“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
It would be difficult to find a society that was as corrupt as the one in the days of Noah. This society was so wicked that “every intent” of man was “only evil continually.” This degree of wickedness caused God to be “sorry that He had made man” and decide to “blot out man…from the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:6-7). Yet Noah found favor with the Lord because he was righteous (Genesis 6:8-9). He raised three sons in this wicked world (Genesis 6:10) and they were saved with their father.
Is it possible to successfully raise children in a wicked world? Yes! It has been done before and can be done again. However, that does not mean it will be easy. Parents must be diligent and trust in God’s plan, no matter how corrupt the world becomes.
Wickedness in the World is Nothing New
There are many problems that exist in our society – abortion, homosexuality, pornography, the entitlement mentality, etc. But we need to remember the words of Solomon: “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Yes, we live “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:15); but so did the Christians in first-century Philippi. There are several wicked societies mentioned in the Bible. Let us notice just a few examples:
- Noah’s generation – “The the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). We have considered this example already. Peter cited this example in his discussion about divine judgment. He called this society, “the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5). That was the best way for the inspired apostle to describe these people.
- Sodom – “Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13). This was the city from which Lot would have to be rescued (2 Peter 2:7) because of the wicked men of the city who threatened Lot for preventing them from gang-raping the two men (angels) who were staying in his home (Genesis 19:4-11). God destroyed this city – along with the city of Gomorrah – because the people “indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh” (Jude 7).
- Corinth – “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). In this passage, Paul described various sins that would prevent one from entering God’s kingdom? This is not an exhaustive list of sinful activities. So why did Paul mention these? It was because these sins were prevalent in Corinth. We know this because the Christians there had to abandon these sins in order to follow the Lord (“Such were some of you…”). Wickedness abounded in the city of Corinth.
How would our society measure up to these others? Could we say that our society is comparable – at least in some ways – to Corinth? Perhaps. Is our society as wicked as Sodom? No, at least not yet. Homosexuality is becoming more accepted, but it is not common (yet?) to have gangs of men going around and forcibly raping other men. Is our society as wicked as the society in which Noah lived just before the flood? No, their thoughts were “only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Today, even though our society is becoming increasingly godless, we can still see people engage in good behavior – at least from time to time. Certainly our society is wicked – more than some, but less than others.
However, no matter how our society compares with others in terms of wickedness, we need to remember this: It is possible for people to become/remain righteous in these wicked societies. Noah and his family were saved (1 Peter 3:20). Lot was delivered because he was righteous (2 Peter 2:7-8). In Corinth, despite the city’s wicked reputation, the Lord told Paul, “I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). Our society is wicked, but people can still become/remain righteous today.
The problem that exists in every society is sin. Paul wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even in the best of circumstances, we will be surrounded by ungodly people since few will be righteous and the majority will be unrighteous (Matthew 7:13-14). In this regard, the fact that we live in a wicked world is not surprising. So parents need to be able to raise their children in this sort of environment. But how can they do this?
Keep Priorities in Order
The most fundamental thing parents must do to keep their children from becoming like the world around them is to teach them to put spiritual things first. Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Certain things are necessary for our physical lives on the earth – food, clothing, shelter, work, family, etc. But in the end, one’s spiritual well-being is all that matters. This was the Lord’s point when He said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Parents must teach their children that spiritual things take precedence over material things.
Parents must teach their children that it is better to suffer in this life and gain the reward of eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17) than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:24-26) or worldly acceptance (Matthew 19:29). These often prove to be stumbling blocks for God’s people – particularly for parents who are seeking to raise their children in a wicked world.
Parents should teach their children that work is good. The wise man said, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). But the goal of work must be right. In speaking of the fruit of one’s labor, Solomon also said, “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce” (Proverbs 3:9). In doing our work and reaping the rewards of our work, we must put God first. He has given us the responsibility to provide for ourselves and our families (2 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:8), to help others (Ephesians 4:28), and to give to the church (1 Corinthians 16:2). Parents must teach their children the importance of doing these things.
