Develop a Respect for Authority
"He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart." Proverbs 11:29
When youth move into adulthood with high Christian values, they get a head start in life and will thankfully escape many pitfalls! Parents can’t make children have character. They can, however, provide the framework for positive growth by taking advantage of an infallible textbook – the Bible. It is God’s plan for children to respectfully honor and listen to their elders, parents and those in authority.
Some would object to Solomon’s negative words about some children’s character, “Wait, are you saying that some children are wise and some are foolish?” Scripture points out that, indeed, some behavior is good and some is unacceptable. There is really no other way to say it. Modern parenting doesn’t always recognize this difference. All too often they say that children are not foolish or sinful, just individuals. They wrongly surmise that unbiblical behavior is just their child’s unique “style” and since that’s their “style”, we should let them express it. If they want to color outside the lines, then let’s let them do it. Biblical parenting says, “No, here’s the plan you’re going to adapt to”, and those that follow that are called wise children, and those that constantly resist are called, “scorners.”
Let me point out very clearly that we’re not talking about personality differences. When Scripture speaks about a foolish person, it is not casting a bad light on their innate qualities being deficient. What it is speaking of is their moral fiber or character. There’s a difference between personality and character – personality is largely subconsciously inherited, character is largely consciously developed.
How to Develop Respectful Children and Youth:
1. Teach Children to Hear and not Just Listen
The Scripture uses the term hearing as we might use the word listening. Sometimes we hear audible sounds, but we’re not really letting truth sink in. No child automatically obeys. No youth automatically respects and honors authority or their parents. Respect is certainly one of the most difficult character traits to try and teach. Disrespect is perhaps the most ancient of sins, it is Satan’s sin. He said, “I will not honor, I will not respect and I will not submit myself to God.” With that same attitude, the devil counseled Eve, “Do not submit to God. He doesn’t really want your good, He knows if you eat of that fruit then you’re going to be as wise as He is.” Satan’s plan is to influence each one of us to rebel against our authorities.
As parents, we must insist upon total allegiance, respect and honor for authority. It is vital for the welfare of our home, our nation, and for the child. Romans 13:1-4 says that our “powers” (authorities) are established by God and are there for our good. If I don’t teach my sons and daughters respect for human authority, then I fail to prepare them for divine authority. When children read the Bible and it tells them that they are sinful and they need to be saved, a humble heart will repent and say, “It’s true!”
How do we teach and help sons and daughters move past just listening and move into really hearing? It all starts with obedience. Requiring obedience is using an outward means to initiate a potential inward pattern. Some might object and say, “If it doesn’t come from the heart then it’s not useful.” This is not necessarily true according to Proverbs 16:3. Wise old Solomon said that if we would first “commit our works to the Lord then our thoughts would be established.” Actions often precede a heart attitude. The goal, of course, is to raise-up sons and daughters who have such wonderful devotion and honor that they don’t have to be held in check with an external bridle, as it would come from their own heart. They would have a deep desire to do what mom and dad say and “stand alone” for righteousness.
When our children were growing up we would practice a “listening game.” Sometimes it was good-natured and at other times it was somewhat punitive. I would say to my 3-year-old for example, “Ok, I want to see if you can obey exactly what I say - alright, sit down, now stand up, now walk to the wall, turn around, hop on one foot, sit up.” Up and then down, over and over for maybe five minutes or so, until the point was drilled into their head, which was that it is no laughing matter to not obey your father or mother to the T. They need to know that absolutely, 100% of the time, they have to obey everything that is said.
2. Respond Appropriately to Sons and Daughters Actions
“A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke” (Proverbs 13:1).
According to this verse, a wise child gets instruction. But what does a scorner get? Rebuke. Parents must respond appropriately to children’s attitudes and actions. The word “instruction” in this verse is translated in the Hebrew Bible as doctrine. A wise son hears his father’s doctrine (or teaching). The father says for example, “We’re going to split some wood and I don’t want you to get hurt. Take this wedge and hold it thusly and then you’re going to set it on this wood block, etc.” The father watches his son, and if he starts to do something that’s unsafe, he may have to sharply say, “Stop now…don’t do it that way!” If the child is wise and receptive, the communication will be instructive. On the contrary, when you have someone who will not listen, then they will get rebuke and the level of correction steps up.
