Fruit of the Spirit in Children

Published on October 8, 2020 by Andrea Schwartz

Galatians 5:22-23 defines the Fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and
self-control. These should serve as the objective evidence of godly
learning: Are the children manifesting these attributes? In all areas
of life and thought, the claims of Christ must be impressed upon the
students. This standard should be the focus as a Biblical worldview is
taught throughout the academic subjects covered. If not, even if you
have a “straight A” student, you don’t necessarily have a godly one.
Likewise, if your student struggles with some aspect of the
curriculum, the Fruit of the Spirit mindset will allow him to
persevere in the pursuit of excellence.

All children need to understand that they were created to glorify God
by carrying out His laws and commands. They will not do this naturally
because they enter the world selfish and self-centered due to the
stain of inherited sin. Only through training will they embrace their
calling as son/daughter and brother/sister. Along with learning their
native language and gaining self-discipline of bodily functions,
obedience to parents is the first major trait that needs to be
ingrained in a child. Next, the child should be working on becoming a
useful member of the family, seeking ways to love one another with
brotherly affection, and outdoing one another in showing honor (Rom
12:10).

Jay Adams, noted Biblical counseling author, has this to say about the
Fruit of the Spirit as it applies in family life:

To be self-controlled …  is said to be a fruit of the Spirit (i.e.,
the result of the Spirit’s work) in a believer. This work of the
Spirit makes him a sturdy, dependable person to whom others turn for
encouragement and help. It makes him the sort of Christian who rarely
gets into trouble with others because of indiscretions of word or
deed, and who, if and when he does offend, quickly rectifies the
situation on his own … His self-control, then, is not a control that
comes from himself but from the Spirit, and it is self-control only in
the sense that he is not dependent on other human beings for that
control.
Discipline begins in a child’s life as discipline by others: much of
the work of child training … has to do with bringing a child to
maturity, that maturity consisting of his ability to discipline
himself in the ways of God.
The process of child training that the Bible sets forth is one in
which the control of parents is gradually replaced by the control of
the Spirit through the Word as a child matures into a youth, willing
and able to follow the Scriptures on his own without the continued,
watchful instruction of parents. The mature person obeys not for fear
of punishment or hope of reward, but out of gratitude to God who sent
the Savior to die for him. He wants to please God rather than his
parents, others, or even himself!4

This is the sort of training that is uniquely possible within a
Christian school setting as the instruction given in Deuteronomy 6:4-7
states:

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with
all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt
talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest
by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Adams points out that the Book of Proverbs, which is a Hebrew training
manual for youth, has as its goal a person who walks according to the
law of the Spirit in promoting a self-controlled individual.

The Book of Proverbs represents the work of the father and mother as
bringing the child to this place of independence by teaching biblical
truth which shall follow and guide the child throughout life, long
after they are gone.5

Taking children through the Book of Proverbs shows them the practical
application of the law of God as outlined in the Ten Commandments. In
fact, the following passage in Rushdoony’s The Philosophy of the
Christian Curriculum inspired me to challenge my son at the age of
seven to begin memorizing entire chapters:

At St. Thomas Episcopal School in Houston, Texas, children in the
early grades memorize proverb after proverb, until the whole book of
Proverbs is committed to memory. On one occasion, third grade boys
were on the playground, when a teacher confronted one boy with an
offense committed earlier. The guilty boy immediately pointed to a
second boy, saying, “He made me do it.”  At this point, a third boy
stepped up and remarked, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou
not” (Prov. 1:10). This is of course one of the advantages of
knowledge of Scripture: it enables us to understand ourselves and
others as well as to know God.6

Memorization is an activity useful for public speaking training, as
well as handwriting training (having children copy them as the verses
to memorize them). Children often  memorize many commercials and
jingles verbatim from television and can handle the Proverbs
challenge.

This is adapted from an essay which appears in my book A House for
God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family.

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