Biblical Principles for Parenting
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Biblical Principles for Parenting

Have you ever noticed the many similarities between adult children and their parents? The Bible tells us that parents transfer their values—both good and bad—from one generation to the next. Raising children is a sobering responsibility with lifelong consequences. As Alistair Begg explains, children are a gift from the Lord, and it is a parent’s job to provide a framework that gives them purpose and propels them to genuine faith in the Savior.

Series Containing This Sermon

Parental Priorities

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 21801

Sermon Transcript: Print

Father, we thank you that we’re able to sing of your love, a love that combines justice and mercy, a love that turns our gaze towards the cross on which your Son bore our sins in order that sin’s penalty might be paid, in order that love’s debt might be met. And we pray that as we turn to the Bible now, that you will be our teacher. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Can I invite you to turn in your Bibles to the Old Testament with me, and to the book of Deuteronomy, and to the verses in Deuteronomy chapter 6 that we most routinely read when we’re sharing in a time of baby dedication? And in the sixth chapter, you’ll find the verses to which I’m referring. They’re there, beginning around verse 4.

On the twenty-ninth of June in 1980, I discovered in my journals, I had written this question down, and I had written to myself, “I wonder what kind of legacy and heritage I will leave to my children?” That was 1980, twenty years ago. On that occasion we had one child, a boy; he was a year and a half. It seemed then rather premature to ask the question, and yet necessary, and now all of this time has gone through our fingers.

So now I am officially middle-aged, at least. Now Fiddler on the Roof has an even greater impact than it did twenty years ago. Then, you could at least stave off the thoughts by recognizing that this is all a long way away from here. Suddenly, it’s here. “Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? … Sunrise, sunset.”[1] You find yourself saying, “Oh, dear me.”

Let me say this as well: God is the one who will finish all the stories. And for some of us, one of the great joys in heaven will be to discover in heaven what we did not discover on earth—namely, that our children or our grandchildren actually came through and that he was able to restore even the years that locusts had eaten.[2] So I don’t want anyone this morning to go away here feeling absolutely miserable and wretched on a sort of guilt trip that is self-induced or man-induced. I mean, God can prompt us in whatever way he chooses, but it’s certainly not my motivation. Rather, I want to speak to those young couples who are here who are in the very threshold of these things. And also, I want to remind us of the wonder of the privilege of motherhood.

Now, we’ve been reminded on a number of occasions of the greeting card mothers, the ones who are surrounded by Moses… Not by Moses but by roses. There was only one mother surrounded by Moses. But, you know, “the perfect ones with the saintly smiles and the gentleness of a water softener.” Their name always rhymes with “no other,” you know: “You are the mother, there is no other.” But in point of fact, that’s a bunch of hooey, you know. Because the best of mothers are really a piece of work. Erma Bombeck says,

In reality, who is your mother?

She’s an enigma who’s faster than a speeding bullet, she’s more powerful than a gold American Express card, she’s able to jump over three cars in order to get you home before 11.

Is your mother really life set to poetry?

“My mother was Genghis Khan in drag. When she lived with us the world stopped while she napped.”

“She drives me crazy. I’m 60 years old and she still pours me half a glass of milk and tells me not to spill it.”

“You wanna talk guilt? I even apologized for having emergency surgery on her birthday.”

She’s an awesome force who has a hold on you that no one can explain, even if you never saw her. She’s also a bundle of contradictions.

“Answer me right now. And don’t talk with food in your mouth.”

“I know you love him, but dump him. I want you to be happy.”

“You’ve got to start standing on your own two feet and being responsible for yourself. You can live at home while you’re doing it.”

She has a scary quality for knowing what you do when she doesn’t see it, what you said when she doesn’t hear it, and what you mean when you don’t say it.

You spend a lifetime trying to please her and become what she wants you to be. And just when you think you’ve pulled it off, she pulls in the string, nearly choking you to death.

You can’t seem to sort out the emotions you feel for her—fear, apprehension, disappointment, anger, frustration, love.

A mother has another mysterious quality that defies explanation. Although your father is often bigger, louder and pays the bills, she is the glue that holds the family together.

