The thing that I don’t like about vigorous exercise is that it’s miserable. My mind has a hard time countering the agony of strenuous athletic undertakings to the sheer delight of sitting at ease. Don’t get me wrong: I believe exercise is good for us, and I’m grateful to live in a society that so thoroughly values it. But should we consider some of the important and often forgotten forms of “good fat”?
In our culture, “fat” usually has a negative connotation, whether we are speaking about bad fats in our foods or excessive fat in our bodies. But the Bible actually uses “fat” with a positive connotation. In the NASB translation, Proverbs 13:4 reads, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat.” There are versions that soften the translation of “fat” to say something like “richly supplied,” but the word in Hebrew is dashen, literally, “to be made fat” or “fattened.” It doesn’t mean that the soul of the diligent will become complacent and unhealthy. It means it will thrive. It will develop, grow and prosper.
Being diligent is hard work, and much like exercise, the diligent care of your soul can be laborious but is also chock full of benefits. A soul that is “fat” as the result of diligence is of particular interest to those of us raising children. In the parenting world of competing schedules, developmental milestones and to-do lists that never stop, the diligence of caring for your soul is essential.
Diligence in Fattening Your Own Soul
Studies have demonstrated that the faith of children most often resembles the faith of their parents. Deuteronomy speaks to this idea. The book is essentially a long speech given by Moses to a new generation of Israel. The parents of this new generation had, in myriad ways, screwed up what God had called them to, and Moses recounts to their children how to avoid the same mistakes as they enter the Promised Land without him.
In Deuteronomy 4:9 Moses says, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and to your children’s children.” Moses makes it clear that their soul care is exceedingly valuable and particularly essential, as it pertains to passing their knowledge of God on to the next generation.
In discipling your own family, there is nothing more important for you to work at than your own walk with God. To work hard at the growth of your own soul through meditating on, studying and memorizing the Word. To have a genuine nearness with God through prayer. To seek wise counsel and loving community in your life where you may have blind spots and need repentance. To share the gospel with those who desperately need to hear it. To grow in honor to God with your life and integrity.
It is this fattening of your own soul that will be of the most service to your kids and their own walks with the Lord. God has not called you to be a phony for your children’s sakes. God has called you into a genuine relationship with Him, and the authenticity of that trust is fundamental to your family discipleship.
Diligence in Fattening Your Children’s Souls
Just a few chapters later, Moses again discusses diligence and ties it directly to our interactions with our children. As he explains to the children of Israel who God is and what He has commanded, he says in Deuteronomy 6:7, “You shall teach [these words that I command you] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
While it’s important that parents care for their own souls, they must also keep to the call of fattening the souls of their children by discipling them. A godly household should build intentional times into the rhythm of their lives for the purpose of thinking about, talking about and living out the gospel. Parents can capture and leverage opportunities in the course of everyday life for the purpose of gospel-centered conversations and can celebrate and commemorate significant spiritual milestones of God’s work in the lives of their children.
As parents, we often feel like the burden of our children’s salvation is on our shoulders. The reality is that only God can accomplish this. But I’m grateful that he’s chosen imperfect moms and dads like me to join Him in this good work of cultivating the prosperity of the next generation and the sanctification of our own souls.