One way or another, parenting is at the center of many people’s lives, either as a parent or a child of parents. But one of the things that is hard about parenting for Christians, is that it can take our focus off of Jesus. It’s easy to do. I did that myself.
Like many parents, I felt deep frustration for the problems my kids faced and many times I took it personally. Are you familiar with how things have progressed from helicopter parents to snow plow parents? Not hard to see how either of those responses are harmful to kids.
People say parenting is a calling. I agree, but God makes it clear in his word that it isn’t THE calling. So what is THE calling?
Luke 10:27 He answered, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Our greatest and most constant temptation as parents is to unseat God from his throne and replace him with our family or other things. Many things in our heart, including parenting, are competing for the place only God should have.
Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
“What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
James and John’s mother is on a mission to move her kids to a place ahead of the others. She was blinded by her ambition to everything Jesus had just been talking about (his impending death). Why was she asking Jesus for this? Because of her mother’s pride. Issues of shame and honor. She wanted a guarantee that her children would have an advantage. Is there any limit to the heights that we want to push our kids to? Is there nothing greater to us than the accolades of the world?
She didn’t hear a thing that Jesus had just told her about the future. She was so consumed with what she wanted to see happen. I know how she felt. I fall into that same trap, speaking to Jesus even when I am focused on myself.
This does not mean that all ambition is bad. Ambition is bad when it is greedy, when it hurts and uses people, when it exalts us over others, when it is prideful. But when ambition is selflessly directed toward service, God can use it in powerful ways.
When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Disciples of Jesus are to be just as goal-oriented as anyone in the world, but our ambition must be linked to selfless servanthood—giving our lives as a source of blessing to those for whom we have responsibility. That starts with our closest relationships and then expands, including our spouse, children, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow Christians.
Many times in marriage there is a tug of war because of self focus. But when self focus is replaced with servanthood, if even by one spouse, there is an equilibrium that comes from grace and service, instead of tension. That kind of graceful equilibrium is possible only by a fundamental transformation when we experience God’s grace and mercy in our lives.
Our desire to accumulate accolades here needs to be tempered with the knowledge that as Christians we will never be in a higher position than anyone else, because for us, we are all equal brothers and sisters of one Father and all equal disciples of one Teacher and Master (23:8–12).
The words we all anticipate hearing one day are, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23), not “Well done, good and faithful parent.” We are never to forget that the children we have are given to us by God. They are here to serve him and fulfill his purposes.
I know the gladness of seeing my children serve the Lord. But I know an even greater call: the call to know and love God.