Your brother’s birthday is next week. Be there!

See you at Aunt Kate’s funeral. You don’t have to know what she looks like. I’ll point her out to you.

Get rid of this stupid answering machine or you’re out of the will.

Whether she’s a good mother or a difficult mother, know that when she dies, nothing will be the same again. Without her, the family drifts. No one can take the place of the eyes that have seen it all, the hands that reached out and healed, the very presence that brought you and I comfort and stability just by her being there.

The greeting card mothers are nice.

But they don’t even begin to capture that complex woman who touches our lives in such a way that when she goes the pain is quite unbearable.

Well, that, I think, sets it in a fairly humorous and yet very important vein—a reminder to us of the sacred calling of motherhood and the unique privileges that are involved. And the mother along with the father share the responsibility in providing for their children physically and materially, mentally, emotionally, and yet all of the physical, material, mental, psychological preparation and provision that is absent the spiritual provision necessary will be unable to mitigate the deep sense of emptiness with which a child will grow—that sense of wondering why it is they even exist, wondering if there is purpose at all in life, wondering if there is someone greater than themselves to whom they ought to give their adoration and praise. And unless the mother and the father are involved in providing that spiritual framework of instruction, then the child will grow up somewhat clueless and fairly lifeless.

God has provided for us in the Bible not simply ideas that may be beneficial but the mandate for the role of a mother or a father.

It is, of course, of graphic and great importance because of the nature of a child, as we said last Sunday. When we consider the fall of man in Genesis 3, we noted the fact that all of us sin because we are sinners, that all of us are tainted by sin. When Adam sinned, we all in him sinned.[3] He brought us down with him, so that we do not arrive on planet earth as just a wonderful pleasant little bundle of emotions. In point of fact, things—although this may be an unappealing idea—are really quite different. Someone put it in this way:

Every baby starts life as a little savage. He is completely selfish and self-centered. He wants what he wants when he wants it—his bottle, his mom’s attention, his playmates’ toys, his uncle’s watch. Deny him these once, and he seizes with rage and aggressiveness, which would be murderous were he not so helpless. He’s dirty. He has no morals, no developed skills. This means that all children—not just certain children—are born delinquent.

So what are you going to do with these delinquents that live in your house, for whom you pay, that eat at your breakfast table, that tug on your tail, that grab for your hand, that stir your hearts and move your minds and can turn you upside down and inside out with a phrase, or a song, or a look, or a goal, or a paper, or a grade? And is there something distinctively Christian and biblical about the way in which a mother or a father or together should function? And how does it fit with the framework of the early twenty-first century? And are we prepared to be thought Neanderthals for the way in which we abide by biblical principles, or are we going to go with the spirit of the age? Are we going to go down the stream like dead fish, or are we going to swim against the current, bold in the conviction that God has provided for us in the Bible not simply ideas that may be beneficial but has provided for us in the Bible the mandate for the role of a mother or a father for their responsibility of parenting our children?

An Explanations Born of Experience

Now, the Hebrew Shema, which begins in the Deuteronomy 6:4, many of you recognize, because you have Jewish friends. And some of you live in the Heights area, and you are familiar with the Hasidic Jews, with their hair dangling down on the side because of their commitment to the biblical record. You have wondered at the things that are attached to their forehead and to their wrists, and you doubtless will have been unable to go in and out of their houses without recognizing that little brass or porcelain scroll that is just tipped to the side, and you may have wondered as you followed them into the house why it was they kissed their fingers and touched it, or whether they touched it and then kissed their fingers, or whether they even kissed it. What in the world were they doing?

