Whether it’s the fake IQ of Sheldon Cooper or the true genius of Albert Einstein, we typically gravitate towards smart people. We sit in awe of their keen insights, wondering what special arrangement of genes made their success possible. We tend to assume that smart people are born smart.
But the reality is far more complex than an IQ scores. Men and women can have great IQ scores and yet never win a noble peace prize, never graduate first in their class, and never even get a stable job.
Take Physicist Robert Oppenheimer and college drop out Chris Langan. Both men were incredibly smart. Both men faced adversity and experienced very different results.
Malcom Gladwell reports that Oppenheimer was brought before an academic counsel at Cambridge University when he poisoned his tutor. Oppenheimer received academic probation and was told to visit a psychiatrist. Several years later, the gifted Chris Langan was kicked out of Montana State University because he could not get a ride to his 8AM classes. The University would not let him switch classes.
What determined the men’s success in academia was not their IQ. Their success was driven by their families’ background. Langan grew up in a poor and dysfunctional home run by divorced and drug riddled parents. Oppenheimer grew up in a stable home with parents that valued education and ingenuity. Consequently, Oppenheimer learned how to read and interact with people while Langan did not. Their family backgrounds trumped their IQ.
Their stories are not anomalies. Studies repeatedly have shown that children without fathers are five times more likely to live in poverty, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and twenty times more likely to end up in jail than those with a father. When single moms remarry, their kids benefit greatly, gaining access to better social, financial and health care networks. The way we structure our homes and the decisions we make about our marriages will have a lasting influence over our children.
Exodus 20:5 agrees. The text says,
You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands[a] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
The parent who loves something more than God will teach their children to love sports, money, and academic awards more than Jesus. Such loves do not prepare people to thrive. They lead ultimately to judgement and despair regardless of one’s IQ.
To raise successful kids, Christians must actively live out their faith. They must do more than drop off their kids at church a couple of times a week. They must create a culture of faith in their homes and families. They must regularly follow and obey the Scriptures. (Deut. 6). They must regularly talk about the Bible and their faith with the children, detailing how the Bible drives their choices. When Christians expose their children to the commands of Christ, parents expose children to the grace they need to succeed in life. Having a home structured around the gospel is the greatest gift we can give our children.
Admittedly, Christians homes cannot guarantee a child’s salvation. But they can point children to the truth. They can equip children with the life skills and the theological framework needed to navigate life. They can bless children with advantages not found in secular homes. Children need these skills to succeed.
Intelligence alone does not guarantee success. Intelligence matched with a godly home can produce great results. Are you ready to parent in such a way that your family revolves around the Bible?