The full value of your instruction to your children will not be seen immediately. If you invest in changing your children’s behavior your investment is only for the moment. Results will often be quick and impressive, but they will also be temporary. When behavior is the goal, how well your children perform is the main indicator of success. Investing in behavior brings immediate dividends such as anger, frustration, and manipulation.
In contrast, investing in heart change is investing in your children’s future. Heart change is for life. Pleasant words, consistent loving discipline, taking the time necessary to really know your children, loving God’s word for yourself, humility—these are indications of investment in heart change. Investing in heart change may not always yield immediate results. However, the pursuit of your child’s heart is one that will bring satisfaction instead of frustration.
The Bible is not about changing behavior, it is about heart change. Your goal is to build a love for God’s word into the fabric of your family that will impact your grandchildren. Proverbs 6:22 defines the fruit of investing in parental instruction that reaches the heart:
When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
This progression in this passage is the same progression that is in Deuteronomy 6:4-7: walking, sleeping, waking. Truth is to be passed on from one heart to another heart. The goal of biblical instruction is to have your children own the truth of Scripture for themselves, for now, and more importantly, for the future.
The process is not complete until what has been taught begins to work itself back into the lives of your children. The process is complete when the truth that is learned begins to protect those who hear it. For example:
You teach your child not to lie. You help him to see that lying damages relationships and displeases God. You carefully, faithfully teach him how easy it is to be self-self-deceived. You are careful to point out all of the subtleties of deception; how easy it is shade the truth to make yourself look good. You are investing in heart change that will result in your child realizing how easy and destructive it is to lie to himself. This is an investment in heart change! This is the truth that God wants you to give to your children. Your goal is to see your instruction protect your children both now and in the years ahead.
May your words, your instruction guide, protect and speak into the hearts of your children for decades to come! May the truth you speak today be spoken to generations yet unborn.
This post originally appeared on Shepherd Press and was republished with permission.
Jay Younts is the author of Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, and he is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is a ruling elder at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.