This Strength of Youth article was written by Rev. Ronald Cammenga and published in the October 1, 1983 issue of the Standard Bearer.
In any great undertaking there are certain basic rules or principles which need to be followed if the endeavor is to be capped with success. The pilot must know the principles of aeronautics; the draftsman the principles of engineering; the surgeon the principles of human physiology. Such is also the case in the great enterprise of producing unspiritual young people. Here, too, one's goal is most easily achieved, and success guaranteed, when these basic rules are taken into consideration. Application of these time-tested laws, either singly or in any combination, is sure to bring about the desired goal. Any consistency in applying the rules is sure to make the devil cheer and the world applaud. By the same token the Holy Spirit will be grieved and the cause of Christ's church in the world dealt a severe blow.
What are these rules, the practice of which is most effective in producing unspiritual young people, a virtual serpent's brood?
Rule #1. Parents should take little or no interest in the spiritual education of their children and young people. They should not be involved in teaching their children their catechism, their sunday school material, or their Bible material for school. The best excuse to use in implementing this rule is that you are too busy; after all, you've got to put food on the table. Instead of seeing to it that your children are prepared for school and catechism, just assume it. It doesn't hurt either to take the position that Christian education isn't really necessary, and that public school training is adequate. In carrying this rule out, parents should see to it that their evenings are so filled up with other activities that they simply have not time for their children. Careful application of the rule is sure to produce spiritually ignorant young people, young people who neither know nor are interested in the truth.
Rule #2. Beginning already when the children are very young, parents should give them anything that they want. Satisfy their every whim. Always buy them the very finest. See to it that they always have new toys. Dress them in the finest clothes. As soon as they can drive, buy them a new car. Lavish them with every extravagance possible. This is a most effective means of producing unspiritual young people. It is sure to make cross-bearing and self-sacrifice, things which are absolutely necessary to the Christian life, repulsive to them. When their faith requires of them self-denial, or even requires them to endure suffering, they are sure to deny their faith. When it becomes plain to them that the way into the kingdom is always a way of tribulation (Acts 14:22), they will want no part of it.
Rule #3. Cultivate in your young people a love for pleasure and entertainment. Tell them that, after all, we only live once, and so we ought to get the most out of life that we can. You can best do this by madly pursuing pleasure yourself. Instead of impressing upon them that life is a battlefield, tell them that life is a playground. Enjoy yourself with sports, or entertainments, or vacations. And if they should become involved in worldly amusements, so much the better. Their attending the movie or going to dances will only further your cause. Consistent application of this principle is sure to produce young people who are ". . . lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Tim. 3:4).
Rule #4. Set before your young people an inconsistent example. You know the old adage, "Do as I say, not as I do." This is sure to work confusion and discourage the young people from living a life of obedience to the glory of God. Some examples. Tell your children that they must go to church regularly, but be irregular in your own attendance. Tell your children to obey those in authority over them, but you be quick to become angry at the boss, the policeman, or the elders. Tell them that they may not go to the movie, but you watch the movies and drama that come over the TV. Tell them that they must live chastely, but you read dirty novels and watch filthy television programs. This kind of life is sure to be offensive to the young people. They'll notice the inconsistency immediately, and your example will speak louder than your words. This is an especially old and time-tested rule, that over the years has met with a great deal of success.
Rule #5. When your children do break one of God's commandments, be sure that you don't discipline them, at least not severely. You may, perhaps, scold them; but nothing more. You know what Solomon says, after all, in Proverbs 23:13, 14: "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." There is scarcely anything so destructive to our goal as the consistent and loving application of discipline. When it comes to your attention that your son or daughter is guilty of some wrongdoing, minimize the seriousness of their deed. And at all costs, protect them, even if they're in the wrong. Cover for them and give excuses for their bad behavior. Make sure the teachers in the Christian school are aware of your disapproval of their disciplining the children. And if their bad behavior continues, don't go to the pastor or the elders to seek their help. If the church should sooner or later become involved anyway, become angry and attempt to stand in the way of the church's work. This rule, carefully followed, is sure to produce young people who are unholy and wicked.
Rule #6. At every opportunity, be critical of the Christian school teachers, the elders, and the pastor. Make your criticisms known to your children, and the ill will you feel toward these people. Don't hide your feelings toward them, and don't honor them at least for their office's and work's sake. This, too, is most effective in producing unspiritual young people. It will encourage the same critical spirit in them. It will cultivate a low view of the church and the members of the church, and make it easy for them to leave the church later on. And this is what usually happens. Once out of the church and separated from the means of grace and the preaching of the truth, they are fair game.
Rule #7. Allow them to make friends with unbelievers, or at least do not strongly disapprove of their establishing these friendships. After all, you can reason, they can be a good and effective witness to these unbelievers in this way. Don't stop them from running with these other young people who have no concern to live a holy life and no interest in spiritual things. When they are with these worldly friends, don't be concerned where they are or what they might be doing. After all, they're old enough to know better, and they can make their own decisions. We all know the influence a Delilah had on Samson. We all know that Israel's making leagues and friendships with the ungodly Canaanites was instrumental in bringing about their apostasy from the Lord God. A most effective measure!
Rule #8. Don't take any interest in the dating or courtship of your young people. This rule stands in close connection to Rule #7. Don't warn them against being yoked together with an unbeliever. Don't point out how this angers the God of marriage and is destructive to the purposes he has ordained for marriage. Take a light view of their leaving the church for the sake of a marriage partner. Don't point out their calling to maintain membership in a true church, and don't point out the importance of this for their children in the future. History has proved the effectiveness of this rule. Just call to mind the outcome of the sons of God marrying the daughters of men prior to the flood, or the result of the children of Israel marrying the ungodly Canaanites prior to the time of the judges. Applied consistently, this rule will surely have the outcome that the young people are weaned away from the church, their spiritual home and the source of the nourishment of their spiritual life.
Rule #9. Point out to your young people the importance of earthly success. Get them to see that they must succeed in life and establish a name for themselves. Their career has got to be the main thing. In the case of the young women, don't set before them the blessings of establishing a godly home and being a joyful mother of children. Tell them that they ought at least first find fulfillment in some secular pursuit. Have the young men see the importance of success and advancement in the world. Their work must come first, the church and family, the things of the kingdom of God, must take second place. Once they have made spiritual things second place in their lives, it's only a short step to giving them no place at all.
Rule #10. Set before your children the goal of becoming rich. Get them to see that money means power, and that money talks. Have them exert themselves fully, occupy themselves completely with getting rich. You know what Jesus said, that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into God's kingdom (Matt. 19:24). You know what happened to Achan in the Old Testament. The apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:9, 10: "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." In the parable of the sower, Jesus speaks of the seed that fell among the thorns as ". . . he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful" (Matt. 13:22). This is a particularly timely measure to employ in our affluent society.
These are the ten basic rules to be followed in the production of unspiritual young people. There's nothing difficult or complicated about any of them. You might say, they come naturally. Apart from the intervening grace of God, their results are guaranteed.
Now test yourself. How many of the rules have you been following?