As we drill into 7 different sins from parents in the Bible, I hope that these will serve as guard rails for us as we raise our children not to make us feel weighed down, but rather to free us to do what is right without caring what others think about our decisions because we are seeking to follow God’s leading in the way we raise our children.
God has entrusted our children to us. He describes as children as olive branches around our table (Psalm 128:3), as arrows in our hand (Psalm 127:4) and as a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). He has given us the charge to teach our children (Deuteronomy 6:7), to discipline them (Proverbs 19:18) and to raise them in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).
With this kind of burden it is a task that God has given us which we should take seriously. Indeed Jewish believers read the Shema daily which includes the commandment to teach your children throughout the day.
The whole purpose of this is to raise children who will serve the Lord all the days of their lives. This is God’s command to us as parents and we would do well to heed it. Our children to do not belong to us, as if they are an object that we can do with as we wish, rather they are connected to us by God for the purpose of their discipleship and the enrichment of all our lives. We could say that our children belong to God and he has lent them to us for a time.
When Jesus blessed the children we read, in Mark 10:16, that he took them in his arms and blessed them. The parents expected Jesus, the rabbi, to lay his hands on their heads and speak a word of blessing over them. Instead, Jesus took the children in his arms - a sign of adoption. The parents had pushed their way through to get to Jesus for a blessing and Jesus responds by blessing them and taking responsibility for them.
This brings us nicely to the 2nd sin of Jacob. In our modern world we are at risk of suffering from Jacob’s 2nd sin, perhaps more than any of the other sins we have mentioned to date: The sin of overprotecting our children. In our modern age we call these parents helicopter parents – fearing the consequences of surrounding dangers to such an extent that we seek to control every aspect of our children’s lives, while never letting them find their own freedom.
This goes against the grain of the principle of trusting Jesus to hold our children, but it also prevents our children from flourishing as independent adults. When leading a seminar on leadership, we were brainstorming ways that Jesus was an effective leader. One person piped up, ‘he prepared his disciples for the time when they would have to live without him being physically present.’ This is surely the purpose of our role as parents. But if we are over protective we prevent our children from ever taking risks and discovering their God-given potential.
Jacob had every reason to be protective over his children. He had longed for a son through his favourite wife, Rachel, and when Joseph was born he ensured that his duties were lighter than those of his brothers. When Joseph failed to return home, presumed dead, Jacob was at a complete loss declaring he would grieve until the day he died. Rachel had already died in child birth giving him one more son, Benjamin, and now only Benjamin was left from this part of his family. No wonder Jacob was so protective of him.
Jacob refused to let Benjamin travel to Egypt to get grain. The brothers went and returned with grain, but without Simeon who had been locked up in jail until they returned with proof of Benjamin’s existence (Genesis 42:24). Jacob was now grieving two of his sons and held on to Benjamin even tighter. Jacob had other sons, but he was controlling every aspect of Benjamin’s life in the hope of keeping him safe, whilst not realising the effect of his parenting on the wider family.
Reuben begs for Jacob to allow them to return with Benjamin, even offering his children as surety (Genesis 42:37) but Jacob still refuses. It seems Benjamin, who had been separated from his brother for over 20 years, was still under the control of his father. Jacob was so scared of losing Benjamin that he refused him a normal life.
I have seen parents do this to their children in modern day life. Out of fear they never say no. Out of a desire to see them do things right they follow them around and make choices for them. When it comes to them leaving home they try to hold them back. None of this helps their growth. Indeed the children who are treated in this way, by their well-meaning parents, often end up struggling to live and dealing with crippling anxiety.
It's understandable why Jacob would hold on to his precious son, but just because we can understand they why, it does not mean that it is for the best. It takes courage to give our children increasing freedom as they grow and trusting that they are prepared for life without us, but it is the best thing we can do for them.
Jacob keeps refusing to releases Benjamin to travel to Egypt until finally his other sons say, ‘Let him come with me, I will bear full responsibility for him. As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.’ Genesis 43:10.
Jacob finally releases him and as a result is reunited with his long lost son, Jacob and his recently lost son, Simeon.
Our role is not to control our children, but to prepare them to live in the world without us. We must not let worry hold our children back. Of course this does not mean that we permit our children to do whatever they want to – we are to demonstrate safe boundaries and enforce good discipline. But once they have these boundaries we also have to trust them to make good decisions in our absence.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-7. ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’
Instead of allowing our worry to turn to control, we should turn our worry into prayer. This is the antidote to becoming overly controlling. It can be hard to spot this flaw in our parenting. This is especially true for those who take their responsibilities as parents seriously before the Lord that we began this article with.
Paul says instead of being anxious, which can lead us to control, we should bring our request to God. As parents I think we often have a subliminal footnote attached to this verse. We reason, it is normal to worry and be anxious after our children, because we care. But God says we should be anxious for nothing. That includes our children. Not anxious for their school, their future, their health, their behaviour. Nothing.
This is hard, but we are not powerless and have no need to be paralyzed in fear. Instead we should turn every anxious thought into a prayer remembering what we have to be thankful for in each situation. Then the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. This even applies to situations where we should rightly be worried! God’s peace in our hearts and minds will stop us from responding to our children our of fear and allow us make right judgements on how we listen and discipline them. It is liberating.
Let’s not fall into this 2nd sin of Jacob, even if we have a history that makes such a sin understandable. Instead, let us trust God to raise our children and be His faith-filled vessels available to nurture them.