A Wolf hung about near a flock of sheep for a long time, but made no attempt to molest them. The Shepherd at first kept a sharp eye on him, for he naturally thought he meant mischief: but as time went by and the Wolf showed no inclination to meddle with the flock, he began to look upon him as more of a protector than as an enemy: and when one day some errand took him to the city, he felt no uneasiness at leaving the Wolf with the sheep. But as soon as his back was turned the Wolf attacked them and killed the greater number. When the Shepherd returned and saw the havoc he had wrought, he cried, “It serves me right for trusting my flock to a Wolf.”
– “The Wolf and the Shepherd”, a fable by Aesop
One solitary lapse of judgment. That’s all that was needed before the Wolf could make his move upon the Shepherd’s flock. Years of hard work, undone in mere moments. Precious lives wasted, never to be reclaimed. In hindsight, the Shepherd would have never left the Wolf alone with his sheep…had he seen all the warning signs. You might say that the “wool” had been pulled over the Shepherd’s eyes. He had fallaciously believed that the Wolf was one of their own…an ally… someone he could trust. That one lack of discretion cost him his livelihood.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. – Matthew 7:15
I have doubts that anyone reading this is a shepherd, in the literal sense of the word. However, metaphorically speaking, any parent joining us today who is still in the process of child-rearing is a shepherd – a guardian of lambs (more commonly called “children”).
Just like the shepherds of long-ago, it is our duty as parents to protect our “flock” from dangers. Yet many a parent, like the Shepherd in the fable, can neglect appropriate caution with who is allowed to “hang about” their lambs.
- Do you know (really know) your kids’ friends?
- Do you keep a watchful eye over your children’s activities?
- Do you weed out “woolly wolves” (wolves in sheep’s clothing)?
It’s never easy being “the bad guy”, limiting or even ending our child’s relationship with someone they care about. Yet sometimes we shepherds must stand our ground for the good of the flock. Imagine how different our fable might have ended up if Aesop’s Shepherd had shown the heart of a true guardian and been a little more aware of his sheep’s new “pal”! In much the same way, we can save ourselves from a world of sorrow and regret if we take our role as shepherds more seriously.
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. – Proverbs 11:14
Have you unknowingly let a wolf hang about your flock? Furthermore, do you know how to spot these “woolly wolves”? Today we will learn three identifying characteristics to watch out for in your children’s companions.
The first identifying mark of woolly wolves is that they…
(Note: Soma means “body” in Greek. We will use it here for the sake of alliteration) Your soma is how you relate to the world beneath you.
Are you a protector of your child’s physical body? A good shepherd would not stand idly by while a wolf chewed on his sheep, yet many a well-meaning parent has brushed off brutal bullying with the attitude of “rub some dirt in it. It builds character”. This is an “in” for woolly wolves.
Now there are your run-of-the-mill rowdy children, and then there are children who have a true tendency towards violence. It’s important to know the difference! A bit of roughhousing may be harmless, but be careful not to let it go too far in the name of toughening up your little guy or gal.
A violent man enticeth his neighbor, and leadeth him into the way that is not good. – Proverbs 16:29
When I was a very small child, my parents owned a daycare. In addition to caring for several other children, my mom babysat a little boy who belonged to a newly single mother. The little boy seemed nice enough at first, until he started to exhibit some very odd behavior. Almost daily he would find some opportunity to coerce me away from the other kids and put a pounding on me! I had to have been about four years old, and he was about eight. He would pinch me, hit me, kick me…you name it. I was scared to death of this bully, whom I had never given reason for anger. I don’t remember much from my early childhood, but that boy is indelibly imprinted upon my mind. The strangest part about this boy’s behavior is that he would bring me gifts every single morning when he came back to the daycare. A flower he had picked me, a card he had made for me…accompanied by dramatic apologies and claims of his “love” for me. It was all so confusing for my little mind! Thankfully, after my mom had had about enough of this awkward charade, she talked to the boy’s mother about his dysfunctional behavior. His mother began weeping as she admitted to my mom that the boy’s father had been an abusive man who pulled the same antics in their home. Truly a heartbreaking revelation, but a necessary one. From there on out, my mom was diligent to keep me in her line of sight at all times around the boy. She wasn’t going to let a woolly wolf hurt her lamb.
Now did I mention that the little boy was a complete saint around my parents? They would never have guessed what a terror he was, had they not listened to my pleas for help after being alone with him one too many times. They might have brushed me aside and told me to grow up, but I shudder to think what might have eventually happened if they had taken that route. The Lord despises a careless shepherd…
Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! – Zechariah 11:17a
As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock…thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds. – Ezekiel 34:8,10a
Check your child…has their soma been hurt by a “friend”? As a parent, you are called to shepherd the soma. Weed out the woolly wolves!