They were reminding themselves of this: that there is not a car they could buy, not a degree they could confer, not a something that they could give to their children that could ever take the place of impressing on them the radical importance of the words that are contained in that little scroll: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord [your] God, the Lord is one. [And you shall] love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul [and with all your mind] and with all your strength. [And] these commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. [And you shall] impress them [up]on your children”—or “you shall teach them diligently to your children”—“[and you shall] talk about them when you … walk along the road, [and] when you lie down and when you get up [again].”[4]

Now, that we take to ourselves, for in the lineage of God’s grace and goodness, we have discovered the wonder of the redemption that was foreshadowed in the exodus from Egypt to which Moses was referring in his references here. And I want you to understand that what Moses provides in this little section is a call to parents to provide for their children explanations that are born of their experience—that is, the experience of the mom and the dad. So that the explanations that they provide for their children in Moses’s day had to do with the liberation from the bondage of Egypt. “We were once slaves in Egypt,” they would say to our children, “and God came, and he came by his servant Moses, and he said that he was going to send his angel of death. And so we had to take a lamb, which we did, and we shed its blood, and we painted its blood on the doorpost, and we painted it on the lintels of our home. And when the angel of death came, he passed over every house where he could see the blood of the lamb that had been shed.”

“And what was that about, Mom? What was that about, Dad? What is that?”

“Well, it is this: that we cannot know God without the shedding of blood. You see, we’re sinful, and we need to come into God’s presence, but we can’t. And the only way that we can come into God’s presence is by means of a sacrifice.”

“Yes, I know you’re sinful, Mom, because I heard you the other day when you got behind that car, and you said some pretty bad things. Why is it that you think you’ll be going to heaven? Because you’re the perfect mom?”

“No, I’m not the perfect mom. We all know that. But the reason I’ll be going to heaven is because Jesus shed his blood. And I cannot know God or come to God without the shedding of blood.”

“Well, when did you figure this out, Mom?”

“Well, I went a long period of my life before I knew anything about this at all.” And so you give them your story.

And your children listen with big ears and open eyes, and they say, “Okay, so the things that you’re telling me are very, very important, are not simply things that are rattling around in your head, but you’re providing for me explanations that are born out of your own experience of God’s Word and God’s truth.”


Listen: without that, we have nothing to say. Without that, we can introduce our kids to religion as a system, but we cannot introduce them to Jesus as a Friend and Savior. We can introduce them to a framework, and we can introduce them to bright ideas for certain ways to put their lives together in order that they will be less tyrannous than they might be otherwise. But unless you and I have drunk at the fountainhead of living water, we cannot offer to our children living water. Unless we have eaten of the bread of life, we cannot provide it for them in a way that says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”[5] Therefore, it demands of us this morning this thought: “Do I have in my own life as a parent today an experience of God grounded in the truth of his Word, whereby there is a second volume in my life—volume one in my pre-converted state, volume two in my converted state, having discovered who Jesus is and the wonder of the provision of his shed blood?” Without that, our children are at sea. “I want you to give them,” says Moses, “an explanation that is born of experience.”

A Hope Held in the Heart

Secondly, “I want you to convey to them a hope that is held in your heart”: “These things are to be upon your hearts.” Children can detect very quickly the distinction between what is a heartbeat and what is simply a hollow routine. Children know our hearts, because they hear our words, and out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speak.[6] People know our hearts and our children know our hearts because they see what we spend our money on. They know our hearts because they see where we spend our time. They know our hearts because they see the people with whom we like to spend time, and they know our hearts when they attend upon worship and they discover that their father, whom they admire as a wonderful business chap, as an attender at their sports games, is actually somebody who is prepared to give themself up in the worship of God, and they find that intriguing. And as they hold his hand and it shakes a little, and as they look at the Bible as he holds it out for them, they say, “And I suppose the reason my dad is holding the Bible for me is because he loves the Bible, and he loves the Jesus of the Bible, and he wants me to love Jesus and to love the Bible.” Exactly right.

But if all I’m able to convey to them is that which rattles around in my head, then all that I will provide is that which might rattle around in their heads, in the same way if my preaching to you appears merely to come from the lucidity of a man’s mouth or from the ability of a man’s mind, it will die an instant death. But if there is a sense in which it is the conveyance of God’s truth through the heart and personality of an individual, then it begins to reach into hearts and to personalities. And the same is true in raising our children. Is “Say your prayers” simply just a routine, or is “Say your prayers” an expression of a heart’s longing? Is “Listen to this” an expression of a heart’s desire, or is it simply something that we picked up somewhere along the line. “Impress these things upon your children as a result of it being out of your hearts.”

