Teaching our children to walk in wisdom when it comes to entertainment and friendship is an active task for parents. Throughout the Proverbs the word used for companion is a poetic use of the same word used throughout the OT for shepherding/feeding/tending a flock.
One of our primary jobs as parents is to feed our children. Now, imagine a parent who lets their child rummage freely through the cupboards whenever they like. Those parents will soon find the health problems of a diet which consists solely of jelly-beans and potato chips. In the same manner, parents are called to shepherd their children to pastures of green pastures. This is particularly important when it comes to what flock they run with.
Lead Your Teens to Green Pastures
The task is to lead your children to green pastures where other sheep commune together under the Great Shepherd. Sheep require vigilant care and attention. Sheep are herd creatures, and if they wander from the herd, or wander with the wrong animal they’re sure to become the main course on some other animal’s menu.
The Scriptures are our authority not only for what sort of friendships we should cultivate, but also what godly friendship is for. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Paul reiterates this same reality that evil companionship leads to corruption, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners (1Cor. 15:33).” In other words, friendship is for the cultivation of wisdom.
When you walk with the wise, you walk in the way of the righteous, and so the fruit of wise friendship is that, “The lips of the righteous feed[H7462] many: but fools die for want of wisdom (Pro. 10:21).” Instead of becoming the main course, a wise man is able to feed many. Proverbs 15:14 offers a stark contrast to this exact thing: “The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth[H7462] on foolishness.”
So friendship is for the cultivation of wisdom and thus righteousness. But how does Solomon teach us to cultivate friendship, and what sort?
The clear guidance we are given is that the morality of your friends matters, and certain individuals are to be spurned, not befriended: “Make no friendship[H7462] with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go (Pro. 22:24).” And, “Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion[H7462] of riotous men shameth his father (Pro. 28:7).” Lastly, “Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company[H7462] with harlots spendeth his substance (Pro. 29:3).” In other words, we are not to keep company with angry or riotous men, or with harlots.
There are other words of wisdom for us, but notice that here we have a simple summary of what sort of people shouldn’t be befriended. Are they bitter (and therefore prone to either outburst of wrath or cold, seething envy)? Are they out of control? Are they sexual loose? Then don’t keep company with such individuals it. Avarice, greed, and lust are not the traits you want in your children’s companions. As the Apostle John teaches, “Love not the world (1 Jn. 2:15-16).”
Contempt for the Cool
Perhaps one of the most important lessons which parents should teach their children is that of godly uncooperativeness. Proverbs 1:10, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” Those three words––“consent thou not”––is the sum and substance of what you want to aim for in raising your children to choose wise friends. It is the young man, void of understanding, who wanders down her street.
You want your children, at their various stages of development, to be sticks in the mud. They don’t just go along. They lead in the games, in the places the gang hangs out, what sort of things they talk about, what sort of jokes they laugh at, what sort of entertainment they enjoy. A wise son is not a log floating down the Mississippi; he’s a steamship going against the flow of foolishness.
But just going against the grain isn’t enough. Think about all the teens you’ve known who have gone through a rebellious “independent” streak. They shave the side of their head, put streaks of neon green, orange, or pink in their hair, put the bone through their nose and claim they’re doing it all to be different, to not conform. But the mugshots of all the Antifa protesters should be enough to conclude they they are not non-conformists, they are just conformists to an entirely different culture.
We want our children to go against the grain because they are being raised up to not depart from the way in which they’ve been trained. They already have a way they are going, and any deviation from that way will not entice them.
Lewis points out in the Four Loves that phileo love is oriented towards a mutual goal. Eros is face to face, while phileo is shoulder to shoulder. The question for your teens is: if you stand shoulder to shoulder with this individual or group of friends, which way are you pointing? Are you pointing towards folly, and thus poverty, despair, and death, or are you pointed at wisdom and therefore abundance, hope, and life?
Leisure Rather than Entertainment
An important distinction should be made here between entertainment, and leisure. Entertainment is akin to gluttony, in that it turns us into mindless consumers with no brakes to stop our indulgence. The rabbit hole of Youtube videos, the endless scroll of Social Media, all serve up to us a seemingly endless world of discovery and gratification.
Leisure, on the other hand, is the enjoyment of one’s work, and the reception of the blessings of God. Entertainment gobbles and grabs, whereas leisure receives and rests. We rest in God, to work up a sweat, in order to rest once more. Leisure is a gift to be received.
Remember that friends are chosen, not assigned. We are born into families, but we choose our friends. Entertainment is a subset of friendship. In other words, no one forces you to watch whatever the latest smut-fest is. You choose it. Your choice is a fruit of your heart. A heart that either rejoices in evil or in the truth.
When your children are knee-high to a grasshopper, the father in particular is tasked with pointing and instructing. The movies you watch, the music you allow, the internet sites permitted should all be accompanied with pointing. Point out that Moana disobeys her dad, and then it is her dad who has to apologize in the end. Point out that the melody for most pop music is boring, repetitive, and unoriginal. All this pointing is so that by the time they are nearing adulthood, you’ve pointed out all the principles, and now they will continue to go in the way in which you’ve trained them.
One final note in regards to entertainment. The common complaint is that “clean” or “Christian” entertainment isn’t as cool, or slick, or well-produced as the latest “Dawn of the Freaky Brain Eaters” or whatever blockbuster garbagé Hollywood insists must be seen. The reply is this: “Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit (Ecc. 4:6).”
You want your kids to be Narnian in their friendship: “You could see that they were ready to be friends with anyone who was friendly and didn’t give a fig for anyone who wasn’t (The Horse and His Boy, pg. 55).” Readiness to befriend, however, is not the same thing as being a friend with everyone.
While we may choose our friends, and by extension our entertainment choices, we cannot choose to not have friendship. Friendship is inescapable. You are either a friend of the world, and thus riddled with lust and envy, and so an enemy of God: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (Jas. 4:4);” or you are a friend of God, by faith, like father Abraham (Jas. 2:23).
So, as in all things, it comes back to believing the Gospel. This of course must be followed with obeying the Gospel out of love for God. And be like David, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts (Psa. 119:63).”