My God and My Neighbor

May 8, 2024

Teaching Children Right from Wrong

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How can you teach your children about right and wrong in a mixed-up world? This episode begins with Jewish training in the home according to Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Psalm 78:4-8. Next, we look at moral values in American history in an old school book called the “Blueback Speller” by Noah Webster. Then Paul’s words in I Timothy 5 about family responsibilities round out our discussion on this urgent topic!


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Kerry Duke: Hi, I’m Kerry Duke, host of My God and My Neighbor podcast from Tennessee Bible College, where we see the Bible as not just another book, but the Book. Join us in a study of the inspired word to strengthen your faith and to share what you’ve learned with others.

For the next few minutes, we’re going to look at the world from God’s perspective. And the way we’re going to do that is to go to the Bible to see what the Bible says about some of the problems and needs, questions and issues of our time. So let’s get started this morning with our question for today, which is this.

Can you think of a chapter in the Bible where the words “New Testament “and “Old Testament” are found? Can you think of a chapter in the Bible where the words, the words themselves, are found—New Testament and Old Testament are found? Now, I’m not talking about a section in the Bible or a chapter in the Bible where the New Testament is discussed or the Old Testament is talked about.

I’m not talking about a section where the Bible shows the difference between the Old Law and the New Law. I’m talking specifically about a section of Scripture where the Bible uses these words: New Testament and Old Testament. And we’ll come back to that question toward the end of the broadcast today, but for right now, I’m going to go to the Old Testament itself to the book of Psalms Psalm 78, and then I’m going to read from Deuteronomy chapter 6. Psalm 78, first of all, and then Deuteronomy chapter 6. And what we’re going to do in this first segment is to combine our Scripture reading with a voice from the past. So let’s begin here in Psalm 78, beginning in verse 4.

Here the psalmist talks about the responsibility of parents to teach their children, and then the responsibility of those children to teach their children, and on and on the cycle should go. The Bible says in Psalm 78, verse 4, “We will not hide them,” that is, the things that God has done from Israel and said and taught to Israel. “We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he has done.”

It was important in the nation of Israel for parents to transmit the knowledge that they had acquired to their children. And that knowledge was important for the children for their lives, for their own wisdom and for their good decisions in life and their relationship to God. It was very important for the children.

It was also very important for the families, for the community, and it was vital for the stability of the entire nation. When a nation cuts itself off from where it came from, it is in dangerous territory. That’s happening today in our own country and God shows in the Bible that when the Israelites forgot where they came from and they ceased to be thankful, they stopped being appreciative of what God had done for them and how good God had been to them.

That’s when they started making some serious mistakes and that’s when the nation itself weakened to the point that other countries overran it and overtook it. Now, in verse 5, he goes on to say, “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children.”

Now, listen to verse 6. “That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born, who also, he says, should arise and declare them to their children, that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments. And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that set not their heart aright and whose spirit was not steadfast with God.”

So the Bible says here that it is very important for parents to teach their children and for those children to teach their children. And on and on that cycle should go in the lives of people in that nation. It was very important in Israel, and it’s very important with the law of God today. It’s very vital that parents teach their children the Bible and instruct them in the way of the Lord.

Now then. Let’s go back to the book of Deuteronomy. I want you to notice what the Bible says in Deuteronomy chapter six, beginning in verse four. Here the Bible says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.”

Take these words that I am speaking to you this day, especially what I have said to you about loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. So he’s saying to the individuals, he’s saying to the families, he’s saying to the whole nation, if you want things to go well with you, you had better start with this, and that is, you had better love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

And no nation is really going to prosper in the way that it should, and ideally, unless it does that. The Bible says that righteousness exalts a nation, and sin is a reproach to any people (Prov.14:34). So he says, you teach them diligently to your children, talk of them when you sit in the house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Now, with that in mind, with those two Scriptures in mind, I want to read to you from an old work. Do any of you remember what was called the Blueback Speller? Are any of you old enough to remember using or seeing a Blueback Speller. That’s an old spelling book, an old English, an old grammar book that was used in the United States of America many years ago.