A Clearly Prescribed Pattern

So, an explanation born of experience, a hope that’s held in the heart, and a pattern that is clearly prescribed. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.”

Now, notice carefully what the Bible says. It doesn’t say “impress your children.” ’Cause the longer you go, the harder that is in any case. You may be a hero for the first few years, but by the time they get to adolescence and a little bit beyond, you understand why it was that Mark Twain said, “When I was sixteen, I thought my father was a fool; when I got to twenty-five, I realized how much he had learned.” And that experience is something that every parent lives through. But I don’t mind. I don’t care whether I impress my children. I’m not actually out to impress my children. What would I impress them with? “Well,” you say, “looking at you, frankly, I can’t think of one thing right now.” Well, thank you for that encouragement. But that’s exactly the way my mind goes: What am I going to impress them with?

So, this tyranny for our children’s adulation and affection is not a biblical mandate. It’s a sociological whim. If you set out just to impress your children, you may achieve that objective, but you may leave them high and dry. We’re not called to impress our children; we’re called to impress things upon our children: “Impress these commandments on your children. Stamp your children with the commandments of God.” “What?” Yes! “You mean these commandments that we’re hauling out of every courtroom in the land?” Yes! “You mean these commandments that we’re pulling out of our schools and our educational structures?” Yes! “You mean these commandments that people think are something for the Old Testament but have no relevance for Christians in the New Testament era?” Yes!

Now, we understand that we have to indoctrinate our children in all kinds of things. And careful parenting is indoctrination. Say, “I don’t like the word.” Fine; choose another word. I don’t mind the word. What is this about if it’s not about indoctrination: “This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth”? Right? What is that about? It’s about indoctrinating your children into the necessity and benefit of making sure that their teeth are clean and that they don’t smell when they go on the school bus. I don’t know many parents who just say, “Hey, listen, there are a number of people in society brush their teeth. There are others who, frankly, don’t brush their teeth. I don’t want to affect your young life in any way. You’re so tender. You’re so malleable. You’re such a wonderful little bundle, so you are. So, hey, there’s a toothbrush. There’s toothpaste. Do what you like.” But then again, I’m not so sure that that doesn’t happen.

Did I tell you that one of my children applied for a job, just for fun, as a nanny out in Santa Barbara? Quite a job. I thought of applying for it myself when I found out what was involved. You got a house, you got a car, and you got $40,000. You were only one of three nannies. There were two children. One was a year and a half, and the other was just a few months. You never looked after both children at the same time. Where she got off the track was when the individual that was involved told her, “There’s only one thing: you can’t tell these children no ever. There is no such word as no. If you want to guide them, then distract them, but you cannot tell them no.” Look out, folks. We are raising a generation of delinquents without the constraint of biblical commandments.

We’re not called to impress our children; we’re called to impress things upon our children.

Now, the Christian mom and dad has to say, “A pox on all of that foolishness.” As surely as it is imperative for me to make sure that my children understand these physical things—I want them to avoid poison, I don’t want them to drive at 120 miles on the freeway, I don’t want them to watch everything that comes on the TV, I don’t want them to do many things, and I do want them to do others—well, in the same way we have a concern that we will impress upon them the wisdom of God. And the pattern that is prescribed is a vital pattern, and our children are not naturally bent to it. You have, some of you, have come to church this morning, and you’ve already gone through the situation. If it didn’t happen before you got in the car, it got when you were in the car: “Why do we have to go here? Why are we going here again? Couldn’t we go once a month? Why can’t I ride the golf cart around the course? God is on the golf course, you know. I know that. He’s everywhere. Why do we have to go and listen? I don’t understand half of what he says.” To which the father says, “Don’t worry. He doesn’t understand half of what he says either.”

William Still, in 1966, writing to his congregation in Aberdeen, Scotland, about the difficulties of keeping children in reasonable behavior in the public worship, says this: “During the summer we have had all but infants sitting in Church, morning and evening, and I have not been distracted even slightly by them.”[7] I want you to notice that, in case there’s a misunderstanding about our worship guidelines. Something you may have assumed that we don’t want children to come into worship. We’re thrilled to have children come into worship. I love to see moms and dads sit with their children. The only thing we’re saying is this: that where a child is an infant, a baby, a swaddling little creature, and can’t understand a thing and is simply having a dreadful experience, as is the mother and the father and everyone else around, it just seems to make perfect sense to exclude them from that dreadful experience—and everybody else from it as well.

