by Bob Jones University Press. Jeff Keaton, President, Founder, and CEO of Renewanation shared a story about his nephew.
His nephew was raised in a pastor’s home, graduated from a private, Christian high school and is now attending a public college. This young man is currently in an environment in which his faith will be challenged by a secular worldview.
The professor of his freshman English class enjoyed debate and had assigned the students various topics throughout the semester. Jeff’s nephew had done well in all of the debates and had one of the highest grades in the class. The professor was impressed with his skill.
Toward the end of the semester the professor assigned the students a debate on the topic of abortion. The students were able to choose which side of the debate to defend based on their personal views and opinions. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but if there were 28 people in the class, Jeff’s nephew and one other student were the only ones willing to defend the pro-life position. The other student chose to side with Jeff’s nephew, not based on personal convictions, but based on the fact that he needed a good grade and knew that this young man did well.
Jeff shared the concern that his nephew had in the days leading up to the debate knowing that it would essentially be him vs. 26 pro-choice advocates.
On the day of the debate the professor allowed the pro-choice advocates to go first due to the sheer number of people who sided with the position. Jeff’s nephew listened intently taking careful notes. When it came time for his presentation he articulated it carefully and ended with the words, “and for these reasons, abortion is the murder of a baby.”
Jeff’s nephew expected to be rebuffed with harsh criticism. But instead the class was silent. So the professor asked, “Now that the debate is finished, how many of you are pro-choice and how many are pro-life?” Every student who debated the pro-choice position raised his or her hand that they were now pro-life after hearing Jeff’s nephew explain his beliefs.
That’s an arrow released with maximum velocity, well equipped, aimed, and on target. That is a young man who is not absorbed by the culture, but who is affecting the culture. It is a great example of Psalm 127:5b. “He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gates.”
We need more arrows released like this! How do we parent so that we may raise children like this? Check back for my next post in which I will begin to explore 3 basic principles of Biblical parenting.
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What is the point of parenting? Is it to raise a happy, healthy child? That seems to be a fairly generic goal.
How does one measure success as a parent? Is it GPA, earning potential, athletic achievement, or some sort of moral standard? How do we know if we’ve done well?
The point of parenting is articulated in the 28th verse of the Bible. Even before God rested, He explains the purpose of a parent.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’
OK, nice Bible verse. So what’s the point of parenting?
Image – you are the representative of God on earth. You demonstrate how His Word works in the world and share the blessing that it brings. Your home, as imperfect as it may be at times, is a demonstration of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His redemptive power to the world.
Multiply – notice the Bible doesn’t say add but multiply. All things being equal, any man and woman can biologically add children, but the word “multiply” means that there is something exponential in the purpose of parenting. Teach your child how to be an image of God and you double yourself. If that child has children who also pass along those values, and so on and so on, what you have done for the benefit of the world is exponential. The greatest contribution you can make to the world is not the business you start or the recognition you receive. The greatest contribution you make to the world according to Genesis 1:17-28 is in the children you send.
Fill – what you are for your children doesn’t stay put, it moves. Notice that the verse does not say fill your basement space, but fill the earth. What has happened in your home needs to happen again, in another place. The word “fill” assumes there is an empty space with a need. When we fill the earth with “image-ness” there is less of a void. People tried the stay-put plan with the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11). God didn’t take it well. Don’t make your basement Babel 2.0. God was the first father to boot a Bubba out of the basement. The earth left to itself descends into chaos. It needs more images to fill the earth, spread out, and work God’s plan (Gen. 2:5).
Subdue – God created the world by applying His Word day by day. In the same way that God applied His Word and brought chaos to order, His images continue to work the earth, day by day, by applying God’s Word bringing an otherwise chaotic culture to order. We need MUCH more of this, don’t we?
So, in short. The point of parenting is to teach a child what it means to be an image of God so that when you release him or her into the world they will continue to apply God’s Word to an otherwise chaotic world and bring it to order.
But Houston, we have a problem; failure to launch.
Failure to Launch
A study published in November of 2016 found that in The State of New Jersey, 45% of young adults aged 18-34 live with their parents, even though they are employed.
The common term for a child’s unwillingness to leave out on his own is “failure to launch.”