Let me read to you what has been said about this American spelling book by Noah Webster known as the school master of the Republic. “Noah Webster campaigned for free schools for both boys and girls in which children could learn the virtues of liberty just laws, patriotism, hard work, and morality.”

Now notice, this is a man who was very concerned about the education of young people in our country. And what was foremost on his mind? What was the centerpiece of his educational philosophy? It was morals. It was living a godly life in the sight of God. Notice it again. He wanted to have a school for both boys and girls in which children could learn the virtues of liberty, just laws, patriotism, hard work, and morality.

“He was an educational statesman whose work, more than anyone else’s, helped to create a sense of American language and national culture. Webster is best remembered for his American Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1828. An intensely patriotic individual, Webster believed that America had to shed its British influence and develop its own sense of cultural identity and unity.”

“The best way to do this, he believed, was to reshape English language and literature to reflect the unique American culture. The creation of an American language would bind the people together and help produce a strong sense of nationalism. Webster knew that if Americans were to develop a sense of national identity, the process should start at an early age.”

“Accordingly, he wrote his Blueback American Spelling Book, also known as the Blue Back Speller, one of the most successful books ever written. This small booklet appeared in 1783 and became the most widely used school book during the early 19th century. Roughly 100 million copies were printed and it is estimated that more than a billion readers used the book, a record surpassed only by the Bible.”

The American Spelling Book was often the only book school children had because it served as a combination primer, reader, and speller. The book contained many moral stories and lessons, as well as word lists and guides to pronunciation. In other words, this was a book that was designed to teach children how to read and to write.”

But in the process, it used examples that would also, at the same time, teach them morals. Teach them right from wrong. Help them to appreciate respect for God and respect for other people, hard work, patriotism, and all these virtues. Webster had the good sense to see that children don’t just need to be smart, they need to be good.

And if they’re smart without being good, there’s going to be trouble. That’s our problem today. People don’t see that. Educators don’t see that. Parents don’t see that. Politicians don’t see that. We can have people that are educated, people that are smart, but if they don’t have the morals to go with it, then we’re going to have trouble in our society.

People back in the 1800s knew that the morality of the nation comes first and that morals are more important than being educated in terms of being smart according to the world’s standards. So let me read a few examples from the old Blueback Speller, the kind of grammar book, the kind of spelling book that children used to use in public schools in America.

“Be a good child. Mind your book. Love your school and strive to learn. Tell no tales. Call no ill names. You must not lie, nor swear, nor cheat, nor steal. Play not with bad boys. Use no ill words at play. Spend your time well, live in peace, and shun all strife. This is the way to make good men love you, and save your soul from pain and woe.”

Here’s another one. “A good child will not lie, swear, nor steal. He will be good at home and ask to read his book. When he gets up, he will wash his hands and face clean. He will comb his hair and make haste to school. He will not play by the way as bad boys do. When good boys and girls are at school, they will mind their books and try to learn to spell and read well and not play in the time of school. When they are at church, they will sit, kneel, or stand still, and when they are at home, will read some good book that God may bless them.”

Here’s another one. “As for those boys and girls that mind not their books, and love not the church and school, but play with such as tell tales, tell lies, curse, swear, and steal. They will come to some bad end and must be whipped till they mend their ways.”

This is what boys and girls used to hear on a daily basis when they went to school in the 1800s and the early 1900s, I ask you, since things have changed and since God has been taken out of school, since the soul and morals have been denied any place in public education today, have things gotten better?

Oh, we may know more about technology and a lot of other subjects, but as far as our moral condition is concerned, there is no way that we can compare to the moral condition and the moral teaching and the moral state of things back in that period of our history.

