Parenting . . . Giving Up to Gain!

Matthew 16:25:  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

 Abraham.  Hannah.  Eli.  Job.  All of these individuals have a few things in common.  First, they are all examples to look to in the Bible for lessons relating to parenting.  They all know about loss.  They all know about pain.  They all know about sacrifice and what it means to give up to gain, except one.

Parenting.  It is defined as the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood.  Parenting is usually done by the biological parent(s) of the child, although governments and society often take a role as well when children have been abandoned – whether physically or emotionally abandoned – and left to their own devices.  Parenting is loaded with so much responsibility.  It can be overwhelming when two parents are present and involved; thus, imagine what it’s like for the single parents.  That’s why we should be ever so careful to pass judgment — in a critial way — of what we think about someone’s children — especially when you don’t know what they may be enduring or the parenting style under which they are being reared.   The reality is, kids don’t come with an instruction manual, and there’s no such thing as a perfect parent.  However, the Bible gives two directives I’d like to focus on for those of us rearing children.  First, trust in God will all our hearts and lean not to our own understanding.  In all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct our paths.  Second, train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not depart.  Trust God, acknowledge Him and lead our children in the path they should go.  Lead our children in the way to go .  . .

I recently posted a comment on Face Book that people do what they know; I followed that up with the post, Do What you Want To See.  Two of the worst things we can do in rearing our children is failing to discipline and setting bad examples for them to follow.  A lack of discipline in parenting often stems from us not wanting to look or appear “mean.”  Therefore, many parents choose to do nothing instead, setting the stage for serious problems, like delinquency, later on in the child’s life.  Many parents have also adopted the position that they will “reason” things out with children.  However, without consequences, the line between what is good and bad behavior can become blurred or even non-existent.   Actions speak louder than words.   What is your child learning?  Parents are the first teachers for children, and their actions make the biggest impressions.  You’re wrong if you think kids aren’t paying attention.  Children mimic what they are exposed, whether it be good or bad behavior, if  exposed to it frequently.  Lord, help us — how do we find the proper balance?  

While the Bible doesn’t give a list of specifics of do’s and don’ts, it does instruct parents to train them in the way to go.  If  we are believers, to train means we should be modeling a disciplined, righteous lifestyle before them.  This means we should always put God first before anything that we want – even if what we desire is a good thing.  What are you desiring in your heart?  What petitions have you made known to God?  Now the question that many of us don’t take the time to think about and answer is, are we willing to sacrifice what we’re asking of God?  In other words, are we willing to give up the very thing we’re asking Him for?

Let’s look at some Godly parents.  Abraham, Hannah, Eli and Job.  In our first two scenarios we see an unconditional promise and a vow.  Look at Hannah.  In order to get what she wanted – a son – she vowed to also in turn give him up.  Does that seem odd?  This is what we call a paradox and God’s truth is full of them.  (Consider the scripture above, Matthew 16:25, one such example of a paradox).  Hannah showed that God came first by sacrificing what she wanted most.  Abram also displayed his trust in God when asked to bring Isaac as a sacrificial offering.  Jesus said we must be willing to give it all up and then God will reward us with what matters most. 

Job was a man whose heart was upright before God.  The Bible says Job rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of his children, for Job said, “it may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts”.  This Job did continually.  Contrast these three parents with Eli.  Eli’s love for his sons prevented him from correcting their blasphemy towards God.  God told Eli that because he honored his sons more than God, that no man in his lineage would live to see an old age.  I Samuel 3:13   Eli’s sons were wicked men.  Eli did nothing to restrain them or correct their behavior.   How many of us stick our heads in the sand when we hear of things our children are doing?  Avoidance doesn’t make the problem go away.  Reasoning doesn’t always fix it either.  Eli is a prime example of what happens when one neglects to take action.  Even if Eli didn’t see the behavior firsthand, he still couldn’t escape dealing with what his sons were doing.  Many people told Eli about the vile behavior of his sons.  Eli was fully informed of how his sons stole from the Lord in the sacrifices.  Eli heard about everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.  Eli knew what kind of people his sons were, he even talked to them about it from time to time, and told them it was not good what he was hearing about them.  He attempted to reason with evil behavior.  Eli’s lack of discipline and correction, however, illuminates something about Eli.  Eli’s behavior was worse than that of his sons.  How do you ask?  Well, Eli was not only a parent, he was the High Priest, someone who serves God for the people.  Eli’s behavior was worse than that of his sons because he honored hypocritical, adulterous, lying, thieves above God.   Eli was practicing idolatry.

Idolatry is the human tendency to value something or someone in a way that hinders the love and trust we owe to God.  In idolatry we fail to give proper thanks to the Giver of life and its goods.  It is an act of theft of honor from God.  As thieves one thereby steals God’s rightful honor and severs, or at least diminishes, fellowship with both God and others.  People of position and in positions have the tendency to convince themselves that what they think they’ve gained is too valuable to lose — positions or titles, recognition, reputation or standing in the community or church.  Don’t we realize that of all we have, it is God who has given us the ability to achieve?  Every good and perfect gift comes from above.  You see, Job had the right attitude of heart:  “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”   Our focus, therefore, should never be on the gifts themselves in a way that demotes the gift Giver.  Eli placed his ego, his pride, his position, his sons above God; above doing what he knew was right to do. 

Let me end with a final observation.  There is grace available for this situation.  What situation?  Sorry if I’ve lost you.   There is grace available for parents who take the path of parenting as Eli.  Please know that as bad as any mess is, Jesus is able to cleanse and heal.  But, He can only cleanse and heal what is confessed.  There has to be accountability.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Confess!  Do not continue to disregard or hide bad behavior and wait to see if it will be exposed.  Trust me, one won’t need to wait long.  However, the unfortunate thing is there will be more innocent lives harmed and possibly ruined if you do.

Repent!  Parents who are also leaders or elders are not fit to continue as leaders and should not continue until situations are properly dealt with.  Look at the Children of Israel and how they were defeated in battle because of undealt with sin in the camp.  One cannot effectively lead in God’s house while avoiding dealing with his own house.  Actually, the Word tells us that what you see occurring in God’s house is often a reflection of what’s happening in the elder’s house.   

Be cleansed.   We have to put God first rather than what we want.  The houses of “Eli’s” must come down.  When the foundations are corrupt, they must be torn down. Perhaps God will raise something out of the ashes, perhaps not, but one should not participate in — by way of covering up — others’ sins.

The final analysis:  the heart will be where its treasure is.  I am certain I will make many mistakes on this path of parenting.  While the decisions we face are many, we have to question are we choosing what we want or, what is pleasing to God.  No one promised this job would be easy.  Heavenly Father, we need your help.  Teach us, guide us by your Holy Spirit!

Luke 18:29-30:  And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.

Are we really willing to give it all up to gain?