I realize that there are a lot of circumstances in life in which a young adult may choose, or need for a time, to live in their parent’s home. Many college students save on the high cost of housing by commuting. I was one of those. My parents encouraged me to go to college by offering to pay tuition. The rest of it was on me. When I realized how much debt I would have just in housing expenses, and then took a look at what they were serving in the cafeteria, I realized that home is a really good deal!
There may be hardships or unforeseen circumstances that require a young adult to shelter at home for a time. There may be mental or physical disabilities that make staying at home a wise choice. But from what I understand of the study, these circumstances are not factored into the 45%. Even if I am making a mistaken assumption and all of these variables are included, 45% still sounds a little high don’t you think?
Life can be difficult and expensive, but I don’t think it is any parent’s dream to raise a capable kid, only to find that at 31 Bubba refuses to leave the basement!
Why am I being so hard on Bubba and his parents?
So what if Bubba is still in your basement? Or maybe he’s a boomerang kid – he moves out but keeps coming back. Am I saying that you are a bad parent? Not at all. I’m not even saying that Bubba is a bad person. Bubba’s first choice may not be for him to be in your basement. Furthermore, I know of some amazing single people who have greatly impacted God’s Kingdom who have lived their entire lives in their parent’s home.
But if you have an adult child who has no plan to launch out on his own and no concern for God’s Kingdom, I do have a question. What’s your release plan?
Surely you are not about to give up on Genesis 1:27 and 28. It’s too great of a vision. I’m not trying to condemn you, but I do want to challenge you. The world has enough people in it that eat Dorito’s, play video games, and binge watch NetFlix. We have some definite void in this culture that needs to be filled. Rise up, don’t give up!
God’s desire is for you to embrace the point of parenting. It will be a blessing to you!
Why are there so many Bubba’s in New Jersey?
Bubba stuck in the basement is not just a New Jersey problem. Failure to launch is becoming epidemic in the American family. Why is this? Perhaps it is because many have missed the point of parenting.
The point of parenting is not to just please our children, but to release them as mature adults. Instead of our homes being launch pads we are instead creating safe, sterilized bunkers in which our kids have everything their heart’s desire, where they are never hurt, never disappointed, never told “no”, and somehow sold on the snake oil that they should never fail.
The problem then becomes that they NEVER leave. Even worse, some parents, never get it! They don’t want to release their children. And YES – this I condemn. It is disobedience and not AT ALL God’s design!
Some parents simply want to control their children no matter how old they are. God has called parents to be equippers, not enablers. If a parent is an enabler, there sits Bubba in the basement thinking he is the center of the world; having no plans to impact the world. This is a child that has been added to the world, but who multiplies nothing. He is a consumer; a proverbial black hole of a family’s resources. He only adds to the chaos, making no contribution to subdue it.
So what if I don’t want a Bubba in my basement?
But maybe that’s not your vision. You don’t want Bubba in your basement. Perhaps you want to be an effective parent who releases an image of God capable of impacting culture and subduing the chaos. So how do we accomplish the point of parenting and raise kids with for purposeful release?
So now that I’ve intrigued some readers and perhaps angered others, let’s offer the proverbial cliff hanger. What’s the answer? I’ll share it in my next post. This week I’ll also address the issue of parents who have done it right, but the child rebels. What then? Stay tuned! Subscribe! Comment, ask questions – let’s have a conversation. How would you explain the point of parenting?
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These advances in technology are from a fascinating field of study called cybernetics. In short, cybernetics is the merging of man with machine. If you read about this stuff it will either scare you to death or amaze you at how close we are to existing in a sci-fi movie.
One of the side effects of cybernetics is that it is making us take a hard look at what it means to be human. What is it that makes us different than machines?
For instance, as amazing as it is to have a robotic arm that is connected to your thoughts, aren’t you thankful that you don’t do everything you think? Some people would say that they are a lover, not a fighter. I’m afraid that I’m a fighter, not a lover. I’d rather argue than give a hug. That being the case, I’m afraid that if I had a cybernetic arm that responded to my thoughts; there may be some people who get throat punched!