But let’s move on. On page 50 of the Old Blueback Speller, we find these words, “A clown will not make a bow nor thank you when you give him what he wants, but he that is well bred will do both. He that speaks loud in school will not learn his own book well nor let the rest learn theirs. But those that make no noise will soon be wise and gain much love and goodwill. Shun the boy that tells lies or speaks bad words, for he would soon bring you to shame. He that does no harm shall gain the love of the whole school, but he that strives to hurt the rest shall gain their ill will.”

“He that lies in bed When he should go to school is not wise, but he that shakes off sleep shall have praise. He is a fool that does not choose the best boys when he goes to play, for bad boys will cheat and lie and swear and strive to make him as bad as themselves. Slight no man, for you know not how soon you may stand in need of his help.”

You see, this is the kind of reading that children used to have when they went to school. Today, when children learn English, when they learn how to read and write, how to spell and use correct grammar, they have all kinds of examples that have been sanitized of any kind of reference to morals and especially to God.

But that’s not all. We also find that Scriptures were used in this old reading book in America, in American public schools. For instance, on page 62, “My son, hear the counsel of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother. If sinners entice thee, consent thou not, walk not in the way with them; refrain thy feet from their path, for their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.”

And those sentences are from Proverbs chapter 1 in the Bible. Now, again, this was a regular, almost daily part of public education in the 1800s and the early 1900s. And look at the effects. Compare the results of that kind of education with the kind of education that we have today.

I’m not saying that all of our education today is bad. I’m not saying that all of our educators are wrong. I’m saying that there is a shift in the emphasis. I’m saying that there is a change, a huge change, in the standards and in the values that were taught in the 1800s and the values that are not being taught today. Everything is neutralized today when it comes to education because we’ve had so many lawsuits, there are so many atheists in the country, and there are so many moral liberals in the country that these kinds of things have long since been forgotten.

And again, I challenge you, you look at the moral condition of our time and compare it to the moral condition of those times in the 1700s, the 1800s and the early 1900s. And there is no comparison when it comes to a difference between the values that people had in the home, in the school, in the community and in churches and the kinds of values and the lack of standards that people have today.

And while we’re talking about these matters, I want to go right now into what we call a chapter survey. And this is actually going to be a partial chapter survey today. I’m going to look at 1 Timothy chapter 5, and I want you to notice in this chapter that for the most part is about widows and the responsibilities of those who have widows that they’re related to.

I want to look at the first 16 verses of this chapter, but I want you to notice that it’s not just about widows. I want you to notice that there is something for everybody in the family in First Timothy chapter five, beginning in verse one. So let’s read. Open your Bible to I Timothy chapter five. I’m going to begin reading in verse one and notice here again what he says and how much he talks about the home.

The interesting thing about this chapter and this book is that Paul is writing to a preacher, Timothy. But he doesn’t just talk about Timothy being a preacher and his work as a preacher. He talks a lot about the home. He says a great deal about men and women and the role of males and females in the home, in their personal lives, and in the church.

So it might shock, it might surprise at least some to see how much Paul talks about the role of women and the role of the family and family members in a book that was written to a preacher. So it’s not all a book that is about how to preach and what you’re supposed to tell people and how you’re supposed to say it.

It has a lot to say about the subject of the family, because one of the main topics that preachers have to deal with and need to teach about is the home. So let’s get started here in first Timothy. Chapter five, beginning in verse one, Paul tells Timothy, “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father, the younger men as brethren, the elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters with all purity.”

Paul is writing to a young man, at least he’s younger than Paul is. And he says, here is how you are to treat, here is the attitude, here’s the disposition that you’re to have toward different age groups and genders. In the church, first of all, here’s how you’re to treat an older man in verse one. He says, do not rebuke an elder.

That is an older man, but entreat him reason with him just like you would your father. So how are you supposed to treat older men in general, but especially older men in the church? Well, he says that you’re supposed to approach them with the same tone and in the same manner that you would your father.

