I hope that my children turn out to be honest, hard-working, diligent, reasonable, respectable people. Is that a surprise to you? Who doesn’t wish that for their own children?
These character traits are some of the basic virtues that we would wish all men to acquire and practice in life. They are fundamental. They are foundational. They are essentially important.
And yet, I think it might be the case that these things can be thoughts of with a rather diminished appreciation often times. We don’t seem always to recognize how largely significant and important they are.
Well, I work with quite a few young men and women in the public school where I teach. And let me tell you, they are not all honest. Nor hard-working and diligent. And very few indeed are truly respectful and respectable. It can be sad sometimes to reflect on how lacking some of these basic virtues are.
This lack has made me more aware of how important these matters are. It is a sad sight, a pitiable one, in fact, to see young people who don’t even know how to act properly and decently amongst others. When 16 year olds act like selfish little immature children, it is very unattractive.
Now, as a Christian, what should I think of the importance of helping young people to become respectable members of society? If I am able to accomplish that, just how big of a change have I really made? I may not always have the same opportunity as I would like to teach the children about Jesus Christ and the full picture of righteousness (don’t get me wrong; I have found opportunities even in the public school setting), but I do have ample opportunity to emphasize basic behavior and decency to the students. I often speak to them about everything from how to lisen quietly and respectfully to a teacher, to how to work diligently to get assignments done on time, to how to employ the mind in thinking rather than mere lazy wanderings, to the honesty that would prevent cheating, to taking responsibility for one’s own choices and life. There are so many worthy things that I have opportunity to teach them!
Now, as a Christian, I certainly believe that there are yet deeper truths than these that all men must learn. But I have also come to feel that these are some basic matters that will put us on the right path if we truly wish to seek after truth and righteousness.
To put it this way: If I am able to have a part in helping a student change from a disrespectful and lazy young man to an honest, respectful, hard-working young man, I feel that I have done a lot to help him. I feel that such a change would be of lasting value in his life. It ought not to be looked slightly upon. It might determine much of how his life turns out. Do I confuse that with the saving grace of repentance and regeneration (being born again as a child of God)? No. I know those are not the same things.
But can I also add this? I think that a person who is willing to pursue honesty and respectful behavior, turning away from lying, cheating, and slothfulness, will be on the beginnings of a path that may just lead in the end to true conversion of the heart. Is it certain to take place that way? Of course not. But it seems to me that such a change would be worth having in a very large and real way. It would show an inclination towards what is right and true that, if built upon and followed out more fully, would lead to the knowledge of the Holy God and His Son Jesus Christ.
I feel that we should be careful not to despise the value of learning these basic and important virtues in life.