But I don’t think you’ve ever heard me complain because I saw your child lying horizontal after I got to my first point. I don’t think I ever reached forward and said to somebody, “Hey, waken Jimmy up. He’s sound asleep. He needs to hear this; this is good stuff.” Like the Scottish minister who looked forward and saw Jimmy MacDonald had fallen asleep, and he said to wee Jimmy, who was Jimmy MacDonald’s son, he said, “Hey, Jimmy, waken your dad.” And Jimmy shouted back, “You wake him! You put him to sleep.”

So don’t misunderstand me. I’m not concerned. I love to have children… I spent my whole life worshipping in church with my mom and dad. I didn’t understand the half of what was going on either, but I understood enough. And that’s the point that he makes in this. This is not to say that some in the pews have not been distracted by little ones fidgeting. But if parents can keep their children in reasonable behavior by discreetly giving them some suitable reading or writing material or some other seemly occupation, then the problem is somewhat solved. The rejoinder to this may be that there is no sense in taking children to church unless to attend to what is being said and done. But no one expects children to attend to a whole adult service. If they get something from it and sit for the rest in the atmosphere of worship, that is all that can be reasonably expected at first—and surely that is something. In spite of the difficulties, it is a question of whether our love for our children is of the order of Christ’s, who is more concerned about them coming to him than about anything else in life, or whether it is of an order which wants to pander to them in everything and ends up by ruining them. That’s the decision for you, young parents: Do you want to pander to your kids and ruin them, or do you want to submit to the rule of Christ and do what God says?

An explanation to be offered that is born of experience. Principles, patterns, that are clearly described in the Bible and the wonderful opportunity of a hope that is held out from our hearts.

An Example to Follow

Now, we read from 1 Samuel, and I want to conclude there. If you want to turn over a few pages: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel. There you go; you’ve learned the whole opening section of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel. Because here is a wonderful illustration of a lady who was taking seriously the privilege and responsibility of children.

Now, it’s not my purpose to work my way through all of this narrative. I read it slowly and purposefully; I hope that you paid attention to it. You will remember that this lady Hannah did not have any children. It was an unbearable harshness on the part of the other wife of Elkanah, Peninnah, that sent her to the throne of grace. It’s a reminder to us, just in passing, that things in our lives that are quite unbearable, people in our lives who are completely unbearable, as was this lady Peninnah, may actually be to us a means of grace if we do not allow them to make us embittered but if instead we allow them to drive us again to God. And that was the response of Hannah: she would go to God, and she would ask him.

She was greatly upset. She would weep. She lost her appetite, according to verse 8. And her husband, who seemed to be a fairly nice fellow—loved her, we’re told in verse 5, and gave her a double portion of the food because she didn’t have any children—seemed to have a kind of standard response to her when she burst into tears and refused to eat her breakfast. Verse 10, is it? Or 8? And “Elkanah her husband would say to her, ‘Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?’” Of course, the answer was “No, you don’t, unfortunately,” which made his little attempt at sensitivity founder on the rocks of his own ingenuity. But it is out of this that Hannah then prays to God. and she tells him that “if you will give me a son, then I will give him back to you all of the days of his life, and I will sacrifice him to you with a vow that is Nazarite in its implications.” And as she prays about this, you see, Eli overhears it, and out she comes, eventually the mother of this little boy.

So the desire of her heart was to have a son. We understand that. Every maternal instinct in us understands that. Some of us have been granted that privilege; others of us have not. God knows what he’s doing, even in the pain and disappointment. And the desire of her heart was matched by the discipline of her life. She was very, very concerned once she’d been entrusted with this child to make sure that she did what was necessary. She took the responsibility of his first two or three years very, very seriously. She would look after him until he was weaned, and she would only take him up to the house of the Lord once she believed him to be in the position where she could leave him there, because that was what she was moving towards. And in her disciplined nurture of her child, she gives us an example to follow.

