Losing your family exemption …
In 1978, Thomas Hansen of Boulder, Colorado, sued his parents for $350,000 in damages on the grounds of “malpractice of parenting.” He charged in his lawsuit that his mom and dad botched his upbringing so badly that he would need years of costly psychiatric treatment.
I don’t know how that case turned out, but things have changed a lot since then.
Oh, we still have plenty of moms and dads who don’t do so well as parents, but the pendulum has swung far in the other direction. In 2014, we have a plethora of parents who spoil their children with so much that their kids grow up with “entitlement” attitudes.
Except, that is, when it comes to the area of their spiritual well-being.
I’ve been reminded of this issue recently as several people have asked about the new, international ministry I’m working on launching. It doesn’t take telling the story too many times before someone says something like this:
“You’re so lucky you’re single so you can do something like this. Having kids, I could never do something like what you’re doing …”
Yeah, I usually interrupt them at that point.
That’s because I think it’s important they understand just how false a statement it is that they just made.
A few weeks ago, while I was visiting with a pastor who leads a church just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, I asked him what the greatest struggles were within that congregation.
“People are just too busy,” he said without a moment’s hesitation.
Like so many parents around the country, the moms and dads in that area were living lives that revolved around indulging their children in as many activities as possible, to the point it significantly impacted the lives of the parents to being able to do anything other than go to work and try to squeeze in a little sleep.
“What they tell me is they don’t want their kids to miss out on anything,” the pastor explained further. And in that wild ride to make their children’s childhoods as “fulfilling” as possible, the parents miss the single greatest need their children have: a vibrant covenant relationship with Jesus Christ.
The reason why I respond quickly to people when they claim they couldn’t serve God to the same degree as I do as a single man is that isn’t the truth. Single people aren’t the “expendables” — because they aren’t married doesn’t qualify them as the only people to live a life of sacrificial service to God. But you wouldn’t know that by how most parents raise their children today. They have bought into that great fear the pastor in Minnesota voiced — they don’t want their kids to “miss out on anything.”
Anything except God, because time is not being made for Him. In fact, in too many families, if you look at how time and resources are spent, God isn’t even in the running. Not by a long shot! So many parents think that at least a couple decades of their lives are off limits to God and the church as far as significant interaction or service goes because making sure their children don’t miss out on anything will demand all of their free time and resources.
“I couldn’t do anything like what you’re doing until the kids were out of school,” was a comment made to me recently.
Apparently this person doesn’t know their Bible and church history very well.
Not all the apostles were single. The same with the early church fathers. And today, we still send families to the mission field. The church wasn’t built, and isn’t sustained, only by single people who, because of their singleness, can be expected to give up their lives for the sake of God and His kingdom.
Many of those parents point to the Apostle Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 7:1-8 as an excuse for not being able to serve the Lord as wholeheartedly as a single person. Again, they haven’t looked at scripture in its fuller context, from the Old Testament to the New, to see how God has used married people and families for His purposes. And then we have that wildly famous challenge from Joshua:
“… But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord,” Joshua 24:15b.
With that statement ringing in our ears comes our modern challenge: removing our children and families as our most worshiped idols, and re-establishing God as the one we worship above any and all.
We can do this as families. As couples. And even as singles.
I enjoy reading the posts of a pastor who is following God’s call for him to give up a more comfortable position pastoring a church in the U.S. to pack up his family — yes, kids and all — and move to Haiti where they are now serving the Lord. Together. As a family who loves the Lord and is obedient to His call.
And guess what, they aren’t missing out on anything important!
No, I’m not advocating that you, also, pack up your family and move to a foreign mission field … unless God is directing you to do so! What I am suggesting is that in our culture, we’ve placed our children and family on pedestals, and we worship them there. God becomes, at best, second place.
That is sin.
What I’m suggesting is that we confess that as sin, and then repent of it by making God pre-eminent in every aspect — and every relationship — of our lives. Doing so will not result in your children missing out on anything of value; instead, it will teach your children how to rightly value everything in life, starting with God.
If your life revolves around making your children and your family your idols, isn’t it time you finally lost your claim of having a “family exemption” to faithfulness and obedience? Isn’t it time that together, as a family, or as a couple, you re-order things to putting God first?