Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Proverbs 20:21 commentary; Is your teenager ready to leave home and stand on his or her own two feet?

21 ¶ An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.

Remember the story of the Prodigal Son? It starts out like this;

Luke 15:11 ¶ And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

Perhaps you don’t relate to the idea of a physical inheritance. Most of us aren’t wealthy and don’t have lands, titles, or money to leave behind to our children. However, you can view this in any way a parent does things that help shape a young person’s life. For instance, I graduated high school at 17 years of age. I had ill advisedly been promoted a grade beyond my age when I was in second grade. I spent only three months in third. For another child, more sociable and mature, this might have been a great thing but for me, prone to bouts of depression, spoiled rotten and self centered, and very immature, although thought to be fairly intelligent and well spoken, it was one of the great disasters of my life.

As a result I was always younger than my peers in class and in youth, when months seem like years, that did me great harm socially and developmentally. In any event, at 17 I was not mature enough to go to college, at least not far from home. However, my parents grew up in the culture that viewed a college degree as the highest good a parent could do for their children. It was a sort of merit badge for parents to send their children to college, ready or not, and they were willing to sacrifice to do it for me, and for them. I was allowed to choose. I chose as far away as I could get.

The USAF Academy denied me after a congressional nomination. An advisor said I had a better chance the next year. I was too childishly disappointed to consider waiting. The Citadel accepted me but I was now temporarily bitter against anything military. I was accepted at the University of Idaho but that was too cold. So, I attended the University of Georgia, in the state where I had been born and the home state of my mother.

I had absolutely no clue of what I might be interested in so I started with history but ended up choosing Anthropology as a major with no thought as to what I would do with such a degree. I spent four years drinking, partying, and living a completely immoral lifestyle. I got a degree but it had been a total waste of time. After my BA I took a few computer science courses post graduate but eventually, dissolution and irresponsible living got the best of me. I had received a sort of inheritance too early, way before I was ready for it. The fault was all my own, not my well meaning and loving parents or well intentioned high school counselors. Bad character and immaturity were things I readily accept and own.

We should be very careful about when its time to send our children out to face the world on their own, making decisions that will affect their entire lives. Some are mature and able to leave at an early age and have a vision of themselves and who they are and what they want to be as a person even though many people will change careers in their lives at least once.

Others receive an inheritance too early and the end result is not good. One may be mature enough at 18 to go off on their own and for another it may not be until they’re 22. For the Christian parent, a child who has been raised with regular family devotions including Bible reading, study, and prayer, whose parents try to live before him filled with the fruit of the Spirit spoken of in Galatians 5:22 and who hasn’t been trained to value what the world values but what Christ values, will have a much better chance of standing on his or her own two feet and face the world, than a child who has not received THAT inheritance.

Children must be taught that their hunger to grow up fast and to embrace adult life quickly, before they are ready, may hurt them. Of course, part of the blame here is the creation of the artificial stage of life called “teenager”. We keep young people in a state of perpetual, youthful serfdom with very little responsibility and then expect them, magically, at the age of 18, to act like responsible adults, which is cruel, unfair, and not very rational.

So, to the Christian parent whose young person may be approaching society’s magic age of 18 I say only be careful. Do the right things for your child. Give them the life I talked about and pray for their salvation. But prepare them to live in the world. They need to know, before they leave home, how the Bible defines true religion, and to embrace that definition and not the world’s.

James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

The Christian young person who embraces the world’s values and loves the things the world loves and respects the things the world respects may spend his or her hastily gotten inheritance quickly and have nothing to show for it but regret. Think carefully on this, please.

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