First Warning: Don’t Put Your Kids Above God
1 Sam 2:29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?'
That word “honor” in the Hebrew means “to be heavy” or “ to weight.” And God is asking, “Why did you give more weight to what your sons wanted than to what I wanted?”
Because of the amount of time we work, the things we do, there is a danger to give more weight to what our kids want than to what God wants. The pull is to give more weight to their activities and not to push them toward the things of God. Like Eli, we can err on the side of going to church and making church about us, rather than making church about God. And somehow his boys got that message. For them church was a place for financial gain and sexual exploits and Eli allowed it happen. Let's take a different path!
Second Warning: God’s relationship with us is firsthand
1 Sam. 8:1-5 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, "Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations."
Samuel's sons didn’t have the relationship with God that Samuel did. It’s not a given. Our sons and daughters have to experience God’s grace firsthand, they can’t borrow our calling – they have to find their own. If we don’t encourage the next generation to seek God on their own, they might make their own way and sometimes that will go very badly. God’s relationship with us is always firsthand – we don’t borrow someone else’s grace.
Third Warning, Don’t wait too long to confront or correct
2 Sam. 13:20-25 And her brother Absalom said to her, "Has Amnon your brother been with you? Now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this to heart." So Tamar lived, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom's house. When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry. But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad, for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had violated his sister Tamar. After two full years…
David is angry, but he doesn’t do anything for two full years! He doesn’t move to correct or to judge or to heal. And granted, it’s a hard conversation to have. But David had experienced sexual sin and had committed murder in trying to cover it up. The way to deal with sin is not to ignore it and hide from it. The only way to deal with it is to own it, to seek God and repentance – and to face the consequences.
But he doesn’t. And Absalom ends up killing Amnon, in anger over Tamar, and then stages a coup and tries to become king himself. In that struggle, Absalom ends up being killed as a result of the conflict.
David doesn’t act… and Amnon is killed, Absalom is killed, Tamar is desolate and the consequences are nothing but tragic.
Don’t hide from the hard conversation (even the hardest conversation) when it comes to family or people you are close to. The most unloving thing we can do is to fail to confront, to hide and ignore circumstances and hope the bad situation goes away.
That path leads to death, sometimes literally. It will never be fun and there are no guarantees that people will listen. But do everything you can… don’t wait too long to confront and correct when something terrible happens.
We also talked about four myths related to kids and the next generation…
Myth 1: Going to church produces authentic spirituality. Sitting on a grill doesn’t make you a hamburger. And bringing kids to the hospital once a week doesn’t automatically make them doctors. In the same way, church attendance doesn't guarantee a relationship with God. I think it helps.
But we have to go deeper than that. Eli’s sons grew up in the temple… Samuel’s sons saw him working God’s will on a national level all their lives, but they ended up in a bad place. We have to encourage our kids to pursue God themselves and not think that a church service can do this for us.
Myth 2: Kids need to make their own choices. Sure. But people are people and sometimes people make incredibly bad and destructive choices. Don’t give up your influence here! Don’t be David related to Amnon and Tamar – don’t check out and wait a few years for things to settle down. Scripture gives us the responsibility to be our brother’s keeper… and to help the next generation in any way we can. Don’t seek to control or distort, but at the same time, don’t leave them on their own – if you can help – don’t withhold it!
Myth 3: Sunday’s message will trump Tuesday’s message. The sense here is related to the first myth: that we can live our lives any way we want and then what we experience Sunday will fix it, or correct it. It won’t. It can help, but it isn't enough in isolation. Scripture tells us to surround our kids with the word of God, in the rhythm and natural course of life. When we go out and when we come in…
If we don’t honor God on Tuesday, or Wednesday, that message delivers loud and clear. Let our lives be lived in a way that honors God everyday – and our kids and the people we influence will get the message loud and clear.
Myth 4 : Great kids naturally come from good homes. It’s not automatic. Certainly not for Samuel or David and they are heroes of the faith! We have to be intentional, investing in the next generation deeply – this takes time. It takes time.
This is important and the reason it's important is actually really simple.
God delights in working through families and the people close to us in life.
When it was time for Jesus to come, God could have put on a parade, or fireworks, or something with big fanfare. He could have started a university, or a corporation, or a government, and put Jesus right in the middle of it. The marketing plan would be amazing.
Instead, He brought us Christ, through a humble family, just beginning to form with Mary’s engagement to Joseph. That tender and vulnerable beginning was God’s path to bless all of humanity. A first century family was the soil that God used to bring us a Savior.
And while Jesus didn’t have a wife and children, He invested in His disciples through relationships. He lived with them and ate with them. He encouraged them and challenged them – and confronted them directly when He needed to. In that way, in His love and in His grace, be the person that will invest deeply in your families and in the people that God is raising up in the next generation. It is a key to His best will for us and it is God’s heart that we learn from How the Good Go Bad to do better. God help us learn how to finish well.