Performing, in and of itself, is not bad. In fact, it is our duty. Yet being right with God is the only way to facilitate true joy, peace and success (see, for example, 1 Samuel 16:1-13). We've often heard people point to the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) to illustrate that our attitude is more important than our actions. Pay close attention to the words of Jesus here, however, and it becomes obvious that Martha was not being asked to neglect her work; instead, she was rebuked for the condition of her heart as she went about her activity: "Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42, italics added for emphasis). The "good part" is a good heart! The lesson here is, quite simply, that we can't focus on our doing at the expense of our being.

So how does this apply to parenting? You may have heard the old adage, more is caught than taught--it's true! However, this doesn't just mean that our actions speak louder than words. It also means that our being, or who we are, has as much, or more, impact on our children as our actions and words alone. While our objective should always be to instill God's percepts on our children's hearts, we must first shift our focus away from our children and towards ourselves and our own personal relationship with the Lord in order to accomplish this goal. By no means should we neglect our duties; but if we remember to first "look to Jesus" (Hebrews 12:1-2) as we go about our daily doings, we will be that much more effective.

So, if you are like us, and just about every other person we know, you will now be asking, "How can I achieve this goal?" This is the paradox: we must do something in order to be who God wants us to be. Personally, to help ourselves consistently grow in spiritual well-being, we devised an actionable plan. It enables us to live out God's Word, to the best of our ability, so that we can more successfully impart God's precepts to our children and have a right heart before Him as we go about all of the other activities of daily life.

To keep us focused on what is of value to God, we have searched the Scriptures and identified what we have labeled the "twelve core values." The core values have become for us a compass to point us in the right direction when we are in danger of veering off course. We have them painted on our dining room wall; we memorize the Bible verses that point to each one; and everyone in the family strives to live by these Biblical ideals. They help us, as parents, to live Godly lives. In the process of being who God wants us to be, we are able to more successfully do what God wants us to do. And, yes, we are able to provide a better example for our children to model. But, it's not about them. It's about us and God, first and foremost.

Consider the twelve core values, and study for yourself how and why each one is important to God. The passages in parentheses are those that we have chosen to focus on, but there are many others that point to the significance of these character traits:

  • Faith (Matthew 9:29, 2 Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 11:1)
  • Surrender (Ephesians 4:22-24, Romans 13:1-2)
  • Love (1 Corinthians 13:4-6, John 15:9b-12)
  • Faithfulness (Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Philippians 2:12-13)
  • Wisdom (Proverbs 3:13-18, Proverbs 9:10)
  • Self-control (Proverbs 25:28, Galatians 5:22-24)
  • Righteousness (1 John 3:7-9, Romans 3:22a)
  • Holiness (1 Peter 1:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 4:7)
  • Humility (Philippians 2:3, 1 Peter 5:5b-6)
  • Diligence (Proverbs 10:4, Hebrews 6:10-11)
  • Generosity (2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Proverbs 11:25)
  • Praise (Philippians 4:4, 6-8)

John 15:1-17 reminds us of the necessity of remaining in Christ if we are to bear fruit. Using these twelve core values helps keep God's Word on our hearts and minds in a directed way so that we can abide in Christ, grow in our faith, and be productive for His kingdom.