Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:4e (cont.) “. . .and admonition. . .”
A vital ingredient of parental “admonition,” the talking part of raising children, is passing to them a blessing. This concept of bestowing favor is minutely detailed in Smalley and Trent’s excellent book, The Gift of the Blessing.
The idea of parents bestowing a blessing on children is rooted in the Old Testament. Isaac blessed Jacob; Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons; Hebrew parents, from generation to generation, conveyed a blessing on their children.
Offspring desperately need to sense approval and favor from their parents. When Sir Thomas More was Lord Chancellor of England, he would on bended knee in Westminster Hall beg the blessing of his father, Sir John, one of the judges of the King’s Bench. We may not be as outwardly dramatic as Sir Thomas was, but our inner desire for a parental blessing is just as real.
Joseph implored his brothers, “Tell my father of all my glory in Egypt” (GN 45:13). Joseph was the number two man in Egypt, but fame, power, and wealth were not enough for him. He wanted his dad to be proud of him.
Many adults struggle in life because they have not received parental acclaim and applause. Wounded and hurting, they live deprived of the blessing.
The Old Testament parental blessing contained prominent features we need to recapture. One element was meaningful touching. Jacob, preparing to bless Joseph’s two sons, “kissed them, and embraced them” (GN 48:10).
Many parents, suffering a mental hang-up in this area, have trouble expressing their emotions openly. Mom or Dad, if you are weak in this area, analyze yourself. Your child will grow up to act like you. Do you want to pass on to your child your hang-up? For the problem, this is a strange solution indeed!
A second element of Old Testament parental blessings was verbal compliments and statements of value. At their reunion, Jacob told Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive” (GN 46:30).
In many homes, compliments and words of worth are rarely heard. Parents assume a child knows he or she is loved and appreciated. Not true! Say what you feel. Verbalize your pride. Silence conveys confusion, and forces a child to guess about a parent’s feelings. Life becomes a fill-in-the-blank test.
A third element of Old Testament parental blessings was predicting a special future for the child. Jacob foretold of Joseph, “(God) shall help thee, and. . .bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb” (GN 49:25).
We cannot predict a child’s future with Biblical accuracy, but we can encourage them and instill confidence and optimism. We can also commit to help our children fulfill their dreams and aspirations. If your child is musically inclined, buy him or her an instrument. Does your child want to be a teacher, lawyer, or doctor? Help pay for college, law school, or medical school.
Are you giving the three elements of the Old Testament blessing to your child? Have you received them from your parents? Either way, read Smalley and Trent’s book. They give wonderful insights into how to do a good job of bestowing the blessing, and how to handle the pain of not receiving the blessing.
Eph. 6:4f “. . .of the Lord.”
In raising children, parents should clearly set before their minds the object and goal of their efforts. All is to be “of the Lord.” In the Christian home, God should be everywhere, omnipresent, omni-important. He is the end of all discipline and instruction. “Nurture and admonition” are learned from the Lord and administered for the Lord in order to direct children to the Lord.
“The very heart of Christian nurture is this: to bring the heart of the child to the heart of the Savior” (Hendriksen). Children are gifts from God (PS 127:3) to be raised for God. Every Christian parent’s highest desire should be for their children to grow up and serve the Lord. This is more important than good health, educational feats, material prosperity, and social acceptance. All else we leave our children is useless if we fail to bring them up for the Lord.
The main responsibility for child-rearing lies in the home. Schools, day care centers, governments, and churches cannot raise children well. A church gives its all and best, but little can be done in the few hours we have a child each week. Ultimately, the task of raising children is assigned to parents.
Parents, do your best to try to mold and train your children for God. They can know, learn about, and serve “the Lord.” Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me” (MT 19:14a NASB).
Children are often more spiritual than adults. Our Master recognized this and gave the attitude of children an exalted place in His kingdom, saying, “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (MT 19:14b NASB).
When Jesus wanted to illustrate true spiritual greatness, He did not point to kings, dignitaries, apostles, or pastors. He rather “called a child to Himself and stood him in their midst” (see MT 18:1-4). Children are capable of genuine religious experience, and parents are to encourage them in this.
This having been said, let me hasten to say there are no guarantees in child-rearing. Properly raised children often go awry. Several children can grow up in the same Christian home with varying results, some serve God, some do not. A child raised in sin sometimes grows up to be a model of Christian virtue (thank God for personal soulwinning!). For better and for worse, there are exceptions to the rule, but the normal, desirable, pattern is for parents to bequeath the heritage of righteousness from generation to generation.
Parents, I want to encourage you. You can make a vital difference for God in your child’s life. John Randolph, the brilliant political leader, said, “When I try to make myself an infidel, I feel the hand of Mother on my head and hear her prayers for my soul, and I start back from all infidelity.”
I readily admit, it is hard to raise children, harder to raise well behaved children, hardest to raise God-loving children. However, “hard, harder, and hardest” are not “impossible.” Christian parents have for centuries successfully raised godly children even in the most adverse circumstances.
We Christian parents have outside help. Though the world, the flesh, and the devil oppose us, God the mighty warrior favors us and wants to help us raise our children for Him. Parents, use your spiritual resources, call God to your aid. If you are on His team, pushing the same direction He is, enlist Him as your partner. “God is in the business of building homes, and he is on our side if we are truly trying to obey him and follow his directions” (Boice).