The word “rebuke” in the Bible is interesting. In the book of Proverbs the word refers to the response of a father to a son. In most books of the Bible however, it is referring to the response of God to His children, Israel. God’s “rebukes” are often physical measures prescribed to get their attention. For example, God’s rebuke is stated in one place to be thunder, fire or whirlwind. In fact, almost every time in the Bible where God’s rebuke is spoken of, it has to do with nature. It is a physical measure that is designed and ordered by God, to get the attention of His people. God doesn’t sit down and reason with scorners, He just sends divine discipline and it hurts. A parent’s response then, to the attitudes and actions of the child or youth is as follows, “We can have a wonderful give-and-take relationship or we can have an adversarial one, it’s up to you.” The son or daughter makes the call.
3. Continue Training Even Though the Immediate Effect is Barely Noticeable
“A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent” (Proverbs 15:5).
Notice that the father started with “instruction” but the foolish child despised it, so the father then had to give “reproof.” Thankfully, they heard and responded to the reproof. Sometimes, it seems like our two-year-olds will never change, but hallelujah they do! Then they turn 13, and we wonder will they ever get past this stage? Then they turn 18, and we just keep on keepin’ on. A call to parenting is a call to an extreme responsibility. It is not an easy thing for good-willed Christian men and women to confront foolishness. A big reason that many parents are too lax in discipline is because most people dislike confrontation. Whether it is with coworkers, employees or children, but parents must speak up and never give up. Even though we don’t like confrontation, it is so much better to just deal with issues head on because it will give peace in the end.
4. The Parent’s Mandate is to Carry the Matter Through to the End
“A wise son heareth his father’s instruction…” (Proverbs 13:1).
If a father or mother has a wise son or daughter who hears and there’s a wonderful two-way street of communication, then praise God! But if they won’t listen, then the father must not abdicate. The wise father doesn’t walk away. The father doesn’t say to his wife, “Well, honey, you’re gonna have to take care of it.” No, the father instructs. If instruction doesn’t get the job done, then they rebuke. If rebuke doesn’t work, then the parent’s mandate is to carry the matter through to the end. Parents simply cannot allow children to mock authority. We will not only destroy our homes, but our society as well. Honoring parents is one of the first and most fundamental commands that God gave Israel, and it’s the first command that God gave with promise. Conversely, the fifth command has a serious sanction on anybody who scorns parents.
Sometimes young adults will run off and try to live a successful life without their parent’s blessing. That decision doesn’t end well. No matter how much money is made or whatever heights are attained – a scorner’s life is a problem waiting to happen.
Exploring the Characteristics of a Scorner:
First, scorners pretend not to understand, “A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth” (Proverbs 14:6). Why can’t they “find” wisdom? Well, they don’t want to! What’s the favorite phrase of a scorner? “I don’t know.” Or “Whatever.” These popular statements indicate that they don’t understand because they don’t want to. They know that if they begin to understand, things will get convicting. Isn’t that exactly what happened in the New Testament when Jesus spoke in parables? The disciples even misunderstood this principle, wondering if maybe Jesus should be clearer with His doctrine, and not use so many confusing stories. Jesus responded by saying basically, that it’s supposed to be confusing! This method of teaching causes those that have no heart for God to get irritated and walk away, but those that are hungry for God will seek the matter out. The issue wasn’t that people could not understand, it was that they didn’t want to understand. Scorner’s are like that. You explain rules and they don’t get it, because they choose not to.
Second, they avoid spiritual people, “A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise” (Proverbs 15:12). Now one would think that we as people would appreciate it when we get a chance to grow, learn and to become better people. Unfortunately, given our human nature and our sinful desires, we typically resent people that show us where we’re wrong. They grow a dislike for church and would rather hang around neighborhood or school friends who don’t “condemn them.” When asked about spiritual things they say, “It’s boring...it’s not fun.” Those are code words. What they really mean is, that they don’t want to be around spiritual things.