So, she had a desire that she might become a mom. God met her desire; she became a mom. She was disciplined in the way she fulfilled the role of mother. And then she dedicates her son to the Lord, according to verse 28: “So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord,” and so Samuel “worshiped the Lord there.”

Now, let’s just pause as we draw this to a close and think about the awesome humanity of this. Here’s a lady who has longed for a child. She promises to God that if he gives her a child, she will ensure that that child is then entrusted exclusively to the domain of God. No small vow to make! A harder vow, I would think, to keep—and certainly by the time this little character is no longer simply that early four- or five-months creature but has become the one-year-old and the two-year-old and the three-year-old, has begun to identify and make sounds and make words. And this little character, now, that she’s nurtured and suckled and fed, whose eyes she can read like a book, the sound she understands in every respect, now she is about to part with him.

Wouldn’t she miss him? Wouldn’t he miss her? Well, yeah, but she was giving him up to Shiloh, to the place of God. Yeah, but it wasn’t a very attractive place. Eli was an old and feeble priest; his sons, Hophni and Phinehas were beasts. The atmosphere into which she was placing him was offensive and pernicious. Why would she do this? Because she promised she would give him up to God. If Hannah is noble as we find her in the face of all of the experience of not having a child, then she is even more noble in this spirit of self-denial. Surely it is no common grace that allows her to sacrifice all of her personal feelings and to thoroughly honor God.

God knows what he’s doing, even in the pain and disappointment.

Our children are gifts from the Lord, right? In order that we might nurture them in the training and instruction of the Lord.[8] In order that we might prepare them to leave us. In order that we might prepare them for eternity. Children are not a shrine at which we worship. The fact that the family has become an idol at the end of the twentieth century needs to be corrected by a careful reading of the Bible. Read missionary biography from an earlier era, and read missionary biography today, and it is clear that if David Livingstone and Elliot and Nate Saint and Roseveare and others were right in that day, then we’re wrong in this day. For now people say, “Well, I could never give my children up. I could never leave my children behind. I could never give them into the care of God. I don’t want them to be missionaries, going all those dreadful places. I don’t want them to become pastors. It’s a dreadful occupation and pays very little. I don’t want them to do these things. I don’t want them to marry those people. I want them to have the American Dream. I want them to drive the right kind of car. I want them to live in the right kind of suburb. I want them to know it all. I want them to just be better than me at everything.”

We understand all of that. We wrestle with all of that. But when you stack all of that up in relationship to eternity, are we prepared to offer our children to God? Have we offered our children to God? You say, “Well, I’m not about to take them at three years of age and put them in a monastery or something like that.” No, we’re not talking about emulating the actual facts here. We’re talking about emulating the principle, and that is that we would take our children, and we would write their names on the top of a blank sheet of paper. And then we would metaphorically fax it to God, and we would say, “God, here he is,” or “here she is. Now, I’ve been very tempted to fill in all the blanks. I’ve got dreams for him. I have dreams for her. I want her to go here, study there, be this, do that, and all the next thing. But Lord Jesus, I don’t even know how to run my own operation, so I’m sure that I won’t be able to get it right here. So I’m going to send up my child to you as a blank sheet of paper. Will you please write in the details? And will you grant that by your mercy and your grace, my child may come to sign her name or to sign his name at the bottom of this page? You choose her lot for her. You choose her life for her. You choose her marriage partner for her. You choose, because God, you’re the only one who knows, and you’re the only one who ultimately cares. And you know that I’ve made so many dumb choices already, and you know that I’ve made so many bad decisions already. And were it not for the fact that I trust in your mercy, I would be so saddened by so much that has happened.” And then we must leave them there.

Ladies, this is a full-time job. Do not kid yourself that you can be a dental receptionist and a mother, that you can be a typist and a mom, that you can be a vice president and a mom, that you can be all these things and a mom. One of the two things will win.

