Parenting perspectives, Part 2
Could it be that a nation is either blessed or cursed by… parenting? In Part 1, The Primacy of Parenting, I wrote:
Parenting is a responsibility that is founded in leadership. Parents must lead their kids, not allow their kids to lead them.
In the first entry, I gleaned some principles related to parenting from the Old Testament account of how God called the prophet Samuel. He was under the tutelage of Eli the high priest who had wicked sons.They were so bad that God intervened and not only had them killed but cursed the rest of Eli’s descendants. Bad parenting has terrible consequences for generations.
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Samuel enters the scene, and he leads Israel as a prophet/priest. There’s no other earthly authority that binds Israel’s loyalty in those days. That is, until Samuel’s sons seem to be on the verge of inheriting his leadership. They had been appointed “judges” over Israel, but they were bad apples.
Then the elders of Israel speak up, worried about the future. It’s an uncomfortable talk:
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and went to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Therefore, appoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have.”
“It’s not you; it’s me.”
Think about this for a moment. Samuel’s bad kids lead Israel to make a bad decision. While we know that Samuel was faithful to God and led Israel well, his own house appeared to be unhealthy. (What is it with PKs?)
So because the elders plan to circumvent Samuel’s progeny, they look for other examples of national leadership, and they seize on an idea - we need a king like the other nations.
This was a bad idea.
After viewing how other “nations” functioned, they wanted to be a “grown up” nation like them. What they didn’t understand was… God. What they saw and what God could do were in different realms. God told Samuel, who was displeased/offended by their request for a king, “It’s not you; it’s me.”
“They have not rejected you; they have rejected me as their king.”
Powerfully, this speaks to parenting dynamics as well as personal responsibility. The best, God-fearing parents can witness wandering kids. And others can abdicate personal responsibility and want a king to do it for them.
Not wanting the burden of personal leadership in the home or as a citizen has profound consequences for homes and nations. Avoiding leadership today leads to a crisis of leadership in the future. Everyone will ultimately be led by someone. Here, the elders of Israel wanted someone else to lead. They didn’t want the dirtiness or accountability of leadership. Sadly, they also couldn’t see the beauty of continuing to live by faith in God’s leadership of them and their nation. (Why is living by faith so hard for us?) God had provided for Israel every step of the way, and yet they rejected Him as their king because they wanted to be like other nations. (We do dumb things when we compare ourselves to what others have.")
I encourage you to go and read all of 1 Samuel 8. The exchange between Samuel and God is rich. Three different times, God tells Samuel to “listen to them.” In spite of their bad idea, God instructs his frustrated prophet/priest to listen. Listen. Warn. Inform. But listen to them. So much heartache could be averted in our lives if we did what God instructed when people say dumb things and have bad ideas. Listen to them. Get at the heart of their frustrations. Seek to understand.
Then warn and inform. This means you need to tell your kids what they don’t want to hear. Sometimes you will stand your ground. Sometimes you’ll allow them to have what they ask for as a lesson to them.
It’s important for people to know that what comes with what they ask is not always baggage-free.
Good parent-leaders need to listen and not take things personally when bad ideas surface (especially from your adult kids).
As goes parenting, so goes a nation…
As we consider the current climate of our own nation, we are used to blaming “the other side.” However, from both Eli and Samuel, learn some hard lessons about our kids being allowed to run rampant and how their actions shape and influence cultural directions.
May we ponder soberly, and may we parent graciously.
1 Samuel 12:12-17
“When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges over Israel. His firstborn son’s name was Joel and his second was Abijah. They were judges in Beer-sheba. However, his sons did not walk in his ways — they turned toward dishonest profit, took bribes, and perverted justice.” (I Samuel 8:3)
“PK” is a well known acronym in church circles referring to “preachers’ kids.” It’s an uncomfortable reality that some children of ministers grow up and don't “behave” well. Whether prophet, priest or preachers’ kids, there’s a sobering reminder in 1 Timothy 3 about qualifications for a spiritual leader in the church - “He must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?)” (1 Timothy 3:4-5)
Here’s a few helpful and encouraging resources for how to deal with errant kids (young or old):
Your Best Parenting May Not Work by Marty Machowski, Desiring God, October 23, 2018
Unbelief in an Elder's Children by Justin Taylor, Desiring God, February 1, 2007
Katy Perry and Why You Need to Give Your Preacher’s Kid Choices by Megan Briggs, churchleaders.com, April 28, 2017
Why do so many preachers' kids walk away from the faith? on GotQuestions.org
1 Samuel 8:7