Third, they have an attitude, “Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath” (Proverbs 21:24). They are characterized by such a terrible attitude, that they “deal” in it like someone who has a car business! They are a “dealer” of disrespect. Their outlook towards parents will inevitably transfer towards others in authority. We might imagine that scorners only have verbal issues such as backtalk, but there are also nonverbal forms of scorning, such as body language like slumping shoulders or sour facial expressions. These actions say to others that you may have a heart problem. There is a difference between active and passive rebellion.
Active rebellion might be demonstrated by: sassing, back talk, crying uncontrollably or storming off and slamming the door. Active “scorning” is when I reach out to touch my child and they pull back, arch their back, pull their hand away, turn around and walk off while being spoken to.
Then there’s passive rebellion which seems to be more common for most Christian homes. Examples include things like consistent forgetfulness. It’s funny how some can remember the exact time of a party but can’t seem to recall to take out the trash! Another sign of passive rebellion is resisting directions or whining when you tell them what to do. They may eventually do it, but whine the entire time. They might obey, but on their own terms. You tell them to come and they do come, but they wait or walk very slowly or say, “I’m going to get a drink first” or “I’ll be there in a minute.” Another sign of rebellion is doing the what but not the how. For example, they do the dishes but not like you asked them to do it, or they do the yard but not like you specified.
There is a fourth characteristic of scorners and that is violating unspoken but clearly understood rules. For example; the 10-year-old who’s in the bathroom taking the toilet paper and playing a big game with it. You may have never said, “Don’t put the toilet paper on the floor”, but he knew that this was rude behavior and a form of passive rebellion. A scorner just keeps finding ways to cause headaches.
There Are 3 Steps in Dealing with Scorners:
#1 – Don’t Try to Reason with Them
Trying to talk rationally with a scorner is a waste of good time and emotional energy,“He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee” (Proverbs 9:7, 8). God has called Christians to be lights in the world. To be a light I have to be full of joy and spiritual energy. I can’t change the world and be a sourpuss at the same time. Scorners suck the energy out of parents and grieve hearts. They also bring shame. No matter how gentle and loving and wise a father or mother may handle a matter, you can be sure that the scorner will tell enough of it to somebody so that the parent, pastor, principal, teacher or boss will be made out to look like the bad guy! The scorner will bring out just enough truth to bring the authority to shame – go figure! A scorner misbehaves, and the authority gets the blot. That is why God says don’t try to reason with them. You’re going to use up precious time that you could have for good and productive pursuits. You’re just going to waste emotional energy that you need to carry out gentle and positive parenting with your other children.
#2 – Punish Them for The Sake of Others
This is sad really, but it has to happen. Sometimes a scorner is not going to take heed to his or her own ways. So, if they’re not going to listen, then we cannot keep messing around with their attitude and actions. Parents have to follow through and “smite the scorner.” Not for the scorner, but for the others around them. The punishment may not cure the infected one right away, but it may keep the disease from spreading to others, and that’s the key. If we can keep the problem from spreading at least we have done some damage control.
#3 – Separate Them
This is always a difficult decision, but we need to be alert to this possibility, “Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease”(Proverbs 22:10). It is nothing short of miraculous the power and benefit of isolating a scorner. One young adult scorner can destroy the chemistry of a home. One employee scorner can poison an entire business. You can have a church of 500 and only one scorner, and yet they can wreak so much havoc. God says there comes a time when you must separate from them. Now, there are two ways to apply this verse. First, in a lighter way – for example: time outs. In the book of 1 John chapter 1 God said in essence, if you want to have fellowship with me you have to walk in the light, I’m not coming down to darkness. That’s how a parent should act, “I’m ready and willing to have fellowship but you’re going to have to walk in the light.” If you are not going to obey then a time away from others is best.
Second, in a heavier way – there are some things we should separate them from and separate them to. First of all, from: worldly music, video games, TV or video programs, and friends. Second of all, to: (note - this is what a leader may have to do out of desperation, when a child is threatening the parent with financial or legal ruin, or destroying the peace of the home). We are given a plan in the Bible for extreme cases of disharmony and rebellion. Parents are to deliver them to the “elders of the city”, “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice...” (Deuteronomy 21:18-20). Perhaps the hardest thing a parent will ever have to do is to transfer their sons and daughters over to non-parental authorities. According to these verses, they are to admit and say, “Our child is out of control.” Things have sadly come full circle on the child and parents have to realize that, for whatever reason, there is nothing they can do to change their behavior at this time. Notice the deep hurt in the wording, as they have to admit basically, “This is our son, we take responsibility for our part in this.”
