Tell the Truth
That was the laugh of recognition. It is the hardest job you will ever love. Parenting, child-rearing. From the pains of childbirth when they’re born to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance when they graduate, it’s one of the greatest challenges any human being ever takes on. Right now, I could take you to the exact spot where I was sitting with Julie 13 years ago this month in an Italian restaurant as she reached into her purse and pulled out a coffee mug that she sat down in front of me which read, Real Dads Do Diapers. That was her way of telling me that we were going to be entering the fray, that we were about to become parents. I didn’t know it at the time, but the news she was telling me about turned out to be our daughter Emily. I remember at the moment in a God-honoring way completely losing my mind, freaking out that I was going to be responsible for another life. Julie was remarkably calm, cool, and collected. Fast forward five and a half months. We’re at the obstetrician’s office. She’s getting a sonogram. And on our way into the office, Julie had said to me, we are not finding out the sex of this baby. I’m not doing it. I want to be surprised. I said cool. You’re carrying it. You can call that shot. That’s all right. When the doctor said, well, I know within 95 percent accuracy what you’re going to have, Julie folded like a cheap stepladder. She said I’ve got to know. He said I would bet my practice that you’re having a little girl. We immediately left the doctor’s office and drove to a nearby mall, where we went into Victoria’s Secret for Julie to buy the robe that she would wear in the hospital when she delivered Emily. As we were standing in Victoria’s Secret — you may know this from TV shows or other people that you’ve talked to, that Victoria’s Secret is kind of segregated. There are the robes and the flannel head-to-toe stuff, and then there’s the other stuff. And as Julie pulled a long, flowing robe out from the rounder that she was looking at, she looked at me, and she said, they have got such fun stuff in here. I said, yeah, but that’s not it. But that day in the mall was Julie’s day to freak out. As we walked through the mall, we’re having a baby, we’re having a baby, we’re having a baby. It’s going to be a girl. I was like, I know, quit hitting me. Parenting is an overwhelming thing. It’s a given that parents are to guide children. That’s a no-brainer. But what about the parents? Who guides parents? Because when we found out we were having a baby, and then the day we brought her home, all of that was easy. Not counting delivery. All of that was simple and straightforward. But when we got Emily Catherine home, it was then that we began the hard work and the extreme joy of being parents. And it was then that Julie and I realized together that we really and truly did not know that much about what we were doing. We didn’t have a manual, Emily did not come with an instruction booklet, and yet here we were supposed to care for, nurture, feed, clean, and rear this young life and soul that God had given to us. Those of you who are parents know exactly what I’m talking about. You know that by and large, we don’t know enough to do this, that at least to some degree, every single one of us is making it up as we go along. So where do we go? What do we do? This weekend, we’re starting a brand-new series of messages called Parental Guidance that is designed specifically to equip and to empower parents to do the work God’s given us to do. Now, you may be here this morning, and you’re not a parent. You might have walked in the doors and seen that we were talking about parenting and thought, oh, my goodness, I could have stayed in bed, I could have my slippers on with a cup of hot joe, reading the paper. Don’t check out. Don’t zone out. Because as we look at what God says about parenting from a godly perspective, we’re going to discover volumes about who we are individually. We’re going to discover volumes about our own parents. And ultimately, the job and the role of parenting is always used as an opportunity to point us back toward our perfect heavenly father. That’s why it’s there. That’s why we do this thing called parenting, to point people, to point children toward God. Now, there is a passage of scripture in the Bible that really provides an incredibly succinct and remarkably clear directive and guideline for all parents. Now, the Bible is riddled from Genesis to maps with instructions and principles and precepts that parents are to use and to incorporate into their parenting. But in Proverbs 22:6, God gives us an amazing passage of scripture that I think really sets the stage for where we’re going over the next few weeks. Look with me on your outlines at Proverbs 22:6. It’ll also be on the screen here. The Bible says to train. Say that word with me. “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” That word train is critical to our understanding of what parenting is all about. The word train — I’m going to teach you a Hebrew word today, okay? You’re going to get to go home bilingual. The Hebrew word for the word train is a verb, and it’s actually spelled H-A-N-A-K. But to pronounce it is a lot more fun than spelling it, because to pronounce it, you get to kind of hork up a little. How many of you have a cold? You’re going to be great at saying this word, okay? The word is pronounced hanak. Hanak. Let’s say that together. That’s fun. Hanak. Now, if you spewed something on your