There is nothing wrong with working diligently and enjoying the fruits of one’s labor (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19). But too often people allow work and its worldly-centered goals to choke out the word. Jesus warned about this in the parable of the sower: “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14). Parents must teach their children to be hardworking – not with the primary focus of gaining wealth, prestige, or fame; but to be good stewards and fulfill the responsibilities that God has given them to do.
Parents should also teach their children that relationships are good. In the beginning, God created Eve for Adam because “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Solomon mentioned the value of friendship when he wrote, “A friend loves at all times…” (Proverbs 17:17). He expanded upon the importance of companionship in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
While relationships are important, parents must teach their children that loyalty to Christ must come first. Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). In writing to the church in Corinth, Paul warned about the danger of being “unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14, KJV). It is natural for children to want friends from among their peers. Parents also want their children to have friends. But relationships are not so important that we should compromise truth or morality in order to create/maintain earthly relationships.
Guard Children from Evil Influences
If parents are to be successful in raising their children in a wicked world, it is imperative that they guard their children from evil influences. Some are wary of doing this because they have an irrational fear of “sheltering” their kids. Often when parents talk about not wanting to “shelter” their kids, it is in the context of defending their decision to send their children to public schools (the place in which they will usually face the greatest amount of peer pressure). While there is nothing necessarily wrong with Christian parents sending their children to public schools, there is also nothing necessarily right with it either. Notice a couple of arguments that are often used to defend the decision to send children to public schools:
- “How else can they let their light shine?” – Paul admonished the Philippians to be “lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). But it is important that we understand the context of these passages. Paul was not writing to schoolchildren, but to saints (Philippians 1:1). Jesus was not talking about 5-6 year old children showing a good example before their classmates. He was talking about those who would be His disciples and would influence others who could respond appropriately (by glorifying God). Children are not called to “let their light shine” because they are not Christians. If anything, the parents might be able to let their light shine to the teachers or parents of their children’s friends, as they see the parents’ good works (how they raise their children in the Lord). But we should not try to justify placing children in spiritually dangerous environments just so they can “let their light shine.”
- “How else will they learn to deal with temptation?” – If children do not learn to deal with temptation by experience when they are young, how will they deal with it when they are older? Simple: parents teach them. Solomon said, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Do we believe this, or do we think a young child must learn how to deal with evil influences by experience? This is the whole thrust of the book of Proverbs – a parent teaching his son so he can avoid sin, rather than having to learn from personal experience (Proverbs 1:8; 2:1; 3:1; 4:10, 20; 5:1; 7:1, 24). For example, notice the warning about the adulteress: “Keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8). Was this good advice or bad advice? By shielding his son from temptation, would his son be more susceptible to being tempted by the adulteress later? No; instead, the one who did not receive this warning walked by her house, gave in to her temptation, and was destroyed because of it (Proverbs 7:6-23). After observing this, the wise man said, “Now therefore, my sons, listen to me…” (Proverbs 7:24). The instruction given by the parents is meant to guide children in the right path so they do not need to make as many destructive mistakes on their own.
Again, there is nothing necessarily wrong with sending children to public schools, but parents need to be very careful. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived, ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). These evil influences can come, not only from classmates, but also from teammates, neighborhood kids, and even certain family members. Parents are responsible to “bring [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This task is too important to be jeopardized because the parents are afraid that they might be “sheltering” their kids.
The Scriptures plainly teach that children are easily influenced to follow the wrong path. Paul wrote, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). As he warned these brethren about being carried about by various false doctrines, he used the illustration of children to make his point. Why? It is because children are easily influenced to believe, think, and do any number of things. Paul told the church in Corinth, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20). We are to be like children in the sense of innocence (cf. Matthew 18:1-4), but not in our thinking or understanding. Children must be taught so that they can develop a proper understanding of what is right. But while they are being taught, they are more susceptible to evil influences.
Parents certainly cannot shield their children from everything. But during their formative years while they are teaching them, parents must also do what they can to guard their children from evil influences.
There is a lot of evil in the world that makes it challenging to raise children. But we can do it! The final lesson in this series will go one step further – discussing how parents can raise their children to be Christians.