The Difference in Man and Machine
One of the big differences in man and machine is that computers simply carry out commands. Humans have the ability to make an extra decision between emotion and action that keeps unreasonable, annoying people from getting constantly throat punched by maniacs like me.
While there may be something in me thinking “throat punch,” to date I have throat punched exactly zero people (so give me a sticker). This act of self-control comes from the ability you and I have to realize that even though delivering a throat punch is tempting, that doing so would probably make a bad situation even worse. Somewhere between emotion and action comes a correction that results in a much better decision.
It looks like this for computers. COMMAND ———> ACTION.
It looks like this for humans. EMOTION ——> CORRECTION ——> ACTION. That correction is significant! When you omit that middle thought, someone gets throat punched.
While it is one thing to use restraint and refrain from throat punching someone, it is quite another to carry out the 4 correcting commands Jesus offers us in Luke 6:27-28.
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Let’s break these four commands down from the standpoint of pure emotional first response.
4 People I’d Like to Throat Punch
Enemy. An enemy is someone with whom there is no peace. This is anyone in your life that you would like to throat punch.
Hater. Don’t be a hater! (throat punch)
Curser. You curse me. I cuss you back. (throat punch)
Abuser. There is nothing to say here. All that is necessary is a well-placed Chuck Norris throat punch.
There are some people I’d like to throat punch. But Jesus won’t let me.
Restraint is one thing, but what Jesus is saying seems ridiculous. He wants me to love my enemy? Why would I do good for my haters? What blessing could I possibly have for someone dog cussing me? What could possibly be left within me that would motivate me to pray for someone who abused me?
I understand that I can’t go around throat punching people, but Jesus is not just telling me to use restraint, but to respond with radical redemptive action toward the worst possible people.
Why Restraint isn’t Enough
Why would Jesus ask us to not just use restraint, but to respond in a radically redemptive way? I think there are two reasons.
Action releases emotion. Just because I refrained from throat punching my hateful, cursing, abusive enemy doesn’t mean I have dealt with the destructive emotion. If you emotionally bottle up, you eventually blow up. Typically we blow up on the very people who don’t deserve a throat punch. We take out our frustrations on family and friends because we feel it is “safe.” We direct our aggravation and frustration at them, all the while they are wondering what is wrong with us. Conversations are filled with slander and gossip about your enemy. True, you didn’t throat punch someone, but are you any better off being toxic at home? We need a redemptive release of emotion.
Redemption is better than revenge. If you hate your haters, cuss your cursers, and abuse your abusers all you’ve done is double the problem. If you simply return destructive action in response to destructive action, what makes you any different than your enemy? I can tell you something Jesus desires of you. He doesn’t want you to be like your enemy. He wants you to be like him.
Now that we understand what Jesus would have us do and why, the next logical question is who? Who can possibly do something like this? Has anyone ever responded to a cursing, abusive, hateful enemy with radical redemptive action. The answer is, YES!
The Bible’s Book of Genesis tells the story of one such person. His name is Joseph and he finds himself in each of the horrible situations Jesus articulates. Amazingly, he also displays each of Jesus’ radical redemptive responses. Joseph had every reason in the world to deliver a cybernetic throat punch to his brothers, but instead, he took action to redeem them.
We will begin to explore this story and how it corresponds to Jesus’ corrective commands for us in the next post.
Catch up on last week’s series of posts – The Bible Says to Give All, But How Can Anyone Afford All?
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There is a version of giving that comes from the bottom. This type of giving makes sure you have plenty left over. I call this “out of” giving. Most people give “out of.” The problem is that there is a blessing we are missing in “out of” giving. Financially it makes the most sense. “Out of” giving is safe. But there is still something that doesn’t add up.
In my previous post, I said that giving is emotional before it is financial. Emotional giving is a type of giving I tagged as “because of” giving. “Because of” gives from the heart. “Out of” giving is where the head kicks in. The heart says it feels right. The head makes sure the numbers are right.
In Mark 12:41-44 we see plenty of “out of” giving.
“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed OUT OF their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
In this scene, there are “many” rich people who are putting in large sums of money. That makes sense. There is nothing unusual about it. We would expect it of them. They’ve got it, so give it.
