“Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.
Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive.
Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.”
I Corinthians 10:23-24 NIV
I was listening to the news on the radio as I was driving, and I stumbled on a discussion about spring break, and how hundreds of thousands of teens and college students are going to Mexico and Florida and the Texas coast for “Spring Break”. The people on the panel talked about how they used to go away for spring break and asked each other if they would let their college-age kids go. Every person on this panel said “No way!” One of the people on the panel said she would let her son go as long as she went with him as his chaperone. Everyone had a good laugh, knowing her son would never go for that.
When their parents say “NO” to something they want to do, a lot of kids and teens ask “WHY NOT??” Parents don’t always have a good answer to this question; they are just imagining all the worst case scenarios that could happen. Oftentimes this kind of interaction can break relationships of trust between the teen and their parents, especially if the parents respond to their teenager with a harsh and angry tone. What teens want most is for their parents to trust them, but they do not have enough worldly experience to know that giving trust can be a double-edged sword. They don’t understand their parents may trust them, but not the circumstances surrounding the activity they want to participate in.
These verses in I Corinthians 10 deal with this exact issue.
“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.
All things are lawful, but not all things edify.
Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.”
I Corinthians 10:23-24 NASV
From these verses, there is nothing wrong with telling your teens that they could do anything. This will surely get their minds going, thinking, “WOW, I can go!” Until you point out the rest of the line in the verse; “but not all things are profitable.” To help your kids work this through and get a good understanding of this verse, parents should ask the following questions:
- How is this going to profit or benefit you?
- How could participating in this activity hurt you?
- You know many of the other teens going do not have the same values you do. How are you going to resist them when they try to get you to do something you know you should not do?
- How is participating in this activity going to be constructive and help you grow in your relationship with Christ?
The second part of the verse is also interesting as it says, “All things are lawful,” meaning God doesn’t have a law against it. BUT, “not all things edify” or will build you up and be a blessing for you. The definition of the word “edify,” says “to instruct or improve especially by setting a good example; to profit morally or spiritually.” There is no middle ground here. If the circumstances that come with participation in an activity are not going to set a good example so your child or teen will profit morally or spiritually, then it is going to hurt or tear them down.
We would encourage you to
- Plan a time to look at these verses up with your kids.
- When you get to the point that says “All things are lawful /permissible” Ask them what this means.
- Then read the rest of the line and have them look up the words, ‘profit / beneficial’ and ‘edify /constructive’ in the dictionary and discuss what they mean.
- Encourage your kids to rewrite the verses using the definitions of these two words.
- Have them write how activities or events they want to do under “All things are lawful/permissible” would benefit them or edify them.
You want them to grasp the fact that even though they could do something, that doesn’t mean they should do it. The trick is getting your kids to think this through. These verses explain this from God’s point of view.
The next time a situation comes up where your kids don’t understand why you are telling them, “No,” bring up these verses and ask your kids the questions mentioned above. Don’t let them get away with giving you answers they know you want to hear. You may need to keep asking them additional “HOW” or “WHY” questions to be sure they have not only thought through the issue, but will know how to deal with an unforeseen issue or complication they didn’t see coming.
I remember when our son Michael was in 9th grade and he wanted to join a team for the Dragon Boat Races during an event the high school sponsored. Teams of twenty teens were on each boat and they competed against each other. We saw the benefit in this activity so we told Michael he could go. A week before the event, he told us a lot of the teens were staying overnight in the state park the night before the races and he wanted to join them. We could see many negative issues with this that would not make it a beneficial activity for him.
We asked him to come up with three reasons why we might say “yes,” and three reasons why we would say “no.” He agreed, but he didn’t come back at the appointed time with his answers. Carla asked him why, and he said the only reason we would say “yes” was because he wanted to go, but he had a lot of reasons why we would say “no.” He chose not to go. On race day, we found out sheriffs came out and arrested many of the students for underage drinking and drugs. A friend of ours who was a cop told Michael he was smart to stay home instead of spending the night with the others.
Our kids are just like us. We see something we want and we might check to see if there is a law against it or something in the Bible that says we shouldn’t do it. But that is about as far as many of us go. These verses teache us we need to do more than that. We need to ask ourselves if we will morally and spiritually profit from participating in this activity or from the purchase of something we want, but don’t need. This is an important, but often overlooked step when it comes to making decisions in our lives. If you want your kids to grow up thinking things through to make the right moral decision, you must teach them to think morally by thinking through and evaluating what is right and wrong for them.
Is this something you as an adult need to think through for yourselves so that you are a good example to your kids?