I am amazed at the lack of ability for people to see that their actions affect anyone other than themselves. Consider the angry driver that speeds out of sight as the two cars they swerved through head for ditches; the over-eating, over-drinking or over-smoking family member that says it only hurts them; or the teenage who swears it is their life to mess up and none of your business. As you are reading those scenarios you can easily find the consequences. Yet, everyday we act without seeing the long-range effect on those actions. The ‘lecture’ on consequences is one of my most discussed with students.
Children often need to be reminded that their actions have consequences, good ones and bad ones. It is important to give them examples of both so they know it is good actions that everyone benefits the most from. In teaching this concept you can take a bucket of water, a tub, pool or lake and hand them something to toss in the water. Ask them to toss it in so that the water cannot be disturbed. Impossible. No matter what they do, they will not be able to pass the object through the water without disturbing the surface. The bigger the action, the bigger the reaction, or consequence. Choices, we make them everyday and our actions always have reactions or consequences. What defines our actions?
- What we read, hear, see = our thoughts
- What we think = attitude
- Our attitude = character
- Our character = actions
If someone’s actions are negative they cause negative reactions which means we must change what they read, hear and see. It is important to show the flip side of the coin by praising positive actions that equaled positive reactions. For example, studying, doing homework, etc. = better grades. Or, showing respect and consideration = receiving respect and consideration, which results in more privileges and responsibility.
Unfortunately, we are in a world ruled by sin. Sin is a huge pebble thrown in the pond and its ripples are the consequences that are far-reaching, even into the next generations. In 1 Samuel 3 the Bible tells of Eli’s penalty for not stopping his sons’ actions. Eli paid the price of ‘in-action’ over his sons ‘actions’.
11And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. 12At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. 14Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”
Eli’s sin was allowing desecration of the house of the Lord. He knew about what his sons were doing and did nothing. Makes you wonder doesn’t it? I know parents who have thrown in the towel over their minor children and said, “what can I do?”. EVERYTHING you can, is what God expects. God holds mothers and fathers responsible for how their children act, what they read, hear and see. The problem is, parents allow things to slip by until the children are so out of control it will take a war to win. Some say they pick their battles, but that usually means they finally exit the war. Raising children is spiritual warfare and the other side is not sitting idle.
Inaction IS an action. I recently heard two boys discussing hitting back over a senseless killing. I could have kept walking the class room and ignored them. Trust me, it is easier. However, 1) I knew they saw I heard them, and 2) that ‘feeling’ you get inside when you know you are supposed to speak and want to choose not to was choking me to get out. So I went back and looked at the young man and asked, ‘What will that do’? He said, “It will get even, I can’t just do nothing”. I looked at him and said, “You cannot throw a rock in the water and not expect a splash.” Blunt statements that seem senseless usually get their attention. I then asked him, “What if they get even and ‘hit’ you back?” He said, “We all gotta die sometime.” Death is not a feared consequence any more. We have desensitized a whole generation. I asked him if he thought someone would get even for him, he thought they would. I then asked him, “What if it’s your grandmother, or your mother, or baby sister they hit next and how will those left behind feel then?” I had his attention. First, death is not the end of anything, even if you do not believe in afterlife. Second, there are those left behind after a shooting, suicide, death or self-inflicted cancer. Even if you die, someone is forced to live with your action’s consequences.
The Bible says in Matthew 7:16-20 ,
16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Your actions define what kind of tree you are. What will your actions cause today?