“Out Of” Feels Better
“Out of” giving makes sure that you can feel good that you gave, but that you feel even better about having plenty left over. This kind of giving doesn’t offend your head because you can afford it and it does not hurt the heart because you can walk away feeling good that you made a contribution. “Out of” giving is practical and affordable. All is well.
This is why the widow’s gift doesn’t make sense. Even Jesus drew attention to the fact that she gave OUT OF her poverty, which was all she had, “all she had to live on.” What she did is not practical and obviously for her not at all affordable.
She zeroed out an already struggling life. She just moved from tax bracket “poor” to tax bracket “nothing.” When she dropped her two nearly worthless coins into the coffer, her life just hit rock bottom. All that she has in the world is gone. What has she done?
To answer this question we must understand four types of givers.
Four Types of Givers
2 That Give Off the Bottom
Takers – These are people give nothing at all. They do not feel any need to contribute. Takers give no time. They give no talent. They give no treasure. These people develop an attitude that you have more than them, so you ought to give it to them. These people look at the rich in this passage and feel that the rich owe it to them. The only reason I include the taker as a giver is because he/she will give you one thing – his/her opinion. And take it from a pastor of 20+ years, the taker’s opinion doesn’t come cheap!
Tippers – Tippers are people who throw in a little bit if they got something from it. These people make sure to leave a little, but that they also have a lot left over.
Both takers and tippers give “out of”, from the bottom. The turning point comes in the following two types of givers. These are people who give off the top. They put a priority on giving. Only here do we begin to understand the widowed woman of Mark 12.
2 That Take It Off the Top
Tithers – Tithers give the first 10% to the Lord as an act of obedience. The top 10 is protected. It is reserved for God. Tithers take on the mentality that the first 10% was never theirs to keep. There is no question that it will be given. The beauty of Biblical tithing is that everyone has a 10%. Not everyone may have $100, but everyone has a 10%.
Givers – It is only above the tithe that we truly begin to give. The first 10% is an act of obedience. Beyond 10% is an act of gratuitous worship. This is where sacrifice begins. It does not make sense in the head and it may hurt the heart, but the giver realizes that what is given is better with God than it is with himself. (Here is an excellent article on tithing and giving by Dave Ramsey).
This brings us back to the woman. She was not giving “because of.” Nor was she giving “out of.” She gave “all of.”
When we give off of the bottom we do it out of safety, security, and the anxiety of having nothing left. But as she zeroed out there is no sense in Jesus’ observations of her that she is anxious about anything. Perhaps Jesus words “all she had to live on” are the clue. When we give off of the bottom all we have to live on is all we think we are living for. Maybe she was living on more! Maybe she was living FOR more!
What is the Blessing?
So what is the blessing? We will discuss this more in the next post, but we know this. Her giving was a blessing to Jesus. She became a teaching moment for the master. As he gathers His disciples He has a living illustration of what He will become for them, a Savior who gives all.
She is a blessing to us. We are humbled by her story. We are drawn to Christ by her. We glorify God for her. We cannot read the Gospel of Mark without her. She becomes the blessing.
Be sure to return for the next post to find out more about the blessing God gives to the “all of” giver.
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The Bible says to give all you’ve got. How can anyone possibly afford to give all?
“And he (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.”
Jesus sits down across from the treasury area of the Temple and watches as people walk up and put money into the offering box. The treasury was located in a large outer courtyard of the Temple. The courtyard was lined with massive stone columns. Within the courtyard stood four giant lampstands that were lit during the Feast of Tabernacles. They were so large and stood so high on the temple mount that they could be seen all over Jerusalem. It would be in this place, before these flames that Jesus would proclaim, “I am the light of the world” in John 8.
Behind the walls of the treasury were storehouses that held the wealth of the Temple. The offerings brought to the treasury would be placed in one of 13 golden coffers that were attached to the wall. Each of them were shaped like a trumpet. No doubt the area must have sounded much like a toll booth or a row of turnstiles at the subway station as people passed by dropping in their coins.
The treasury was a busy, noisy place. And there sits Jesus, people watching.
The Creator is People Watching
The Bible says of Jesus in John 1:3, “That all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
It is this Jesus that is sitting and watching the activity of the treasury that has crafted the most spectacular elements of our universe. The galaxy in which we reside is called the Milky Way. It is estimated that there may be as many as 250 billion stars in the Milky Way. Jesus made all of them.
