Ever notice how words don’t mean what they used to mean? It’s so important nowadays to define our terms so we actually know that we’re talking about the same thing. By the way, this is a critical skill to use when talking with your children. Ask them to define their terms, and take time to define yours. Many a disagreement could be relieved if you pause to define your words—even if you think their meanings are obvious.
For example, are you sure you know what your child means when he says,
- “I talked with the coach, and we’re good.”
- “He abused me.”
- “You’re forcing me to go to school.”
- “Don’t worry, we didn’t have sex.”
What does abused actually and accurately mean? What about sex? It’s important to establish a common definition of terms.
So with that said, let’s define what we mean by values.
Values: What Are They?
Over the past two or three decades values became a familiar term. Lots of people today feel strongly about their values. Unfortunately, not many of them can tell you exactly what a value is. Contrary to popular opinion, values are not beliefs, religious doctrines, philosophical tenets, or political positions. A value is exactly what its name implies: an estimation of worth. What do you truly value in your life? What is actually of most worth to you?
Solid values are the anchors that will keep your kids from drifting off course when the winds of the world begin to blow. Ideally, children get those values from you. As parents, we can’t be confident we’re passing along solid values to the next generation until we know what our true values are. This means that the first step in the process has to include careful self-examination. Consider the following areas of your life:
Attitudes: What’s your basic worldview? Your attitudes—how you look at life—have a way of shaping and informing the choices you make.
Investment: Time, money, and energy are precious commodities. What you do with them says volumes about your true value system. If people looked at your bank account records, your credit card bill, and your calendar, what would they learn about you?
Motivation: To determine true values, it pays to look beneath the surface. People can do similar things for very different reasons. Ask yourself, “What is the ultimate purpose behind my involvement in ______?” You may be surprised at your own answer.
The key Scripture to keep in mind as you consider your true values is Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Want to find out what your values really are? Dare to be vulnerable and honest. Before you decide to do this exercise with your kids, do it for yourself. The way we spend our time and money, and what we spend our time thinking about, tells us what we actually value, in contrast to what we say we value. (See the Values Self-Assessment activity at the end of this section.)
Christian versus Worldly Values
Learning to identify your values is one thing. Figuring out how those values line up with what the Bible has to say is another matter. As Christian parents, this is a question of supreme importance. Unfortunately, many professing believers don’t see how God’s values differ from those of the world in which we live. On a very general level, we can say that Christian values emphasize the importance of the invisible, the intangible, the spiritual, and the eternal, whereas the world tends to major in things that are material, measurable, temporal, and advantageous to one’s own interests.
Godly Values versus Worldly Values
What matters most to adherents of the godly and the worldly value systems?
- Divine commandments guide my reality.
- There is design and purpose in creation.
- The image of God defines humankind.
- God determines the value of life.
- Feelings have value but don’t define truth.
- God decides who and what I am.
- Love for God and others is paramount.
- God’s approval matters most.
- Personal agenda guides my reality.
- The world is random; meaning is personal.
- Humanity “creates” itself.
- Life is valuable as it relates to me.
- Personal feelings define reality.
- I choose my own identity.
- Profit and self-interest come first.
- Social approval is all-important.