He didn’t look like he had any kind of a disease. If there was anything different about him it was that he was more active than other kids his age. But he was sick. It was nothing life threatening. Maybe just life altering. And every time I saw him I couldn’t help but wonder why his life didn’t seem to be that altered.
His parents told me the secret. It was all in what their son ate. If he spent several days eating junk he was likely to be bedridden for a week or so. But if he ate a healthy diet he was normal. Maybe even above normal. As the two parents were explaining this to me, their son was busy climbing a tree. Apparently he had broccoli for lunch that day.
Most parents have to fight seemingly endless dietary battles with their kids.
“Don’t eat that!”
“You’ll ruin your supper.” Whatever that means.
“That’ll kill you. Slowly and painfully. Put the Oreo down.”
Not so with this kid. At least not to the degree of most family eating battles. This kid has seen the benefits of eating right. And he has seen the consequences of straying off course. He doesn’t need a dire warning to keep him from eating 12 packs of Fun Dip in one sitting. All he has to do is remember how fun it is to climb a tree.
I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. Psalm 119:101 (ESV)
Read on its own, we might be tempted to think that this is just some verse telling us to stay away from bad things. Be good. Stop doing bad. The end.
But the Bible never works that way.
When I was a kid I hated it when my mom answered my objections to one of her commands with, “Because I said so.” I swore never to use it. Then I became a parent and got it copyrighted.
There’s no verse in the Bible where God says, “Because I said so. Just do it. The end.” Instead, his commands are always based on something.
Like his character (Deuteronomy 6:4).
His presence (Joshua 1:5).
And our ultimate joy (Philippians 4:1-9).
Before the Psalmist wrote about staying away from evil, he wrote about the pleasures and benefits or pursuing godliness. And the pursuit of godliness is never merely a list of things to avoid. Instead, it is a longing for genuine joy that resists the temptations to settle for temporary happiness.
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. Psalm 119:97-100 (ESV)
This week I heard about a guy who has decided not to send his daughter to college because of all the sexual temptations she could encounter. So as an alternative he’s decided that she should give herself a college education on the Internet. That should work out real well. Especially since there are absolutely no sexual perversions or temptations on the Internet.
We can’t lock our kids away from the world hoping that they don’t give in to its pressures. Those pressures always seem to creep their way through even the most secure fortresses. In fact, if we’re honest with ourselves, we would realize that the world and even Satan could leave us alone for the rest of our lives and we would still find enough trouble from within our own hearts.
That’s why we need to be reminded of something better. And we need to remind our kids that there is something better than the phony images that get passed around from one phone to another at their school.
When a kid actually sees his dad happily kiss his mom on a regular basis (Gasp!) he may make jokes about being grossed out. But, like it or not, he is being taught that God’s institution of covenantal faithfulness is so much better than a naked body on a screen.
But when he sees his mom and dad sleeping in different rooms and acting like rival soccer hoodlums those phony images suddenly look a bit more appealing.
We live in a culture that is obsessed with sex. That would be a great thing if the sex we were obsessed with was the kind that God created. But it’s not. It’s a tainted, deadly perversion of the original.
We can’t protect our kids from the toxic waste that our culture calls sex just by locking them in their rooms with a list of things not to do.
But maybe we can protect them if we show them the better way. Like how the God of the Bible is infinitely greater and more satisfying than the millions of little sex gods in our culture. And maybe then, when temptations come knocking, they’ll be like the boy who refused to settle for the temporary pleasure of a couple of dozen Fun Dips all because he knew about the greater joy of climbing a tree.