The second identifying mark of woolly wolves is that they…
Your soul is how you relate to the world around you.
Are you a protector of your child’s personality? A good shepherd would not stand idly by as a wolf showed his sheep how to squeeze through the fence, yet many a well-meaning parent has allowed their child to learn bad habits from unrestrained peers. This is an “in” for woolly wolves.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NASB)
It has been said that children are sponges. As a mother of two impressionable boys, I could not agree more! It’s just a fact that most children will pick up on the habits of their peers (whether good or bad) with lightning speed. That is why it is vital to help your children select friends whose family values are similar to yours.
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. – Proverbs 13:20
Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father. – Proverbs 28:7
Consider what kind of personality you desire for your child to have, and surround him/her with friends that will influence them. Do you want your child to be academic? Bring him to the local math club. Want her to be crafty and creative? Make friends that are in 4-H. Want him to be a nail-biter? Let him around the child who always has his fingers in his mouth. Want her to be a drama queen? Let her have lots of time playing with a little prima donna. In short, children will quickly mold to the behavior they are surrounded by, so make sure you like what you see!
It is as sport to a fool to do mischief… – Proverbs 10:23a
Children are by nature rather foolish (Proverbs 22:15a), but they can be trained (Proverbs 22:15b). We must direct their friendships if we want to see them thrive.
Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge. – Proverbs 14:7
It may not be “cool” for your child to hang out with goody-goodies, but in time he will learn to see the wisdom of choosing appropriate companions…
Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool. – Proverbs 19:1
Check your child…has their soul been harmed by a “friend”? As a parent, you are called to shepherd the soul. Weed out the woolly wolves!
The third identifying mark of woolly wolves is that they…
Your spirit is how you relate to the world above you.
Are you a protector of your child’s piety? A good shepherd would not stand idly by while a wolf led all his sheep out of the fold and into the wolf pack, yet many a well-meaning parent has tolerated their child’s growing spirituality to be slowly traded in for a growing sinfulness. This is an “in” for woolly wolves.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? – 2 Corinthians 6:14
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? – Amos 3:3
One of my all-time favorite Disney movies is Pinocchio. I know, I know…it’s dark, scary, and all the things most children don’t particularly care for. Yet I’ve always liked the spiritual message this movie conveys…follow your conscience (in type, God), stay on the path of obedience, and someday you will be a “real” boy (or girl, as the case may be). Those of you who have seen the film know that all’s well that ends well, but it almost didn’t turn out that way. When Pinocchio got involved with an unruly companion, all sorts of things went terribly wrong. You remember “Lampwick”, don’t you? Here’s a quote from him:
“Ever been to Pleasure Island? Me neither, but they say it’s a swell joint! No school, no cops. You can tear the joint apart. And nobody says a word. Loaf around, plenty to eat, plenty to drink. And it’s all free!”
I won’t give away the details, but let’s just say Pinocchio almost became a goner in the presence of this foolish friend.
Bad companions have been wreaking havoc on our children from bible times, to the 1940’s era of Pinocchio, to today. It’s nothing new, but it’s still as serious as ever.
Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. – Proverbs 4:14-16
This just hits the nail on the head, doesn’t it? Misery loves company, and a kid who hates their own spirit will hate your kid’s also. It’s not much fun being bad alone.
Like Pinocchio, not all children have the wisdom to see past a foolish friend. What they see is someone to have fun with, someone who’s nice and a riot to be around. This is where parents must step in as their child’s very own Jiminy Cricket and either severely limit or cut off the friendship.
My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. – Proverbs 1:10,15-16
Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul. – Proverbs 22:24-25
Check your child…has their spirit been hated by a “friend”? As a parent, you are called to shepherd the spirit. Weed out the woolly wolves!
One might argue that Christians are called to be salt and light to this fallen world…and in so saying, they would be right! Christians are indeed called to be salt and light, but children are not mentally equipped for the task. Young children do not have the skills to evangelize in the true sense of the word. If there is a child you (the parent) wish to be a positive influence over, then make that a priority. But I would strongly advise against allowing unhealthy bonds to be formed between your children and bad influences.
Remember: if your child’s friend hurts their soma, harms their soul, or hates their spirit, then it’s time to do some weeding! Your flock depends on you, Shepherd.
Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right. – Proverbs 20:11
I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts. – Psalm 119:63
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.