Now, look at your Bible, and ask what you have to do. Not talking about a young, newly married wife who has the future before her and has no children. That’s fine. That’s between she and her husband. I’m not talking to the individual who is a single parent, is cast upon the necessity of earning their bread. Nor am I talking to an individual who by dint of circumstances in the way that life has fallen out has found herself and husband and wife together in such a predicament that this is something they needs must do. I’m talking to the young girl, the young man, and I’m saying to you, “Listen, are you prepared to trust God enough on one income? Are you prepared to trust your husband enough to go out and do the job so that you may stay home and do the task? Because it’ll take everything in you.” And listen, time is going through your fingers. There is not an institution in the world can replace a mother. There is not another hand in the world can replace a mother’s hand. There is not another set of eyes that can be to this child what the mother’s eyes must be. And soon it will pass. Then you can become an astronaut. Be an astronaut then! Don’t be an astronaut now and sacrifice your kids.

We have not seen, we have yet to see, the daycare generation arise to positions of leadership in this land. And while I recognize God to be sovereign in it all, listen, and listen carefully: that is going to be one unbelievable experience. For now you have children who have been devoid of the natural, basic Creator’s plan for their lives in the very infancy of their nurturing. They do not understand what a family is. They do not understand whether their mother’s the father or the father’s the mother. They don’t know what they’re doing. And they’re going to proceed into adolescence and beyond, and they’re going to emerge to become the surgeons that are going to make ethical decisions when they take your organs out of your body and harvest them. They’re going to be the teachers that teach our children. They’re going to be the future leaders of tomorrow.

Do you see how imperative it is that if you want to be a Christian in our day, you have to be prepared to swim upstream? You have to be prepared to go to those coffee things, and when the ladies say, “And what do you do?” you say, “Laundry.” You say, “What do you think I do? Look at my hands.” Why? ’Cause there is no higher calling.

I wrote this this morning in the early hours of the morning. Incidentally, I had a letter here from a lady who just became a Christian—and she just became a Christian; she heard the sermon on biblical roles of women in Titus 2; she phoned her husband up and said, “I need to quit my job.” And she quit her job, cold turkey. She’d been working, and from nine till two, she’d moved her job to within her house so that she can be there for her daughter before she leaves; when her daughter comes back, give her her undivided attention. She said, “I have five women in my department that recently had babies, and all but [one] of them, Alistair, have returned to work in the office five full days per week. I pray that these women will stop by my office to ask, ‘Why, after twenty years of working full-time, are you now doing what you’re doing?’ And I’ll tell them that I discovered that the Bible has an impressive mandate that I want to obey.”

Well, this morning, in the early hours, this is what I wrote—and I’ll just read this, and we’ll pray.

When the sun sets on our earthly journey and our children reflect upon our lives, their memories will not be stirred by our qualifications or our financial status or our educational stature. They will not be preoccupied with the furniture we left them, the jewelry they now wear, the material things we’ve been able to leave behind. What will linger in their memory and cause them to smile or move them to tears will all have to do with the fact that we gave ourselves to them. It is as a mother that your children will remember you most of all: your tender sympathy; your compassion in their disappointments; your radiance, even when half hidden through the mists of tears; your commitment, even in the evenings of long unexplained sighs. It will not be that you managed to do it perfectly, nor even that you did so consistently. But know this: that deep in their spirits, they will be able to say, “I was everything to my mom. She loved me to the point of fatigue. She listened when no one else would. She advised with my best interests at heart. She presented Christ to me and me to Christ.”

And that is the whole shooting match right there.

You are sensible people. Think these things out.

Let’s pray:

Father, thank you for the privilege that this day affords us of reflecting with gratitude upon the lives that you gave to us and the nurture of our infancy. Thank you for giving to some of us the privilege, now, of being these parents to our children, and particularly do we thank you for mothers today. We pray that only that which is of yourself may find a resting place within our hearts and that that which is fleshly or purely human in its thinking may be banished from our recollection.

And may the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one, today and forevermore. Amen.

[1] Sheldon Harnick, “Sunrise, Sunset” (1971).

[2] See Joel 2:25.

[3] See Romans 5:12.

[4] Deuteronomy 6:4–7 (NIV 1984).

[5] Psalm 34:8 (NIV 1984).

[6] See Matthew 12:34 and Luke 6:45.

[7] Letters of William Still (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1984), 86.

[8] See Ephesians 6:4.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.