In this case, I am not talking about food….at least, not for the most part.  The type of appetite I want to discuss here is the appetites, or “desires,” of human nature.  Many of us desire something, and perhaps even “crave” something.  For some, it may include food to help deal with stress, or television to help us wind-down at the end of the day.  Some may crave the latest gossip, Monday night football, or have a “need for speed” through fast vehicles, boats, or competitions. For others, appetites may include reading scripture and praying, servant-hood, or fellowship.  Some of these appetites can be Godly, while others are sinful.  Some may be completely harmless in themselves, but when taken to extreme, they can become unhealthy and sinful idols.  Appetites are trained and developed over time.  Appetites are also something we, as parents, can encourage or discourage as we raise our children.

JR and N

Like most parents, we previously wanted our children to be “well-rounded.”  When we first began having babies, we actually sought out gender neutral toys.  We played several genres of music on the radio to introduce them to rhythms and styles early.  I allowed them to watch secular t.v. shows like Barney or Sesame Street to help “educate” them early.  We made big plans for the schools they would attend.  Because S was a competitive swimmer from elementary grades through college, he insisted the children be put on the swim team when they were old enough.  We had both grown up playing other sports, and therefore we mutually agreed that they would play soccer and other team sports as they grew.  We wanted them to be in clubs and community activities.  We discussed the age at which our children could began dating.  While we didn’t have a preference as to what career field they chose, we did want them to hold jobs as early as possible, and get a college degree.  Isn’t this what every parent does? 

Then, earlier this year, we read a book by Steve Maxwell called Preparing Sons, which really convicted S and I.  It got us to thinking about what kind of appetites, or desires, we were encouraging our children (and ourselves) to develop.  The basic jist of this concept is that we must look into our childrens’ futures and the results that may develop from the things we encourage today.  What may seem like an innocent, harmless, and even fun activity today, could develop “appetites” in our children that would influence the lifestyle choices our children make tomorrow (or 10 or 20 years from now).  If we wouldn’t give our children alcohol, because we wouldn’t want to risk them developing an appetite for it, then why would we give them public television and HOPE that they figure out how to decipher right from wrong?  We began to pray and seek Biblical principals regarding the ideas we had established for raising our children.  What we found truly frightened us. 

Romans 8:5-8 states, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”

Such passages of scripture made us realize that appetites begin with the mind, and therefore, what we encouraged our children to think about on a regular basis would likely develop into a future desire.  We began praying for the wisdom to raise our children in Christ.  We realized that improperly developed appetites could easily set our children up for spiritual failure.   We knew many friends and family who had followed the very path we had set for our children, yet they either did not know Christ, or had not accepted Him until they reached adulthood.  Our greatest desire for our children was that they would come to know Christ early in life, then build and continually grow in their relationship with Him as they matured.  Yet, we realized this was unlikely to occur unless we encouraged the development of an appetite for Christ. We wanted them to avoid the mistakes we had made when we were not walking with Christ. 

Thus, we began to carefully evaluate the goals we had set up for our children, and we tried to look ahead at potential outcomes and results of those decisions.  We prayed for guidance and wisdom as we sought to establish new, Christ-centered goals for our children.  We wanted to do our very best, following God’s leading, and allowing Him to be the strength in our weak areas, to keep our children far from the sinful desires of the human nature.  Then, as God began showing the potential sinful appetites that could develop from the goals we had set, we prayed for Him to also show us what goals to replace the undesirable ones with.  As God answered our prayers, we began to implement changes.

One example close to my heart is that I have truly struggled with the “nurturing” that is supposedly so instinctual for a mother.  I felt like a failure as a mother so many times.  I had been taught to be independent and strong as a woman, to fight for equality, and stand up for myself as necessary.  I began to see a direct correlation with my appetite for independence and my discontent with being a homemaker with needy children.  As a result, we decided to turn our focus from gender-neutral toys and “well-roundedness” for our children and actually encourage the behaviors that will help them as an adult.  We sought out baby dolls for our daughter, and building supplies for our sons.   When dealing with my daughter, I began building up and speaking positively of the God-designed roll of motherhood and homemaking.  I love to see her pretending to have a baby in her tummy, and showing her how to swaddle her dolls.  When she helps me cook, I tell her the joys of preparing meals for the family–how our hard work pays off by keeping everyone healthy, and helping them grow up strong.  S began allowing JR to help him more when he was repairing things around the house.  Thanks to his grandparents, JR had a great toy tool set, and he will “use” his tools to “fix” something while Daddy fixes the real thing beside him.  S will discuss the importance of taking care of household equipment, and how keeping things in good repair serves the whole family.  While we still cross-train our children in different activites, our goals changed from the focus on well-roundedness to a focus on helping them proudly serve their instinctual, God-given roles in life as they reached adulthood.  The visible change toward their focus on playing their new adult roles has been astounding and encouraging for us as parents.

We also evaluated other goals.  In 1 Timothy 6:9, we are commanded to “Flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.”  1 Timothy 6:20-21 goes on to say, “….Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.”  Furthermore, 1 Timothy 4:7-8 states, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 

We had decided several years ago not to watch television (other than the occasional pre-approved movie) in our home, but as long as it was child-friendly, I wasn’t too picky if they saw something in someone else’s home.  I have since realized how much influence t.v. has on children.  Just think of how often children desire things they saw on a 30-second commercial, develop heroes based on movies, or imitate scenes observed on a show!  Therefore we now discourage anything but carefully pre-approved movies at any time.  While team sports aren’t necessarily a bad thing, community sports all too often involve negative secular influences that we don’t want our children exposed to.  We don’t want the children to develop a selfish “gotta-win” attitude that is all too common, witness an angry outburst by a team member’s parent, or fall prey to un-Biblical teachings from the coach.  Should we find a team that promotes Christian principles (these do exist in some churches), then we might consider.  I could go on, but the point is we must be careful not to develop or encourage appetites that would cause our children to stumble in their faith or confuse the Biblical world-view we desire for them.

1 Corinthians 5:16-26 states it well with “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit , and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious; sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kindgdowm of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things  there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

We decided that the character traits encouraged by our activities needed to be weighed against the fruits of the Spirit.  If  “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…” (Proverbs 22:15), then it only makes sense that the sinful, selfish natures of our children can be easily influenced by secular things.  As part of training our children, we needed to ensure we set them up for success in their spiritual walk with Christ, even if it means sacrificing their participation in certain secular events.  Sure, there is no guarantee that our children will mature with the appetite for Christ and Biblical character that we desire for them, however, if I DON’T shelter their hearts from the development of more secular appetites, then I can almost guarantee they WON’T mature with an appetite for Christ above all.

And an appetite for Christ is THE most important appetite one can have!  “…Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).