neighbor’s head in front of you, just wipe it off. But hanak means to dedicate. Hanak means that a dedication or a setting aside for holy purposes is going on. That’s where the Jewish tradition and festival of Hanukkah comes from. It is the rededication of the rebuilding of the temple. So Hanukkah is from hanak, which means to dedicate or train a child. We are to dedicate our children to God. You see, this is the first step in parenting. The first thing we’ve got to understand is it’s not about me. It’s not. Emily and Joseph, the blessings that they are ultimately are for Julie and me to steward those gifts and those blessings and to dedicate them to the purposes of God for their lives. You see, where we get off course as parents is when we start living vicariously through our kids. How many of you have ever been at a little league park or a soccer game or a basketball game? You see this happen all the time. The recital. No. Practice another 30 minutes. I could have been great. You could be. Just chill way out. It’s not about us. It’s about the kids and God. That’s what it’s about. And it says train a child, dedicate a child in the way he should go. Show them where they’re supposed to go. If I rear Joseph and Emily according to my life or my frustrations or my disappointments, I’m setting them up for frustrations and disappointments, because they are not to live my life, I am not to live their lives. We’re to train them as they are supposed to go. God created them purposefully and intentionally and specifically with gifts and talents and personalities and temperaments to accomplish his purposes through their lives, not mine. So it ain’t about me. If you’re a mom or a dad, it ain’t about you. It’s about the kids being trained as God wants them to go. Now, when you think about parenting, there’s a lot that goes into that. As I mentioned earlier about bringing Emily home, there’s protecting, there’s feeding. When they’re young, there’s cleaning. There’s discipline. There’s all of that kind of stuff. But the entire work of parenting comes down to one word. One word. Equipping. Parenting is all about equipping them to one day leave. As a parent, your job, my job is to work ourselves out of a job. That’s it. It’s equipping them. Look. It says train a child in the way he should go. It doesn’t say train a child in the way he should stay. Your children, my children, God willing, should leave. They should get out of the house. They should go out and create their own lives and discover who they are and build on that. That’s our job, to equip them. And over the next four weeks, we’re going to take a look at four pillars of equipment that we are to build into our children’s lives. Now, this list is not exhaustive, but if we will do these four things, if we will build these four pillars into their lives, they’re going to be light years ahead of the game. The first one that we’re going to talk about in just a few minutes is this, tell the truth. That’s it. If you teach your kids to tell the truth, if you model for them telling the truth, you’re going to do them such a favor. Just tell the truth. We’ll talk about that in a second. Number two, do your best. Just do your best. Whatever you do in life, do your best. If you’re not going to do your best, don’t do it. But if you’re going to do something, do your best. Number three, take care of God’s money. Take care of God’s money. If we would teach our children to take care of God’s stuff — this year, the United States savings rate for households reached its lowest point in over 70 years. The United States savings rate per household was negative one percent, average. You know what that means? That means that as a nation, on average, we spent one percent more than we had coming in. The lowest level since the Depression. What if we educated and equipped our kids to live without the burden of debt? What if we taught our kids that they are not defined by how much they have, by what size house they live in or what kind of clothes they wear, but rather they were defined by their relationship with God, and everything else flowed out of that? What if? So this is an incredible thing to teach our kids, just to take care of God’s stuff. And then number four, if God should lead, marry well. Whatever you do, you can make a lot of mistakes in this life, but you will save yourself so much heartache if you will hold out for God’s best. And whatever you do, do not settle. Well, but he’s cute. Yeah, but she’s going to be a doctor. So what? Now, those things are fine, but they’re not enough to base a lifetime of love, of joy, of challenge, of heartache on. So whatever you do, marry well. If we will equip our kids with these four pillars, with these four tools for their lives, we will be communicating the unconditional love of God over and over and over again. Now, what about tell the truth? Why is that one of the big ones? I mean, why would you say that’s one of the most important things? Why honesty? Well, look at what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 5. This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible because it’s so straightforward. There’s no theological wrangling or philosophical debate. Look at what he says. He says simply, “Let your yes be yes and your no, no. Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Just tell the truth. If you say yes, that’s a yes. If you say no, that’s a no. Because anything different from that doesn’t come from God. It comes from Satan, and you’re distracting the people around you from the personality and the character of God, particularly where kids are concerned. They need to understand the significance of honesty. Now, why is that? Why would Jesus go to the point of saying that and then God inspire Matthew to write it down, to guard the protection and the translation of this so that we have it in 2007? Because honesty matters. First of all, honesty simplifies. Honesty just simplifies things. If you’ve been alive for 10 years, you know that life without any help at all gets complicated. You know that things happen outside of your control that you have no say-so in, and you’re still left to deal with it. Life can get complicated. We don’t need to enhance the complication by not being entirely honest. When we’re honest, our lives are streamlined and simplified. You don’t have to be a member of MENSA to be honest. You can live an incredible, incredible life just by being honest. Psalm 43:3 says, “Send forth your light and your truth, God. Let them guide me.” If we will rely on the honesty and the truth of God, our lives will be simplified. Let me ask you a question, sincerely. I’m not being sarcastic or flippant in any way. How many of us feel like our lives are too complicated? I do. I’m really and truly working on that. It gets tough. There are a lot of moving parts. When I’m honest, I’m doing myself a favor. I’m simplifying what I can simplify. Also, honesty worships. When we’re honest, when we teach our children to be honest, we are accurately ordering our world. What do I mean by accurately ordering our world? It means that we are establishing and reflecting the character of God and our position in submission to that. You see, when I’m honest, I reflect the character of God. God never lies. He can’t lie. He is holy, he is perfect. He can’t do it. So when I am honest, when my children are honest, we reflect the character and nature of God. Look at what it says, that verse in 43:3, “Send forth your light and your truth. Let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.” When you’re honest, you have just streamlined access to God. When our children tell the truth, they discover more about who God is and can be in their lives. Honesty worships. Also, honesty just flat lasts. There’s an incredible pragmatic to honesty. It lasts, and it works. Dishonesty over the long haul doesn’t work. People don’t trust you, your word’s worth squat. Doesn’t work. You erode your own integrity and character by being dishonest. Real honesty lasts. Look at Proverbs 12:19. “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.” Just doesn’t work. I mean, you can do it. But it doesn’t work. It doesn’t last. Also, honesty loves. When we are honest with our kids, when we teach them honesty, we’re teaching them an incredibly required component of real love. Proverbs 27 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” What does it mean wounds from a friend? It means a friend who tells you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it but you need to. A real friend is not somebody who tells you what they think you want to hear. A real friend, someone who genuinely loves you, tells you the truth in love all the time. As a parent, it’s my job to tell Emily and Joseph the truth, to expect them to do the same. Think about this. As a parent, you probably can remember one of the first times that your kids ever told you a lie, you know? And I remember pretty much where I was in Emily and Joseph’s life. And I remembered the thing about it was not what they had told a lie about. I mean, because at three years old or however old they were, I mean, how much damage can they really do, you know? If you’ve given them that much control, you’ve got bigger issues than honesty. But if they’re not being honest and they tell you a lie, you flash back, and you go, I remember the day you were born. You were so beautiful. You had a little cone head and bruised eyes. I remember. And you were sweet, and we brought you home, and it was great. And here you’ve lied to me. It hurts. There’s that disappointment that they’ve damaged the relationship somehow. See, the truth is love. That’s what’s going on when we tell the truth. Love. And then finally also, honesty frees. Honesty is incredibly liberating. It frees us up. John chapter 8, to the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. As a parent, I will do nothing, nothing more important, more significant, and more life-changing than direct my children to a relationship with Christ. That’s ultimately my primary job. Not because I’m a pastor, but because I’m a dad. That’s it. To point them toward making relationship with God, with making faith their own, to owning it personally. That’s what I’m about. That’s what I’m supposed to be pointing them toward. And honesty is what ultimately sets them free. Honesty before God. For them to own the fact that God loves them and created them, period. They’re his. Not mine, not Julie’s. His. To own the fact that he created them on purpose to live in a relationship with him. Not just to show up at church or to be religious, but to live in relationship with him. And to own the fact that they’ve got sin in their lives, they’ve got junk in their lives. I love the concept and the notion of the tabula rasa. You remember that from philosophy class, that people are born as a blank slate? Whoever coined that phrase and that concept has never spent time with a three year old. We’re born depraved, folks. We are born