Author | Steve
When your mom calls you out on Facebook, you have to obey. So before moving on to the third “Better” that Jesus is leading me toward, I want to respond to my mom’s questions about my last post. You can read the first two installments here: Better than More & Better than Appearing Responsible.
So, here is what my mom asked:
Hmmm? I hear what you’re saying, but I also wonder, as one of the parents who tried to raise you to be responsible and smart about things, are we not supposed to raise kids to be responsible and smart about things?
I totally get what you’re saying – it’s not the being responsible and smart that’s the problem. It’s the PRIDE (with capital letters) in being those things, because it focuses on us rather than on God. My question that I think maybe does deserve a Part 2b is how parents can encourage responsibility and smart choices AND trusting God? They don’t have to be self-exclusive, do they? How do you balance them? How do you actually LIVE it? ~ Mom
“Are we not supposed to raise kids to be responsible and smart about things?”
Yes. We certainly don’t want to do the opposite – raise our kids to be irresponsible and uniformed about things. We should labor to cultivate in our children responsibility for all the gifts and abilities God gives them, including the exercise and development of their own minds.
We should labor to cultivate in our children responsibility for all the gifts and abilities God gives them, including the exercise and development of their own minds.
Check out these words from the book of Proverbs:
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
~ Proverbs 2:1-6 (NIV)
For our purposes, there are two things to note in these verses. First, knowledge and understanding and wisdom are good things that we should earnestly seek. Second, they are gifts from God for the purpose of knowing and fearing God.
First, knowledge and understanding and wisdom are good things that we should earnestly seek.
Second, they are gifts from God for the purpose of knowing and fearing God.
This is what I was trying to get at in my last post: the gifts God worked in me of responsibility and being able to think and decide well became more important to me than the One who gave those gifts so I could know Him and worship Him. Bottom line: they became an idol.
I think this idol – being regarded as responsible and wise – is a subtle, yet pervasive idol, especially for Christian leaders. As Jesus patiently, yet firmly, pursued me on this, I began to see story after story in the Bible where people did what was seemingly foolish by the world’s standards, but were raised up as examples of faith in God (think Abraham, young David, Mary & Joseph, Paul). It was painfully obvious to me that my perception of my own responsible nature and wisdom was more important to me than trusting and obeying my God who gave me these abilities.
I think this idol – being regarded as responsible and wise – is a subtle, yet pervasive idol, especially for Christian leaders.
At the same time, I was running more and more dry in my relationship with God and wondering, “Why?” As I read these stories of flawed people making foolish leaps of faith I asked myself, “Would I make that leap?” And my answer at the time was, “No. I’ve calculated my life so I don’t have to make those kinds of leaps until I reach my deathbed. Everything until then I can navigate by my own responsibility and wisdom without making those kinds of foolish leaps.” To be honest, every day is a battle inside of me to navigate life by these gracious gifts of God without Him, or to lay them down and let Him navigate my life with the gifts He chooses to give today. Quite honestly? I suck at this, but God is proving patient and faithful!
To be honest, every day is a battle inside of me to navigate life by these gracious gifts of God without Him, or to lay them down and let Him navigate my life with the gifts He chooses to give today.
“How can parents encourage responsibility and smart choices AND trusting God? They don’t have to be self-exclusive, do they? How do you balance them? How do you actually LIVE it?
So it doesn’t get lost, I want to say this right up front as I attempt to begin to answer these questions: responsibility, knowledge and wisdom are first article gifts (think first article of the Apostles’ Creed) of our Creator. As stewards of these gifts, the first tenet of stewardship is to not put the gift above the giver (check out the first commandment). As stewards, we must be ready to give the gifts completely away; to lay them down if asked (for two different responses to this check out the story of Abraham & Isaac [Genesis 22] and the story of the Rich Young Man [Matthew 19]).
the first tenet of stewardship is to not put the gift above the giver
I had forgotten this. I mean, I knew it in my head, but I had forgotten it in my heart and my daily living.
So…back to my mom’s questions above.
These things are not self-exclusive. And I don’t think you can balance them either. In fact, I think it’s impossible for us if we choose to live by our own strength and street-smarts. This kind of wisdom – trusting God above the gifts He gives, even the gifts of responsibility and knowledge – this kind of wisdom comes only from Him.
This kind of wisdom – trusting God above the gifts He gives – this kind of wisdom comes only from Him.
As parents then, we have a greater responsibility to point our kids back to the One who is able than to anything else in this life. My parents modeled this more often than not as I was growing up. For that, I am truly grateful to God. I wish we had talked more openly about the hard decisions of life when I was growing up so I could see how they wrestled with trusting God above His gifts, but in the end, I saw them live by faith in God and it pointed me in the right direction – His direction.
As parents then, we have a greater responsibility to point our kids back to the One who is able than to anything else in this life.
So how do you LIVE it? I am no expert in this, but some things I’ve been learning this year:
- GOD IS CLOSE | Stay close to Him in His Word and in prayer. We are trying to respond to God’s invitation almost every day of the week as a family. When the schedule abruptly changes, we live in God’s grace to miss a day, or do it a different way or at a different time.
- ASK GOD TO DO WHAT ONLY HE CAN DO | Ask God a lot (I mean a lot) to work this kind of faith in you. He loves to answer these kinds of prayers.
- THE “SEARCH ME, LEAD ME” PRAYER | Pray Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” He is faithful to heat-check my life for things I’ve made more important than Him; and, He’s faithful to help me remember that He is the only one to lead me in the “way everlasting,” so I don’t have to greedily clutch His gifts or control them.
- BREATHING TRUTH AND LOVE | Confession and forgiveness is like oxygen for our family – to live, we need to breathe this all the time. This is incredibly difficult, but with God, all things are possible!
- PUT IT BACK IN JESUS’ HANDS | When we pray about things that are important to us, we are learning to take those things, and as if they are tangible things, hold them in our hands. Then we imagine putting our hands, holding that important thing, into the hands of Jesus. So we pray imagining Jesus holding our cupped hands. At the end, we break our hands and let that thing fall into Jesus’ hands, knowing that He knows best about that issue. This helps us remember who the author of our faith is – who the giver of all gifts is. Talking with Him in this way has made it easier to be both grateful for His gifts and to hold them more loosely. (This is totally stolen from our friends at PrayerCare!)
Man…that was a really long answer, Mom!
We’re so in the middle of this, I don’t know how coherent my response is. Check me against God’s Word. Hold on to the good. Throw out the bad. If anybody reading this has some thoughts about this, some scriptures to share, some insights…please share them. We’d love to continue this discussion.
Read the next post in this “Better Than…” series: “Better than My Plans and $“