Yesterday, Jodi and I had the opportunity to hang out with some friends in Destin, FL. It was a great time…both in the alone time commuting as well as seeing and talking with friends. One of the boys there is going into the 3d grade and was stuck like glue (if you will) to an older young man in college. What “college guy” did, the young boy did. What he said was repeated. The young boy studied and modeled everything he observed…good and bad.
That gave me reason to pause and reflect. There was nothing on the agenda for “college guy” to teach. He was not working through a Bible lesson or biblical doctrine or rules to live by. There was no classroom. No formal lecture material, study guides or tests; Yet, there was a lesson being taught and going deeper than any lecture I’ve ever given.
It is the unintentional messages that sink the deepest into our hearts. What we demonstrably value lasts. What we discount is discounted. What’s crazy is…there is no warning label on these unintentional messages. My dad taught me more about financial management (good and bad lessons) as a boy sitting at the dining room table than I ever learned in a financial class. Not more information but more controlling lessons. He taught me to pay the bills, pay them first, keep good records, and never be late. If you cannot afford anything after that, do something else. Get another job. Live on less. Ultimately, when you create a debt, you give your word so honor it. [POWERFUL MESSAGE]. He also did not “tithe” when I was young. He justified it verbally…so I carried his understanding into my adult years. He was wrong. He has since changed but his influence, though informal, was weighty at the time. My children tithe. They do so because that is what Jodi and I model for them. We live generously toward others even when we have minimal resources.
Parents that allow other things to take priority over church on Sunday teach similar lessons. They communicate that there are some things that are more important than church assembly. They allow children to choose to play sports that interfere with church. They choose “family days” at the beach over church. The intent is harmless but the results are long-lasting.
How do we NOT communicate wrong messages informally? Choose to do the right thing. What is it we would want our family to do? If it is a biblical truth, we should always do that. If our kids want to do something else, we should correct them. In my house, we don’t make school optional no matter how early in the day it starts or unfulfilling it seems. We don’t allow kids to break the law. We don’t allow our children to act immorally no matter how much they might want to. We don’t let them come to their own conclusions on matters of faith. One day they will. They will choose based on the values they’ve acquired and most of those through INFORMAL or UNINTENTIONAL messages. We choose then to intentionally communicate what we want them to learn through our “unintentional messages.” IOW…we are very intentional in this.
Does it matter? YES! They learn through our messages and God considers our influence a stewardship. This is why He holds us to account for every “careless word” or unintentional message we teach.