into sin. I didn’t have to learn how to lie. I still remember the first lie. I remember. I had a children’s Bible that my mom and dad had given me. It was hard back and had some really cool pictures and stuff in it. And I took a red felt tip marker and just wrote my name on every single page that I could find in there. Just Mac. I was working on my autograph. I was about four, maybe five years old, which means my brothers were two, maybe three. Little brothers. Twins. Pat and Gil. My mom found the Bible. And she brought it to my attention, as moms are wont to do, and she said Mac, what happened to your Bible? And in my four or five year old way, I said mom, I don’t know. I’m as confused as you. I mean, that’s not good. What happened there? She said well, Mac, I mean, the Bible didn’t come like this. Someone wrote your name in here over and over again. Bing. The light went on above my head. This is why God gave me little brothers. It must have Pat or Gil, mom. I’m disappointed in them, too. At which point my mother said, Mac, your brothers are two. I’m not sure they can hold a pen, much less write your name in this Bible. It was that day that I learned the definition of depravity, although I didn’t know it at the time, and cold busted. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. You see, honesty sets you free. Dishonesty binds you up. It constricts you. Every single time. If you cut a little integrity corner, shade the truth, just a little bit of gray, a little white lie. Have you ever known anybody that owned up, I mean on a regular basis, to telling just big, fat, juicy lies? No. We tell the little white — it’s just a little white lie. It’s no harm, no foul. See, the problem with little white lies is that over time, they erode our credibility. They erode our character. One by one by one by one. So how do you create honesty? How does that become the hallmark of your home? You need to understand something. Honesty needs to be the primary value in your home. What about faith? What about God? Hey, if we’re not honest, faith doesn’t have a chance. Honesty is where it starts and stops. And honesty transcends the age of your children. Mine are 12 and 10. We have a long, long way to go. I recognize that. But honesty transcends age. How do you do it? First of all, cultivate the primacy of honesty. Cultivate the primacy of honesty. This has to be the primary value in our homes. And as parents, we have the responsibility before God of establishing priorities and cultivating them. It’s not in the hands of our kids, I hope. That’s called the inmates running the asylum. It’s the parents’ job. Cultivate that primacy. I want to say this especially. If you have children who are young, let’s say three, four, five, maybe six years old, dishonesty should never, ever be cloaked as creativity. Have you heard parents do that? I know it wasn’t the total truth, but it was so creative what his excuse was on that particular day. I think he’s gifted and talented. Hey, gifted and talented is great, but it doesn’t mean squat if they’re dishonest. Honesty is the primary pillar of your home, of my home. Cultivate the primacy of it. Second of all, communicate a mishonesty zero tolerance policy. Mishonesty. Is that a typo? No. Two years ago, I created a word. Mishonesty. People say well, I wasn’t being completely dishonest. Let me tell you something, if you get into that conversation, you’re wrong. I’ve done that. If you misunderstood me, I’m sorry. Please. Be a grown-up and say you know what? I lied. Mishonesty is anytime you intentionally or your children intentionally leave someone with the wrong impression. That’s not truthful. Mishonesty. And as a family, as a parent, we have to communicate a zero tolerance for mishonesty, teach our children they have the responsibility to communicate clearly and honestly. Well, mom, I didn’t say that I would be out with them. I just said I was — no. You left me with an impression. You communicated. Now, of course, there are going to be miscommunications. But when you communicate a zero tolerance for mishonesty, you’re going to significantly limit the number of miscommunications. Zero tolerance. As a parent, I have to do that with Emily and Joseph. They need to see Julie and me communicating honestly, always. Then number three, compensate the practice of honesty. When you see it lived out, particularly when it costs your kid something, man, compensate them for that. I’m not talking about cash. But relationally, in terms of responsibility, or maybe in terms of lessening consequences. You know, sometimes kids will come to us and go, you know what? I did this. That doesn’t happen a lot, but sometimes it does. When you see them do that say, man, I want you to know something. I recognize it would have been easier for you to try to lie and get away with it. And because you were honest with me, you’re only going to be grounded for two weeks instead of four. Way to go. Compensate them. Tell them, you know what? You’re 17, and I’m only going to have to drive you and pick you up and take you there for two weeks. Tell you something, the keys are great leverage. The Bible says spare the rod, spoil the child. That’s Biblical, by the way. When they’re 16, you can’t spank them hard enough. Hurt your hand. But you can take the keys away. Well, then I have to drive them. Yeah. It’s called parenting. And it takes work. It’s not convenient. But when you equip them, you see them becoming who God created them to be, and it’s worth it.