If a quarter were used to represent the size of our solar system, the Milky Way would be the size of the landmass of the United States of America in comparison. Our galaxy is a huge place. He made all of it.
And there sits the creator watching people put money into the treasury.
“Many rich people put in large sums.”
Imagine the sound the rich people make as they give! It would be much like it is when you collect change for a year, put it into some sort of bucket and take it to that thing in the grocery store that turns coin into cash. Imagine the attention it garners when the rich put in large sums. But there is no reaction from the Lord of all creation.
The Woman Jesus Noticed
“And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.”
It is obvious as a widow that she has lost her husband. But note also what the Bible does not say. There is no one else accompanying her. There is no son, no daughter. She is alone in the world. Understanding the social constructs of her day there is only one word used to describe where a woman like that ends up. She is poor.
She walks up and puts in two small copper coins. No doubt they make the least noise of the day. Mark, the writer of this gospel, pulls out his calculator and helps us do the math on her offering. Her two coins are worth a penny. It would take 64 Roman pennies to add up to a day’s wage of a menial, entry level laborer. In other words, she is about 120 coins short of her offering being worth anything.
And think of the money in the storehouses behind the wall. What is her offering in comparison to all that is in there? Furthermore, compared to the many rich people who were in line ahead of her, what is this? These two small copper coins are hardly enough for bread.
An Example of Disciple
But she dropped in her coins and the creator saw her. And now, he responds. He calls together his disciples and directs their attention toward her. Imagine this moment. He raises his hand in her direction, pointing her out from amongst the crowd. This is the hand that fashioned Adam from the dust. Now the hands of the creator are directing all eyes to be on her.
Jesus then begins to talk about her. This is the mouth that said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. He spoke creation into existence. Now he speaks about her. Mark has told us that here offering was worth about a penny. The creator recalculates it again. And with his words, he reveals a new equation for everything.
And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Those final six words after the comma are critical to the calculation. “All she had to live on.”
Her offering was so small no one noticed it, but so large that only God could calculate it correctly.
Our Struggle with Giving All
We all appreciate this story. It is simple. The story is admirable. It is beautiful. We read it in much the same way as we would take in a masterful work of art. As much as we appreciate it, we could never do it.
We struggle with it. Give all? We know good and well that is what our Savior is getting at. He is making an example of her. She is now the topic of his teaching. To give all is admirable, but who can afford to give all?
Just in case you doubt Jesus’ expectation there is another story that demonstrates the point in Mark 10. An eager young man approaches Jesus. The Bible describes him as rich and powerful. He is well recognized in his community. He asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Let’s cut to the chase. Jesus answers, “God sell all that you have and give it to the poor.” The Bible says that the man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.
The word “sorrowful” is a perfect description of how this story ultimately makes us feel. What the woman did was wonderful, but it is not practical. And when we realize that this is the standard Jesus raises for us, it give us that disappointed feeling – I think “sorrowful” is the word!
Why So Sorrowful?
But why so sorrowful? Maybe it is the sorrow of losing something you love. There is attachment and detachment. You can’t imagine life without all you have.
Maybe it sorrow born out of fear. If I give all, what will I have left to live on? How do I handle life if I have nothing left? Is Jesus pointing us to homelessness? Are we going to have to go hungry if we are to follow Him?
Maybe it is the sorrow of feeling inadequate. You already worry enough about money. You struggle with generosity. You’re OK with giving if you’ve got it, but ALL? Isn’t ALL a little much?
Giving is good, but I can’t possibly afford ALL.
This story is beautiful but if this is what Jesus is asking of us, it makes us sorrowful. But whatever your response, you can’t ignore one feature of it. Look across the way. There is the creator teaching and talking about her. Here is the one who has told us to make our entire lives about telling people about him, but he is telling us about her.
Furthermore we can’t ignore the most glaring truth of the story. We have no excuse. You and I say we can’t afford all, but somehow she did.
How can we afford to give all? Let’s break down this story and talk about how we can afford all. When it comes to giving, there are three ways we calculate what we can afford.