DEVOTIONAL: Children Learn What They Live

So while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, just as their fathers did, they do to this day.

II Kings 17:41 (NASB)

In the personal growth space there is a concept called “the halo effect.” Statistics show, when a person makes one positive improvement in his or her life, other positive changes usually cascade naturally from that. For example, people who go to bed earlier tend to rise earlier. Those who start a running regimen then tend to watch less TV or eat less junk food. In today’s verse, speaking of ethnic groups that later became known as the Samaritans, we see the exact opposite: “So while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols.” In other words, they tried to mix the good and bad together. Throughout the Bible, the many commands to “fear the Lord” also include the mirror command “Thou shalt have no idols.” The Bible is a thick book, but much of that content was crystalized into the brief Ten Commandments, of which Number One is: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 NIV). So, the idea of “fear the Lord but also serve your idols” makes as much sense as “Steve runs five miles every morning, then comes home and rewards himself with a cigarette” or “The Smiths are meticulous housekeepers–that’s why they keep ten cats in their home.”

More tragically, that nonsense was not confined to one generation. “[T]heir children likewise and their grandchildren, just as their fathers did, they do to this day.” Children learn what they live. That’s why we have the common saying, “like father, like son” and also “the Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” (In fact, to show the universal condition of human nature, the second saying also exists word for word in German.) Parents and grandparents pass on a worldview every day, consciously or unconsciously, via their lifestyles, attitudes, language, and priorities.  Are you trying to “fear the Lord and also serve your idols”? If so, that makes as much sense as “I want to lose ten pounds, and that’s why I eat a pint of ice cream every night.” Plus, if you’ve got younger ones around, they’re watching and learning from you too. As someone said, “Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”


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