Dealing With A Prodigal Child

YHVH gave us a wonderful Torah that was meant to give us life and blessing. Unfortunately, YHVH knew that some people would choose cursing and death over blessing and life. Sometimes these people will be our own family members, even our own children.

I will recommend what to do with wayward children soon; but for now, I need to lay a foundation for our discussion. To do that, we need to go back to the Torah so we can see if what I’m proposing is Scriptural.

Some sins as defined by Torah were more serious than others. We know this is true because of the consequences of the sins. The worst consequence was capital punishment.

The Torah explains who should be put to death by stoning on the testimony of 2-3 witnesses. Fulfilling these commandments in God’s kingdom is not murder; it’s capital punishment.

This is how Israel was to put away evil from among them.

This was to be done so that all Israel would hear and fear; it would cause them to obey and not disobey God’s commandments.

The death penalty is for:

  • Whoever works on the Sabbath
  • Adulterers and Adulteresses
  • Those who give their children as a sacrifice to Molech; this is similar to abortion
  • Those who curse their parents
  • Those who commit incest as defined by the Scriptures
  • Those who commit homosexuality or beastiality
  • Whoever is a medium or who has familiar spirits
  • Those who blasphemes the name of YHVH
  • People who YHVH puts under the ban (those He set aside for destruction)
  • Those who commit murder (it’s to be carried out by the kinsman redeemer/avenger of blood)
  • False prophets and dreamers

The next worst thing to capital punishment was exile. The first people who experienced exile were the lepers (metzorim). Leprosy is not the contagious disease known today as Hanson’s. If leprosy (tzara’at) covered the metzora’s entire body, he was considered clean and could re-enter the camp of Israel. If tzara’at covered only part of the metzora’s entire body, he was considered unclean and had to remain outside the camp (in exile). The picture of a metzora is one who is spiritually dead.

Both the northern and southern kingdom experienced exile. This was primarily for idolatry but also for general disobedience to Torah. Ephraim (the northern kingdom) was carried off to Assyria and never returned. Judah (the southern kingdom) was carried off to Babylon and only part of that kingdom returned.

In America, Torah is not the law of the land. Supposedly, our laws are based on Scripture but it is not exactly so. Today in America, there is little fear of God or respect for Him or His commandments. Evil, as defined by the Scriptures is rampant and will get worse until the coming of the Messiah.

The evils listed above affect every aspect of our society. People who commit such sins and abominations are present in our assemblies and even in our own families. It shouldn’t be this way.

Obviously, as law abiding citizens, we aren’t going to carry out capital punishment ourselves. We rely on the proper authorities to do so once someone has been found guilty of crimes requiring that penalty. Most of us would not want to carry out capital punishment because we were raised to think it is so evil. We need to understand that our loving God is also a God of judgment; He knew in what instances capital punishment would be necessary in order to restore order in His kingdom. In Messiah’s kingdom, Torah will be the law of the land. Today we obey Torah within the confines of the law of the country in which we live.

Capital punishment and exile are what can happen in the physical realm. We need to see how these two concepts can be applied in a spiritual way.

Consider the family unit to be comparable to God’s kingdom or the nation of Israel. If we are the ones who are sinning, we need to put to death the desires and deeds of the flesh in our own lives. If we are dealing with a family member who is engaged in any of these activities, we need to encourage them to put to death the desires and deeds of the flesh. If necessary, we need to remove evil people from the family as best we can so the rest of the family will fear God and obey His commandments.  Once they repent and desire to be obedient, they can return home.

What if it’s our own child who is participating in sins of this magnitude? What if he refuses to put these desires and deeds of the flesh to death? What should you do if you can’t control your child any longer?

First, ask yourself: Have I done my best to teach Torah to my child? If the answer is yes, rest assured that you have fulfilled that commandment of God. The child’s age, especially if he is a teenager, is not an issue. The age of 18 is an arbitrary number. It’s the age most people graduate from high school; the age they can vote; and the age of the draft. Unfortunately, not everyone reaches a level of maturity until they are in their 20s. The age to buy alcohol is 21 because it was shown most accidents involving alcohol were committed by people 18-20 years old. Mothers Against Drunk Driving had a role in changing the law regarding the age of buying alcohol. In some places, if your child is 14 or over, you can’t even get a copy of his psychiatric record without his authorizing signature. If you have done your best to teach Torah to your child, no matter his age, you have done what God requires. Pray God uses what you taught to help your child return to Him in the future. Once you understand that, you are ready for the next question.

Ask yourself: Is this child preventing others in the home from obeying Torah? If the answer is yes, you must take action in order to avoid the spread of spiritual uncleanness.

Have your child evaluated. Is there a medical, psychiatric, or intellectual reason, or some other kind of disability that is a cause for his rebelliousness and lawlessness? Is medication, rehabilitation, or individual and family psychotherapy appropriate? If so, get that kind of help, and document what you have done. Hopefully, this will help.

If medication, rehabilitation, and/or psychotherapy do not help, ask yourself: Is this child engaged in behaviors that threaten his well-being or safety, or the safety of others? If yes, document those behaviors so that you can protect yourself, your child, and others in a court of law.

