“My mom is always nagging me.”
“My parents demand so much of me. I can never please them.”
“Sometimes I think I’m just a slave in this house.”
In my years of ministry I have had many opportunities to counsel with parents and children in conflict. I have heard the quotes above repeated often. Statements like these can indeed be a manifestation of rebellion; yet, they can likewise be a cry for help.
Many children in our day need help when it comes to vision. They need a sense of calling in their walk with the Lord, and an appreciation for the parents God has blessed them with—parents who are given to prepare their children to take on their mission in the Kingdom.
In some ways, childrearing can be compared to slavery. I’m not talking about the slavery that was practiced in the antebellum years of America; rather, childrearing can be compared to the biblical slavery documented for us in the Old Testament—an outline that was given to protect slaves and prepare them for independent living. While it is not a perfect comparison, there are certainly principles that are similar in both practices.
We read in Galatians 4:1–2, “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.”
Notice, as a slave was to obey and submit to his master, so a child is commanded to obey his parents and submit to their discipline. As slaves were expected to do their work faithfully, with excellence, so children should be taught to fulfill their tasks completely.
There were indeed different types of slavery in ancient Israel. Some were made slaves as a result of military conquest over the pagan nations. Others became slaves if they were found to be thieves and could not pay restitution. They would remain in slavery until their debt was retired. However, there were others who became slaves of their own volition. Perhaps they could not provide for themselves or were those who needed protection. In cases like this, they would sell themselves into the household of one stronger and more able (voluntary servitude). They could remain slaves for at least six years.
If we are going to consider the analogy of slaves and children, we obviously should do so from the standpoint of those in the category of biblical slavery—those who were weak and needed protection. And if this is the case, parents should be mindful of the duties that were required of slaveholders.
God’s Word gives numerous examples of how He protected Hebrew slaves from cruel and excessive punishment. Hebrew slaves were allowed to enjoy the Sabbath rest with the rest of the community. But, most importantly, Hebrew slaves were groomed for freedom; they were prepared to go out on their own and to live successfully.
As parents, it is important for us to continually communicate to our children this truth: “All that we ask of you is aligned with all that we hope for you.”
Yet, this is where the breakdown occurs in many Christian homes, even conservative Christian homes. We as parents fail to communicate our commitment to the Kingdom of God and our expectation that our children will embrace the Kingdom call as well.
Some parents, perhaps due to their own laziness, allow their children to grow up as wild weeds with little to no restraint. Suddenly these parents are surprised to find that their children are ill-prepared to face the duties of real-life. If these had been slaves, rather than children, these parents, would have been masters. And these masters would likely have eventually found the tables turned; the slaves would be the masters and the masters would be the slaves.
I have seen children, sinfully indulged when they were little, grow up to be young adults who expect and demand that their parents fulfill their every whim—demanding money, car keys, service, excessive entertainment, toys and more. Such parents have not raised their children for the mission, rather they have raised children for the welfare system. Children who are not raised with an understanding of a biblical work ethic will later expect their needs to be met by others.
On the other hand, there are parents who run a very tight ship—parents whose households run at peak efficiency at all times. While efficiency is good, and a strong work ethic is a worthy goal, we need to remember that we are training our children for their own homes—we must actively teach our sons and our daughters to think through the issues of life on their own. We will not always be there to hand them a schedule or to tell them what to do next. In addition, we must work toward the goal of seeing our children enter into godly marriages and established households of their own.
Householders in biblical times, understood that they were to prepare their slaves for the day when they would stand on their own. They invested in them, provided for them, taught them of the goodness and mercy of the Lord, and looked forward to the day when they would be strong. Likewise, Christian parents should look forward to the day when their children leave father and mother and cleave to their spouse, setting up their own household for the glory of God.
It is time for us to see our children not as our property, not as our friends, not as a burden, but rather as gifts of God whose hearts we have been entrusted to steward until that day when they are sent out to accomplish the Lord’s work. We are indeed raising our children for freedom.
And to make it legal, the opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the other elders or members of Providence Church.
Originally published in July/August 2011 issue Every Thought Captive – are you a subscriber?