Happy New Year! I really enjoyed my blogging break and am excited to start posting again.
I love the start of a new year because it feels like there are so many opportunities to adjust the things in your life you know aren’t quite right. Yet everyone knows the vast majority of resolutions are doomed to failure. Why is that?
A lot of it has to do with priorities. We just won’t end up changing something unless that change is more important to us than all the other things competing for our attention.
The same goes for making needed changes to our parenting. If you realize that you’re not working on the spiritual development of your kids as much as you should be, I have one question that can help you change everything.
Ask yourself this: “What do I want more than anything for my kids?”
Try not to look at the rest of the post right now. Just answer that in your own head and be very honest with yourself. Got your answer? Read on.
I’ve heard parents answer this question many times in casual conversation. They almost always say, “I just want my kids to be happy,” or “I just want my kids to be good people,” or “I just want my kids to follow their dreams.”
If one of those answers (or one like it) is your strongest desire as a parent, your kids’ spiritual development will suffer.
Is that harsh? Overly dramatic? Not at all. Consider the question of parenting priorities in light of what Jesus says in Matthew 16:26:
“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
This verse should be extremely convicting to every single one of us as Christian parents.
We could give our kids the entire world–the fulfillment of all their Earthly dreams and ours–but if their soul lacks eternal security in Jesus, those things are meaningless.
What we need to want more than anything is for our kids to know and love Jesus.
I almost hate writing that because it sounds so obvious on a Christian parenting blog. But how many Christians are parenting as if that’s what they truly want more than anything? If they were, more kids would leave home with a faith prepared for today’s hostile world and we would see a lot fewer young adults leaving Christianity (right now, about 60% turn their backs on faith).
To drive this home, let’s look at just how off base our parenting can go when we’re focused on things like our kids being happy, being good people, or following their dreams.
“I just want my kids to be happy.”
A person can be happy yet reject Jesus completely. A person might be happy because they’re living according to their sinful desires, because they happen to have positive life circumstances, because they’ve decided to be blissfully ignorant of all the pain in the world, or because of any number of reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with living a God-honoring life.
On the flip side, a person may have very unhappy life circumstances, yet be a passionate follower of Jesus and rest in the joy of their eternal salvation.
Which would you rather have for your kids?
Sure, we’d all like them to be both happy and love Jesus, but we’re talking about priorities here. What you desire most is where most of your parenting attention and efforts will be.
Think about it in terms of Matthew 16:26: What good is it for your kids to be happy, yet forfeit their soul?
When your kids know and love Jesus, their faith will shape their view of circumstances. Circumstance-independent joy is an outcome of faith.
“I just want them to be good people.”
A lot of parents pride themselves on raising “good” kids–kids who know the difference between right and wrong, do good things for others and basically don’t end up in jail.
But let’s think more deeply about that. What definition of “good” are you using? If your kids live according to their own version of good, but it’s not the same as yours, would that count? Probably not. So what people usually mean when they say “good” is “having the same (Christian) values as I do.” But take that a step further. If all they have are your Christian values but no Jesus, what are those values ultimately worth?
Once again, think about it in terms of Matthew 16:26: What good is it for your kids to be good people, yet forfeit their soul?
When your kids know and love Jesus, their faith will shape how they live “good” lives. God-honoring lives are an outcome of faith.
“I just want them to follow their dreams.”
Parents often think they’re somehow being charitable by pointing out that they don’t care if their kids are the president or a janitor–as long as they follow their dreams! It’s great to be supportive of your kids’ career choices, but is that really your deepest longing for them? To achieve whatever temporary, Earthly goals they have?
Let’s ask it again: What good is it for your kids to follow their dreams, yet forfeit their soul?
When your kids know and love Jesus, their faith will shape their dreams. God-honoring dreams are an outcome of faith.
Take a candid look at your greatest desire for your kids.
I think all of us would like our kids to love Jesus, be happy, be good people, AND follow their dreams. That’s an entirely possible outcome. But when we don’t long for our kids first and foremost to know and love Jesus–then prioritize the nature of our parenting accordingly–our kids’ spiritual development simply will not be what it could have been.
And what a huge loss that would be.
So here’s my proposal for all of us this year. Put Matthew 16:26 somewhere you can see it every day. Let it be a reminder that absolutely nothing matters more than helping our kids know and love Jesus.
Because when they have Jesus, they have everything.