Worship our children?
Whatever [parents] are doing is for the child’s sake, and the child’s alone. Parents no longer raise children for the family’s sake or that of the broader world. — Jennifer Senior, All Joy and No Fun
The first two commandments of the great 10 address allegiance (thou shalt have no other gods before me) and idolatry (no graven images). Those of us who were taken to Sunday school as children remember the pictures of people bowing dramatically before the golden calf. Then we looked at the bare walls of our sanctuaries and didn’t see any figurines stashed about, and we sighed with relief. “At least we have that taken care of. No idols here.”
Now that we’ve grown into adults, we know that our idols look more like a dollar amount on the bank statement, the number of hits on our blog or a title listed after our name on the company directory. None of these are tangible, which perhaps makes them all the more powerful.
Idols are the things or ideas that displace our primary allegiance from God. In our North American culture there is no better way to gauge allegiance than in how we spend our time and our money. These two things will always tell the true story of what we value.
Following the time/money trail, I suggest that one of the potential idols for us today is our children.
It isn’t so much that we pay the marching band fees or spend time helping them with homework. The idol arises when those things become an excuse to diminish participation in the kingdom of God.
Parents have told me they can’t give money to their church because their kids’ activities stretched their budget too far. Their children came first, and that was the godly choice to make.
It appears that most Christian families are making the same financial decision. The U.S. averages a 2.43 percent tithe, which borders on shameful.
No less indicative is time usage. One mother told me she disliked that church was on Sunday morning because “that’s the only morning we can all just be together.” I understand the value of family time, but who chose to schedule multiple events every other morning?
Another woman wrote about her family not attending Sunday church service because they’d had a busy week attending extra sporting events. True, rest is essential, but it is disconcerting when corporate worship is the first thing on the chopping block.
Of course, the counterargument is, “but raising our children is kingdom work!” This is so true.
They need food and clothes and a flu shot. They should have an education and participate in activities that nurture the passions and talents God gave them. As one mom told me, “You will never have more spiritual influence over anyone than your children.”
But the Deceiver, a master at taking the truth and twisting it ever so subtly, would have us believe that our children aren’t kingdom work — they are the kingdom itself.
Influenced by TV shows and movies, Facebook and mommy blogs, we have assimilated into our kid-centric culture.
Everyone skips church now and again. We all pay for family vacations with money that could have been used elsewhere. This isn’t about judgment so much as awareness.
As a parent I want nothing more than for my children to walk with Jesus, who asks us to die to ourselves. There is no better time to start the journey than right now.
Sarah Kehrberg lives in Swannanoa, N.C., and attends Asheville Mennonite Church.
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