Don’t rebuke that individual, but entreat, that is, reason with and admonish that individual just like you would approach your own father if he was in the wrong. Secondly, he says to treat the younger men as brothers. That is, brothers. Treat them like they’re your brothers in the flesh, just like you would your own flesh and blood brother.

Be loyal. Don’t assume anything without reason. Don’t jump to conclusions. Give the benefit of the doubt and be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love. That’s what the Bible says in Romans 12 verse 10. Then in verse two, he says, treat the older women just like you would your own mother. Show the same respect, show the same care and concern and be ready to help, just like you would your own mother.

And as far as the younger women are concerned, he said you treat them like you would your own sister. And if you don’t have a sister, then learn from other people’s sisters and how they relate to them. In other words, You treat the younger women in the church, he says, with all purity. You be careful about how you talk to them.

Don’t say anything suggestive ever. Don’t act in any way that is inappropriate to them. You treat them with the same kind of respect and purity that you would with your own sister in the flesh. And if that’s done, there won’t be any problem as far as these relationships are concerned.

But then in verse 3, He says to honor widows that are widows indeed. Somebody says, “Either a person is a widow or she’s not. Why does he talk about a widow indeed?” Well, before we get to that, notice first of all that he says to honor them. Now, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about honoring somebody? What does it mean to honor widows or to honor anybody?

Well, you say that means to respect that individual, and that’s true, but that’s not all that is involved in honoring a person in this sense because the word honor in this chapter means not just to respect that person, but to help financially that individual. If that person is in need, honor widows that are widows indeed.

Now, the meaning of the word indeed is truly really, verily, a widow. What does that mean? It means that any woman who has lost her husband has a great hole in her life. She is without the support of that husband, but she may have other people that help her. She may have means of her own to get by, but then there are some widows that when they lose that husband, they are really in need. They are truly destitute. And that’s what he means here.

There are some widows that don’t have any other means of support because they don’t have any family to help them out. And so what the Bible says then is that in verse four, “If any widow does have children or nephews” (the King James says; a better translation of that old English word nephews there would be grandchildren).

So if she has children or grandchildren. The Bible says, “Let them learn first to show piety at home and to repay their parents and their grandparents. So what this says then is that if you have a widow and she has children that can help her, then they’re supposed to help her. Or if she has grandchildren that are able to help her, then they need to help her because she is in need.

She doesn’t have any other means of support. She doesn’t have anybody to help her. She is all alone, and she is destitute. She is poor, and she needs help. Who are to be the first people to help her? The Bible says her children and her grandchildren. And they are to learn to repay the debt to that individual.

Why? Because the parents fed the children. The parents put clothes on the back of the children. The parents gave a roof over their heads. The parents took care of them when they were sick. The parents took them to the doctor. The parents protected them. The parents stayed up at night with them. And so the Bible says that those children are to pay back their parents.

So if the parents or the grandparents, especially a widow of those grown children is in need, then those children and those grandchildren are to step up and to help out. That means that just as the parents and grandparents fed them, they are to feed them. They are to buy them food or provide for them food, to give them clothing, to give them a place to live, to take them to the doctor, to stay up at night with them, to clean their house, to provide for them all the need and care that they need.

Because if the parents and grandparents cared for and provided for those children and grandchildren, then the children need to provide for and care for those parents and grandparents when they get older. Is that being taught today? Are children and grandchildren being taught that? Do they understand that today?

Sometimes they don’t even understand it. Sometimes they’ve not even been taught. Sometimes they don’t even care about that. They have no concern for anybody but themselves. And one of the reasons why, folks, is because the Bible is not being taught in our society. It’s not being taught, and it’s not being lived in the home. It is not being mentioned in the school. It’s not even being preached and taught in churches because people are too busy playing and entertaining themselves in churches, and they’re not reading and studying the Bible like they should.

But let’s move on in 1 Timothy chapter 5 to verses 5 and 6. Paul said, “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day, but she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she lives.” What Paul is doing here is showing that women react to the same tragedy in different ways. He’s talking about married women who lose their husbands. Now on the one hand, in verse five, some of those women who have lost their husbands draw closer to God.