If you are dealing with behaviors that threaten his well-being or safety, or the safety of others, and feel you have exhausted all efforts to deal with this problem in the home, go to the court and file a CHINS (Child in Need of Supervision/Services) affidavit. If you are not sure if your state handles CHINS, check with the juvenile court system to see if there is some kind of equivalent process that is called by a different name.

You will not need an attorney for yourself. You can request a court ordered attorney and guardian ad litem for your child; they will be working for your child and not for you. Expect to pay a court fee and a flat fee (if they are court ordered) for these two individuals; this is reasonable. Explore these costs up front so you know what to expect.

If your child is declared a CHINS, there will be a regular on-going monthly cost for community based services no matter what the services end up being. The actual cost you pay may be based on your income. The funds you pay merely supplement other funding received by these agencies to help your child.

Be forewarned; this will likely turn your world upside down for a long time depending on the age of your child. If the judge decides your child is a CHINS, community services will kick in; you will be overwhelmed by meetings, evaluations, and unfortunately worldly counselors with worldly solutions. In the event you manage to obtain Christian counselors and social workers, understand that they do not want to lose their licenses. Be prepared to watch them occasionally compromise their beliefs through their words and actions. They will be part of a set of people who will be working for your child and not for you.

With your input, they will assess your child’s perceived needs and come up with goals to meet them. Your parenting skills will be questioned and assessed. It is very likely that you and your Scriptural expectations will be considered the problem causing your child’s disobedience and bad behavior. Your child’s rights and desires will be promoted. Your parental rights and authority will probably be downplayed. Do your best to continually bring this team back to what you believe is the reason for the child’s lawlessness and unsafe behavior.

If you go this route, make sure the people you encounter in this long process are fully aware of your religious beliefs. Insist that these people respect your religious beliefs. You must stand firm; do not back down. You will have to do what the judge says; the judge may decide you have to do what these people recommend, especially regarding placement. Remember to obey God rather than men if it comes to that.

As I mentioned before, the assigned case manager and these agencies will be working for your child; they don’t work for you, even though you are the parent. Let me repeat: In their eyes, you and your beliefs are most likely the problem, not the child.

This process is not for the weak; surround your family with prayer warriors, and those who support your values and beliefs. Calmly and respectfully stand up for your beliefs as the need arises; do not ever back down.   Be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. This is spiritual warfare. You are turning your child over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit might be saved in the day of Messiah.

At some point, your child may eventually be removed from your home for therapy and assessment in a group home, residential therapy, or therapeutic foster care if efforts of intensive home therapy fail. Don’t despair; allow God to be in control while remembering your child has his own will. At this point, your child will finally be in exile.

Once your child is out of your home, take the time to restore order to what remains. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to experience healing. During on-going family therapy and family planning sessions, insist on repentance before you permit the child back into your home. Continually express your love for your child while insisting that this child must learn to put to death the desires and deeds of the flesh as a condition of returning home. Obviously, you may choose to explain your expectations without using this kind of “spiritual” language. I’m using this language to help you see the Scriptural-spiritual-physical connections. Do not make compromises that will cause you to disobey Torah, even if counselors insist you should.

If your child finally repents, rejoice. It may take a little help and time for full obedience to take place; counselors will be there for the transition back home. It’s the heart condition of the child that is important to keep an eye on; they must desire to be obedient. Before letting that child come home, ask yourself if you child still has a heart of stone, or if it has softened into a heart of flesh. You can work with a heart of flesh, but not a heart of stone.

If your child chooses not to repent, know that this process is the closest you will ever come to exile; it is full of grace and mercy despite what the world and your child will tell you. Your child’s heart of stone (desire to live a life of Torah-lessness) is an indicator that he is not ready to be back in the home. Your child already belongs to the world, now he has to actually live in it. Hopefully, during this time, he can see how good he had it while living in the comforts of your home.

Once exiled, you may see your child vacillating between wanting to come home and not come home. This is the pull between the comforts of home and the desire to live a life of Torah-lessness. Eventually, your child may firmly decide he doesn’t want to come home. This is likely because this child has chosen the path of disobedience and is tired of the occasional on-going conflict at home. Admit it, you and the rest of your family are too. If that is the case, let your child go… as painful as it may be. Pray for his healing and deliverance. Pray he will return home like the prodigal son; if he does, be willing and ready to receive him. Affirm your love for him and tell him the door is always open if he repents so he will know and remember it when he finally reaches the bottom of the worldly and evil pit he is in.

Think about it. Isn’t this what God does with us? Why should we do any different? Put the evil away from yourself. Continue to trust in God no matter what the end results turn out to be.

Remember, everyone including our children must choose:

  • Obedience which leads to blessing and life
  • Disobedience which leads to cursing and death

We don’t want a disobedient child to destroy the rest of the family. It’s hard on everyone in a family when one child chooses a lifestyle of disobedience. Many have walked this path, some people have repented, others have not. This is an unfortunate part of life…

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