Little Ears

Last fall, my boys decided to set up a lemonade stand to make some extra money. I liked the initiative but reminded them that we live in the country on a dead-end road. The young entrepreneurs saw the wisdom in my observation and returned to the drawing board. If they were going to make some quick cash, they would need a better idea. That evening, after a long day working in the garage, I entered the house to find a swear jar with my name on it. As a minister of the gospel, I was offended. I protested to my wife, “I do not swear!” She smiled and said, “Then the swear jar will not be a problem.” Over the next few days, the jar began to fill. Here is what I learned: I might not use the Lord’s name in vain or say any of the big four-letter words, but I do say things I would not say in public or allow my children to say. I am a hypocrite, and I am not alone.

On August 30, 2022, published the results of a survey they conducted, looking for the American city that swears the most (Columbus, Ohio, if you are wondering).1 The survey included over 1,500 residents from thirty major U.S. cities. Here is what they found: the average respondent swears twenty-one times per day. Here’s what is troubling: the article states that most people believe swearing is inappropriate, yet reports that 55% of people are most likely to swear when they are at home. Here’s the point: over half of the people surveyed are most likely to swear when they think no one is listening. The problem is: someone is listening. Our children are listening.

MATTHEW 18:1-6
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

The words of Jesus are a stark reminder of how impressionable children are. They watch, learn, and mimic all that they see. This is why Jesus warns us against causing them to stumble. It is also why he praises them for their faith. When Jesus called, the child came. In arguing over who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, the disciples could not have been less Christ-like. Jesus challenged them to return to the lowly position of a child. Here we find the key to following Christ. The greater humility and trust, the more we reflect the one who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).

Jesus has entrusted us with a great responsibility, our children. Perhaps you are reading this, and your children are adults who have walked away from the faith. It’s not too late. How many times has your adult child called and asked for advice? Your opinion still matters! Or, maybe you are reading this, and you’ve never had children of your own; you can still be a role model, and that’s what we’re talking about.

Modeling Christ in our lives is not easy. Allow yourself some grace. When you mess up, ask for forgiveness, from God and from those he has brought into your care. In doing so, you will demonstrate marks of the faith—humility and trust. Mark Holman, the author of Church + Home, writes, “Our children are watching us to see if our behaviors reflect the faith we proclaim.”2
So, let us reflect Christ, but also, let us rest in Christ. Remember, where you fail, he has been victorious. Never hold yourself up as the perfect example; instead, point to Jesus. If that’s all you do, you will have done enough.
Rev. Troy Tysdal, D.Min. is President of Lutheran Brethren Seminary in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
  1. Matt Zajechowski, “Study: The Cities that Swear the Most in the U.S.,” Preply (blog), last modified October 14, 2022,
  2. Mark Holman, Church + Home: The Proven Formula for Building Lifelong Faith (Ventura, CA: Regal House Publishing, 2010), 43.

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