By David Hegg
A few years ago I was reading an article that presented four important elements in the transition from childhood to adulthood as they related to the chances of ending up in poverty. The elements were: Education, Career, Marriage and Children.
Those who finished their education, and started their career, and then got married and had children, had the highest percentage chance of being prosperous. For each element that was out of order, there was a 25% chance of ending up poverty-stricken. Those who did it backwards – had children before marriage, and got into a job before finishing their education – faced the greatest risk of poverty.
And all other things being equal, it seems to make sense. It is easier to finish your education if you’re not already supporting a family, and it is certainly easier to marry and support a family if you’ve finished college and entered your career track. Doing things out of order creates greater stress and seems to increase the risk that education, or career, and certainly relationships will suffer greatly.
Several years ago, I watched my son walk back down the aisle with his bride, ready to start their life together as a married couple. I considered that the world they were going to face today is much different than the one I faced almost 45 years ago on my wedding day. But, if the statistics and studies are correct, he and his wife have at least begun the race in the right way, and are on their way to a satisfying future. And I have the whole area of virtue to thank for that.
My son did things the right way. He buckled down and finished college before marriage, and started the long road of his chosen career. He and his fiancé also determined that they would not have a sexual relationship until they were married, meaning that they would have all four of the crucial elements in the right order: education, career, marriage, children.
And while many reading this will now start huffing and puffing about our puritanical ethic, I am very proud of my son, and his wife, and believe that their decision to live according to God’s standards will prove to be of great value to them. Today, they are both contributing to society in a good way, secure in honorable and profitable careers. And it all comes down to a personal commitment to virtue, to an ethical standard that asks the best from us rather than allows us to feel good about actions and attitudes that are, ultimately, harmful.
If the article is right, and these four elements are apt predictors of success in life, then it is fair to ask why everyone doesn’t do them in the right order. And the answer, of course, is that too many in our society have bought into the myth of immediate gratification. They equate freedom with lack of self-restraint, and believe that life is to be lived without accountability, even to self. They want to do what feels best in the moment, and anyone who would dare challenge their thinking is made out to be the enemy. So they live for the moment, making choices that will leave them with great regret later on, and make getting back on track extremely difficult.
It certainly is time for more of our youth to look further down the road. To understand that college is more than classroom learning, and a career is more than a $16-an-hour job. To realize that God knew what He was doing when He created marriage, and that children are best raised in a home where Dad and Mom love each other. It’s time that we as a society start understanding that premarital sex is really just the way you prove that you’re the kind of person who will sleep with someone you’re not married to, and certainly a lifestyle that you’ll eventually come to regret deeply. Maybe it’s time we went old school and dug around in the attics of our lives to find those virtues, those standards that seem to have been the foundation of great lives down through history.
Maybe, just maybe, we’ll come to find that virtue certainly has its rewards.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.