Before moving on, let me give you the context of this chapter because this could be misunderstood. Approximately four thousand years ago, Israel was leaving Egypt and they were coming into God’s kingdom land. They were establishing laws and communities and getting a nation on its feet. A gracious Father God gave His people an incredible manual of civil and moral principles, called the Bible. He said, “If you would establish your nation on these principles you will last.” Isn’t it interesting that the oldest civilization today is the Jewish nation? No nation has ever lasted as long as the Jews. It is true, they had a time of walking away but they came back and, for the most part, have based much of their laws and society on the Old Testament teaching. God told Israel that when they came into this new place, you are going to have to establish a moral standard. If you don’t do this, and if every son or daughter does whatever he or she wants, it will destroy your nation…you will be gone. The moral fabric of a nation demands that sons and daughters follow the leadership of their parents. You simply cannot have a successful community if the children are scorners. And that’s why it says in Deuteronomy 21:20 to, “put away evil from among you and Israel shall hear and fear.”
There is a national sense that this verse brings up. We have to have order. That’s the big picture, but the smaller picture is in your home. What do you do with a child in your “nation” who is 15 years old and a mocker, rebel, and a stubborn scorner that just will not obey? We need to recognize the option of somehow giving them to the “elders.” This might mean a boarding school, juvenile home or some sort of a place where they can learn that life is not all about them. Parents, of course feel terrible, but ultimately the responsibility for their condition falls on him or herself. If a son or daughter is as old as 16 or 17, perhaps there’s a way to play the matter out until they turn 18, and then you can emancipate them. They become of a legal age and so everything that happens will fall on their own head. Waiting to give them to the elders any longer than two years, however, especially if there are younger children in the home, is not wise. Parents have the responsibility to protect the faith of the others.
What do you do with your 18-year-old scorner? Maybe a parent could rent a room or apartment for them someplace, pay it ahead for 6 months or so, give them some food money, and then let them make the best of their life, with a scorner’s heart. At other times you could direct them to a career with lots of structure-like the military or peace corps. In this way, a parent has “delivered” them to the elders of a community.
Let me say a word to encourage a parent who find themselves in this situation. No parent who has ever lived has been perfect. If you are asking your son or daughter to do righteous things and they aren’t doing it, it’s not your fault. You may have not taken them to church when they were 8, or maybe you didn’t read the Bible to them when they were 12, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have a responsibility to act morally. Just because my dad or mom didn’t take me to the ballgame as often as they should have, doesn’t change the fact that I have a responsibility to do right. You might say to yourself, “I just can’t put them out on the street,” but you have to think of others and their best interests in the long run.
There’s a true story that illustrates the importance of obeying immediately. In 1976 there was a hijacking of a French plane headed for Israel. Israel Defense Forces (IDF), based on intelligence from Mossad, took the plane instead to Uganda, in Africa. About 50 of the passengers were Israeli citizens, so the government sent the Mossad to take care of the situation. The Mossad are no joke! These commandos are the Green Beret of Israel. In the middle of the night one hundred Israeli commandos boarded a big air freighter with five support fighter jets along side. They zipped along about 100 feet above the ground so they wouldn’t be detected by radar. One hundred commandos stormed the airport and unbelievably in 15 minutes shot every one of the hijackers and rescued everyone but 3 of the Israeli captives.
How did they do that? Here’s the rest of the story. When the commandos ran into the room and there was chaos everywhere (as you might imagine) the commandos yelled in Israeli, “hit the ground.” Of course the Palestinians hijackers didn’t understand Hebrew and stayed standing. All of the Hebrew captives except for three however went to the ground. The commandos of Israel assuming the Israelis that were standing were the enemy, shot those that hesitated. Obedience must be immediate! It’s for the sake of the whole. It’s for your own safety. We do not do our families any good when we do not teach them to respect their authorities!