Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Psalm 127 v 1-2
Jesus said, 'What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?' (Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36, Luke 9:25 - clearly very important if recorded so clearly in three of the four gospels!)
We've been talking about this quite a lot in our household lately. The boys have been asking what 'in vain' means, and what 'futile' means. It is interesting to find ways to explain!
But one of the best ways we can teach our children is through our own attitudes and focus. Do we live as though Christ is our all? Or do we live as though this world is our home and our security? When we talk and dream about the future, what comes across most? Is it our own ambitions, or is it that 'Whatever happens we may conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of Christ'? (grammatical alteration of Philippians 1:27, the verse I have written across the top of the white-board on which we scribble our goals and aims). When we approach challenges and decisions, what do we communicate to our children. 'Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks' (Luke 6:45).
Whatever is going on in your life - whether life is simply ticking over, or whether you face a major decision, what is your highest goal? What matters most?
Psalm 127 is interesting - people tend to either quote the first part (as I have one above) or the second part (verses 3-5) which reads:
Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.
I haven't ever heard anybody speaking about this psalm bring the two together, but I think those of us who have children, particularly those of us who seek to raise our children with a Biblical worldview, can gain much from reflecting on this.
As we prioritise the things of God in the midst of a 'crooked and depraved generation' (cf Philippians 2), we may suffer 'loss' in worldly terms. We may not have a large and beautiful home, we may not have financial and material security, we may not be popular among our 'peer group' (whoever a peer group might happen to be - I'm thinking of mums groups, or work colleagues, or sometimes family members, who often feel uncomfortable with our simple home educating lifestyles, and sometimes see it is a direct criticism of their choices). We may have to turn down work opportunities, we may not always be able to do the things that we would personally find most fun because our children come first.
But the Bible is clear (and Psalm 127 is just one example). Our children are a gift from God, a blessing, an inheritance. And our responsibilities as parents are not to be abdicated, avoided or ignored. We may say that our greatest goal is for them to grow up to love and serve God - but is that reflected in our choices, our words, our actions?
If you struggle with this (keeping God your focus, accepting worldly loss for His glory, being willing to lay down your personal dreams and 'idols') then spend some time praying about it. It is not a secret to God, and I believe it is something many of us struggle with from time to time. Its important that we have a strong and healthy relationship with God (its important for many other reasons too!) if we want our children to grow with a godly worldview and set of priorities.
- I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure.