Dear Pastor Lawyer,
I live in a beach community where the amount of clothing on many women (and men) is minimal. I have 3 boys who haven't quite reached the age where this is a problem yet, but I don’t want it to become a problem either. How can I raise my boys to live in this environment, but not stumble and fall to the temptations that surround them? Thank you for your time.
A concerned father
Here's what I think about teaching boys about women. First, you have to have a right attitude about women. Your sons will think about women in the same way you think about them—even if you never say a word to them. Just like everything else in their lives, they will catch it from you rather than be taught it by you. They will learn a whole lot of stuff from you over the years that you are trying to teach them, but they will learn a whole host of things, especially about women, by just being with you and catching your vibes. For some reason sex is an especially catching thing from fathers to sons.
So, what should your attitude toward women be? In the 4th chapter of the Song of Solomon the writer calls his wife, or betrothed, "my sister my bride." And in 1 Timothy 5 it tells men to treat the young women as sisters. So I would say that the first thing to do is to think of women like they are sisters. What this primarily means is that you should think of women as people, not things. It also means that men should treat women like a special breed of person. You protect your sister from those other guys, you don't exploit them. You love your sister in a way that men who think of women as two dimensional objects don't. You care for sisters, you look out for them, you look up to them, you respect them, you exalt them. So teach your sons to think of women as sisters.
This is a little bit difficult (okay very difficult) when you live in a culture where women present themselves as objects to be lusted after. But a godly man will either run away from temptation (1 Tim. 2:22) or they will think differently about women. One way to think of these women, as I've mentioned is as sisters. Another way to think of them is as someone else's wife. How would they want men to think about their wife after they are married? If they want men to think of their wives like ladies, or sisters, then they need to train themselves to think about women who aren't their wives that way now. Further, they should think in the same way that they think of a beautiful sunset, flower, or work of art. The difference is that women are God's work of art and instead of glorifying the women the young man will be reminded of the God who created this fascinating creature and will rejoice in God's handiwork (no one praises the flower for being so beautiful). It is difficult to lust after a woman if you are praising God for her. The difficulty here is that the heart is extremely sneaky and a guy can very subtly shift from praising God for his creation to praising God for this gift—which wasn’t actually given to him at all.
Another way to train your kids is to help them understand that God hates coveting. Looking at a woman in order to desire having her for yourself is coveting. You want her, you've got to have her, even if it is only in your mind. Coveting someone else's wife is spoken against in the Ten Commandments and a bunch of other places. Teaching your kids to be mindful of the commands of God will go a long way in protecting them from the Proverbs 7 women they will run in to. Of course you can add the commands against lust, wanting what God hasn't given, not being content with what he has given, etc. to the list of ways a young man needs to walk with God.
Another tack to take is to warn them about women who are ungodly and about what happens when they let their guards down and go and do things they ought not do—even so called neutral things. Take them to Proverbs 7 and Genesis 39 and show them how some women work and how this kind of thing can destroy their souls. Warnings are there for a reason and to ignore them is as much folly as not giving the boys something positive to do. Notice in 2 Samuel 11, for example, that one of the reasons David was on that roof was because he was bored. He was supposed to be out with his troops, but instead he was sitting at home alone with nothing to do—and there was trouble taking a bath. The Bible doesn’t say that Bathsheba did anything wrong, but she was there when David’s guard was down. So warn your sons about wanton women and about letting their guards come down.
Finally, help your sons to remember that they are Christians. They aren't boys who act like Christians, they are Christians. What this means is that they don't try to walk with God, they walk with God because that's who they are. It the difference between wanting to be something, or acting like you are something, and actually being that something. You are a lawyer, you don't act like a lawyer. They are Christians, they don't act like Christians. God is with them all the time. They are conscious of his presence in their lives. This means that he knows all they are doing and all they are thinking. If they think badly about the women they see parading themselves around like wanton women, God knows, and they know, and God will discipline them for it.
Help them to learn to guard their hearts. Teach them that the Joy of the Lord is their strength (Neh. 8:10) and it is in staying close to the Lord, who shares his joy, that we strength to live in ways that give him more joy. Teach them to keep short accounts with God, not to stray or drift away from what they know and who they love. This applies to every area of their lives, not just to the areas of women and sex. We aren't made up of compartments where we can be good in one area, but sinful in another. God takes us as a whole unit and sanctifies us altogether at one time. we come as complete packages, so raise your sons in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in every area of their lives.
Finally, as you think about these things remember your sons' frames. Don't give them more than they are ready to hear about. Don't tell them all about sex when what they are asking about it something really simple. Be wise and bring them along at the pace they need. Remember over it all that they are learning from you all the time whether you know you are teaching them or not. Therefore, love their mother, hug her, squeeze her, hold her hand, say nice things to her, serve her, love her, talk about her in ways that lift her up (to her and to everyone else), make her famous and beautiful by your attention to her. Your sons will catch that and they will treat women the same when they grow up.
I hope this helps. As always, feel free to write or call anytime.