By Greg Litmer
For many of us one of the happiest, as well as one of the most frightening, days of our lives was the day when the doctor said the test was positive and there was a baby on the way. As we looked into the eyes of our spouse and held each other close we knew that we were embarking on a new and exciting adventure. Do your remember the feeling? Do your remember the love you felt for that person you had chosen to spend your life with? Do you remember the feeling of responsibility knowing that you were going to be bringing a new life into this world? Remember the countless hours spent in discussion about how you were going to raise that child, what you would and would not do? Oh, the innocence of inexperience! Remember the childbirth classes, the shopping, the showers, and all of the things that go along with the impending arrival of a new addition to a family?
What a blessing it is to be parents! The psalmist wrote in Psalm 127:3-5, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”
God’s plan for the family is a wonderful thing — one man and one woman together for life, being fruitful and multiplying, bringing children into the world. Within his plan God has provided for the physical needs of the child, for the intellectual needs of the child, and for the spiritual needs of the child. To summarize how God has provided for these needs we can simply say, “the parents.”
The responsibility to provide for the physical needs of the child is found in such passages as 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” When it comes to the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs, such passages as Deuteronomy 6:6-7 and Ephesians 6:4, show that God has placed the primary responsibility in these areas on the shoulders of the parents. When we choose to become parents, we choose to assume these responsibilities. If ever there is a situation where God would have us to put the needs of others before ourselves it is in the realm of parenting. Certainly, when it comes to manifesting genuine care and concern for others, our children must be at the top of the list. Why is it then that we are seeing more and more parents within the Lord’s church acting like those in the world when it comes to their children and their parental responsibilities?
I truly believe with all of my heart that, barring death, a child has the God-given right to grow up with both parents. Surely that truth is contained in our Lord’s teaching concerning marriage in such passages as Matthew 5:32, “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” God’s intention is that marriage consist of one man and one woman together for life. I truly believe that a child has the God-given right to have all of his or her needs provided through the faithful fulfillment of their responsibilities by the parents. Yet more and more we are seeing parents fail miserably in this area and the children suffering because of it, and it is happening within the church.
There is a passage of Scripture that I would like to take out of its context because the wording of it fits this topic. It is found in Genesis 42:22 and is a statement Reuben made to his brothers concerning their ungodly treatment of their brother, Joseph. Reuben said, “Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child: and ye would not hear? Therefore, behold, also his blood is required.” When marriages deteriorate into unhappiness and discontent, or when they dissolve altogether and end in divorce; the children of that marriage are being “sinned against.”
A child should not be deprived of the constant presence of a mother or a father. The child has the God-given right to both. A child should not have to listen to his mother and father fight. A child should never have to choose one parent over another and certainly should never have to hear one parent trying to convince him to choose over the other parent. A child should not have to undergo emotional problems because he or she somehow feels responsible for the ungodly behavior of the parents. A child should never have to be used as a pawn in a power struggle between two adults who brought that child into the world. I stood in a courtroom hallway one time and watched and listened as two “divorce” lawyers (representing two Christians) negotiated over the children. They were actually bargaining with one another as the parents sought to win the battle, and the children were the bounty. A child should never have to be deprived of one set of the grandparents. There are times when a divorce is scriptural, but even that is brought about because of sin, and it is always the children who suffer.
Even within a family that stays together there are ways that the children can be “sinned against.” In our modern society it is often the case that both the mother and the father work outside of the home. There are circumstances where this arrangement is necessary simply to provide for the necessities of life — food, clothing, shelter, and so on. There are many other situations in which this arrangement is found where the primary purpose is not to provide the necessities, but to provide the luxuries. And so the children often have the best toys money can buy, and all of them; they have the nicest clothes, money in their pocket, late model cars to drive, and everything else of a material nature they desire — but they don’t have their parents at home to talk to.
It certainly seems that money breeds the desire for more. Let me give you a common scenario that is often played out. There will be a married couple, both of them working and spending everything they make. Children come but they are too far in debt to allow the mother to stop working, so the children go into day care. Day care costs a lot of money, so every bit of extra they might have had now goes to paying that. However, the more this couple has the more they want. So as one credit card gets paid off, another gets filled up. Or perhaps even more frequently, when one credit card hits its limit, another one is applied for, received, and used. Soon the old house is not good enough. A new one is needed in a nicer neighborhood with a huge monthly payment. New cars are also added to the mix, and even though they may be moving up in their companies, they are also moving deeper and deeper into debt. All overtime must be worked, both of them are constantly tired, and with that tiredness comes a certain shortness of temper. They fuss with one another, they fuss with the kids, and what the kids really wanted more than anything else was their mom and dad.
In this common scenario attendance at services and Bible study becomes just another demand on their limited time. Instead of being an oasis of calm and a time of spiritual refreshing, it becomes more of a chore. Before long you will hear, “I was just too tired to come,” and sitting at home with the parents are the children. Their Bible study is neglected but not their education. For as they sit at home with their parents who are just too tired to go to services, those children are learning. They are learning that there are other things more important than service to God. They are learning that secular work and the things it will buy are more important. They are learning that physical comfort is more important. They are learning that God fits in when it is convenient to put him in. When this happens, the children involved are being “sinned against.”
It is sad, but true, that many times couples become more spiritually minded as they get a little older and wiser. They will become more faithful in their attendance and even start to get personally involved in the work of the church. Often- times these same couples will suffer the terrible heartache of seeing their children leave the Lord altogether and with tears in their eyes express a lack of understanding, “How could this have happen?” Maybe it is because when the children were little and the foundations were being laid, the parents were most concerned about the things that matter the least. The truth of Proverbs 22:6 is seen every day, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”