john chrysostom on parenting

Posted on March 28, 2009

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John Chrysostom, aka the “gold-tongued preacher” of church history, is probably best-known for his unrivaled ability to preach the Bible.  As I was studying for my message this weekend on honoring father & mother, I came across a little-known sermon he preached entitled, “An Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children.”  Although I wouldn’t necessarily implement everything he said, I thought some of his thoughts were worth noting.

First, a funny quip on long hair and jewelry for boys:

And thou lettest his hair hang down behind, thereby at once making him look effeminate and like a girl and softening the ruggedness of his sex . . . “If a man have long hair,”Paul says (I Corinthians 11:14), “it is a shame unto him.” Nature disallows it. God has not sanctioned it, the thing is forbidden. It is an act of pagan superstition. Many also hang golden earrings on their children. Would that not even girls took pleasure in these; but you inflict this outrage on boys.

Now to the good stuff (especially for dads of boys):

If good precepts are impressed on the soul while it is yet tender, no man
will be able to destroy them when they have set firm, even as does a waxen seal.
The child is still trembling and fearful and afraid in look and speech and in all else.
Make use of the beginning of his life as thou shouldst. Thou wilt be the first to
benefit, if thou hast a good son, and then God. Thou dost labor for thyself.

But if any man would relate what is base, let us not, as I have said, suffer
him to come near the boy. If thou dost see a slave in his presence speaking lewdly,
punish him straightway and inquire zealously and sharply into the offense
committed. If thou dost see a girl — but better by far that no woman, save it be
some time an old woman with no charms to captivate a youth, come near him and
the flame of desire be not kindled. But from a young woman shield him as from
fire. In this way then he will speak no foolish word, if he hears nought that is
foolish but is brought up on those stories that we have told.

Let us train boys from earliest childhood to be patient when they suffer wrongs themselves, but, if they see another being wronged, to sally forth courageously and aid the sufferer in fitting measure . . . .And let there be many on all sides to spur the boy on, so that he may be exercised and practiced in controlling his passions among the members of the household. And, just as athletes in the wrestling school train with their friends before the contest, so that when they have succeeded against these they may be invincible against their opponents, even so the boy must be trained in the home. Let his father or brother oftentimes play the chief part in treating him with despite. And let them all strive their hardest to overcome him.

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