He talks about a widow who trusts in God, who continues in supplications and prayers night and day. On the other hand, in verse six, he talks about a woman who lost her husband and she departs from God. She leaves God and lives a wild life. He says that she lives in pleasure. And while she does that, she’s dead while she lives.

In other words, she is alive physically, but she is dead spiritually on the inside. Then in verse seven, he continues by saying, “And these things give in charge that they may be blameless.” Now notice verse eight. First Timothy chapter five, verse eight: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” This passage, like many others in the Bible, shows that a man’s duty and obligation before God is to provide for his family, to provide for his wife, to take care of his children. That is his duty before God Almighty. And the Bible says that is a very serious obligation.

Now, this is in addition to the fact that a grown man is to help to take care of his aging parents, especially if his mother is a widow, and even if his grandmother is a widow. That’s according to verse 4. But verse eight says that he is to take care of his own. And the Bible says that a man who will not do that—now listen very carefully—the Bible teaches that if a man will not take care of his own family, first of all, he has denied the faith. That is, he’s denied it by his actions. You see, a man doesn’t have to deny it in word. He may even claim the faith. He may claim to be a Christian, but he has denied the faith by what he does.

Secondly, he is worse than an infidel. How many times have you heard people, sometimes even Christian people say, well, there’s no one sin that’s any worse than another. And there’s no one condition that’s any worse than another. There’s no one sinner that’s any worse than another. That’s not true. Look at this verse.

The Bible says that if a man will not provide for his own, especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. An infidel is somebody that does not even believe in God. And the Bible says a man that will not take care of his family is worse than a man that denies or does not believe in God and because there were so many widows in the first century that needed help, the Bible says that some of those widows were supported by the church to do certain works for others, even to oversee the works of other widows.

And the Bible talks about that in verses nine and 10. So here are the qualifications. “Let not a widow be taken into the number under three score years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for good works. If she has brought up children, lodged strangers, washed the saints’ feet, relieved the afflicted, and diligently followed every good work.”

If the church was going to support her in that full time work, then she had to be a woman of special character. But then in verses 11 through 13, he talks about certain younger widows that had turned away from Christ. “But the younger widows refuse”—that is, refuse from this enrollment—”for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry, having damnation because they have cast off their first faith.”

Now, he’s not saying that these younger widows were wrong because they remarried after their first husband died. But he’s talking about the fact that while they were remarrying, they left Christ. It’s not wrong to have a husband, but it was wrong to leave Christ in order to get a husband, and that was the problem there.

“And withal, they learned to be idle.” Instead of being busy in the house, they’re idle, “wandering about from house to house, and not only idle, but tattlers also, and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.” Instead of being busy in their own home, they’re into everybody else’s business, and they’re doing too much talking instead of working.

In verse 14, Paul said, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide,” that is, manage” the house, and give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” These things need to be taught in the home and in the church and in society today. 1 Timothy 5 verses 1-14.

Well, we need to go back to the question that we gave out at the very beginning, and it was this. Can you think of a chapter in the Bible where the words New Testament and Old Testament are found? In one chapter, both of those expressions appear. In second Corinthians chapter three, we find Paul talking about the New Testament and the Old Testament in second Corinthians chapter three, verse six, Paul said, “Who also has made us able ministers of the New Testament” and in verse 14, the Bible says, “But their minds were blinded for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament, which veil is done away in Christ.”

Yes, the Bible talks about the Old Testament and the Bible talks about the New Testament, and we need to rightly divide the word and understand the difference between those two.

Thank you for listening to My God and My Neighbor. Stay connected with our podcast on our website and on Apple, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever fine podcasts are distributed. Tennessee Bible College, providing Christian education since 1975 in Cookville, Tennessee, offers undergraduate and graduate programs.

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