Parents and Children: Put God First!
“Fear the true God and keep his commandments.”—ECCLESIASTES 12:13.
1. What fear do parents and children need to cultivate, and what will it bring them?
A PROPHECY regarding Jesus Christ said that there would “be enjoyment by him in the fear of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 11:3) His fear was essentially a profound reverence and awe of God, a fear to displease God because he loved him. Parents and children need to cultivate such Christlike fear of God, which will bring them enjoyment as it did Jesus. They need to put God first in their lives by obeying his commandments. According to one Bible writer, “this is the whole obligation of man.”—Ecclesiastes 12:13.
2. What was the most important commandment of the Law, and to whom was it primarily given?
2 The most important commandment of the Law, namely, that we should ‘love Jehovah with all our heart, soul, and vital force,’ was given primarily to parents. This is shown by the further words of the Law: “You must inculcate [these words about loving Jehovah] in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Mark 12:28-30) Parents were thus commanded to put God first by loving him themselves and by teaching their children to do the same.
A Christian Responsibility
3. How did Jesus demonstrate the importance of giving attention to children?
3 Jesus demonstrated the importance of giving even young children attention. On one occasion toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, people began bringing their infants to him. Evidently believing that Jesus was too busy to be bothered, the disciples tried to stop the people. But Jesus reprimanded his disciples: “Let the young children come to me, and do not try to stop them.” Jesus even “took the children into his arms,” thus showing in a touching way the importance of giving attention to young ones.—Luke 18:15-17; Mark 10:13-16.
4. Who were given the command to “make disciples of people of all the nations,” and what would this require them to do?
4 Jesus also made it clear that his followers had the responsibility to teach others besides their own children. After his death and resurrection, Jesus “appeared to upward of five hundred brothers at one time”—including some parents. (1 Corinthians 15:6) Apparently this occurred at a mountain in Galilee where his 11 apostles were also gathered. There Jesus urged all of them: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:16-20) No Christian can rightly neglect this command! For fathers and mothers to carry it out requires that they care for their children as well as share in the public preaching and teaching work.
5. (a) What shows that most, if not all, of the apostles were married and so possibly had children? (b) What counsel did family heads need to take seriously?
5 Significantly, even the apostles had to balance their family responsibilities with the obligation to preach as well as shepherd the flock of God. (John 21:1-3, 15-17; Acts 1:8) This is because most, if not all, of them were married. Thus the apostle Paul explained: “We have authority to lead about a sister as a wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas, do we not?” (1 Corinthians 9:5; Matthew 8:14) Some apostles may also have had children. Early historians, such as Eusebius, say that Peter did. All early Christian parents needed to heed the Scriptural counsel: “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.”—1 Timothy 5:8.
The Primary Responsibility
6. (a) What challenge do Christian elders with families have? (b) What is an elder’s primary responsibility?
6 Christian elders who have families today are in a situation similar to that of the apostles. They must balance their responsibility to care for the spiritual and physical needs of their families with their obligation to preach publicly and to shepherd the flock of God. Which activity should take priority? The Watchtower of March 15, 1964, noted: “[The father’s] first obligation is to his family, and he could not, in fact, properly serve if he did not take care of this obligation.”
7. How do Christian fathers put God first?
7 So fathers must put God first by heeding the command ‘to go on bringing up their children in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.’ (Ephesians 6:4) That responsibility cannot be handed over to someone else, even though a father may also have an assignment to oversee activities in the Christian congregation. How can such fathers care for their responsibilities—providing for family members physically, spiritually, and emotionally—and at the same time, preside and provide oversight in the congregation?
Providing Needed Support
8. How can the wife of an elder support him?
8 Clearly, elders with family responsibilities can benefit from support. The above-quoted Watchtower noted that a Christian wife can be of support to her husband. It said: “She can make it as convenient as possible for him to prepare his various assignments, and help to save precious time for him and for herself by having a good schedule in the home, having meals on time, being ready to leave for congregation meetings promptly. . . . Under the direction of her husband, the Christian wife can do much to train up the children in the way they should go to please Jehovah.” (Proverbs 22:6) Yes, the wife was created to be “a helper,” and her husband will wisely welcome her assistance. (Genesis 2:18) Her support can enable him to care more effectively for both his family and his congregational responsibilities.
9. Who in the Thessalonica congregation were encouraged to help other congregation members?
9 However, wives of Christian elders are not the only ones who can share in activity that supports an overseer who must both “shepherd the flock of God” and care for his own household. (1 Peter 5:2) Who else can? The apostle Paul urged the brothers in Thessalonica to have regard for those “presiding over” them. Yet, going on and addressing these same brothers—specifically those not presiding—Paul wrote: “We exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all.”—1 Thessalonians 5:12-14.
10. What fine effect does the loving help of all the brothers have on the congregation?
10 How fine when the brothers in a congregation have the love that moves them to comfort the depressed, to support the weak, to admonish the disorderly, and to be long-suffering toward all! The brothers in Thessalonica, who had recently embraced Bible truth despite suffering great tribulation, applied Paul’s counsel to do this. (Acts 17:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:14; 5:11) Think of the fine effect their loving cooperation had of strengthening and uniting the whole congregation! Similarly, when the brothers today comfort, support, and admonish one another, it makes the shepherding responsibilities of elders, who often have families to care for, much easier to handle.
11. (a) Why is it reasonable to conclude that women were included in the term “brothers”? (b) What help can a mature Christian woman render to younger women today?
11 Were women included among the “brothers” that the apostle Paul was addressing? Yes, they were, since many women became believers. (Acts 17:1, 4; 1 Peter 2:17; 5:9) What kind of help could such women render? Well, there were younger women in the congregations who had a problem controlling their “sexual impulses” or who became “depressed souls.” (1 Timothy 5:11-13) Some women today have similar problems. What they may need most is simply a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Often a mature Christian woman is the best person to provide such help. She can, for example, discuss personal problems with another woman that a Christian man by himself could not appropriately handle. Highlighting the value of providing such help, Paul wrote: “Let the aged women be . . . teachers of what is good; that they may recall the young women to their senses to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sound in mind, chaste, workers at home, good, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.”—Titus 2:3-5.
12. Whose direction is it vital that all in the congregation follow?
12 What a blessing humble sisters are in a congregation when they cooperatively support both their husbands and the elders! (1 Timothy 2:11, 12; Hebrews 13:17) Elders with family responsibilities especially benefit when all cooperate to help one another in a spirit of love and when all are submissive to the direction of the appointed shepherds.—1 Peter 5:1, 2.
Parents, What Do You Put First?
13. How do many fathers fail their families?
13 Years ago a prominent entertainer observed: “I see successful men running companies with hundreds of men; they know how to deal with every situation, how to discipline and reward in the business world. But the biggest business they are running is their family and they fail it.” Why? Is it not because they put business and other interests first and neglect God’s counsel? His Word says: “These words that I am commanding . . . , you must inculcate . . . in your son.” And this was to be done daily. Parents need to give unstintingly of their time—and especially of their love and deep concern.—Deuteronomy 6:6-9.
14. (a) How should parents care for their children? (b) What does proper training of children include?
14 The Bible reminds us that children are an inheritance from Jehovah. (Psalm 127:3) Do you care for your children as God’s property, a gift that he has entrusted to you? Your child will likely respond if you take him or her into your arms, thus demonstrating your loving care and attention. (Mark 10:16) But to ‘train up a child according to the way for him’ requires more than simply providing it hugs and kisses. To be equipped with the wisdom to avoid life’s pitfalls, a child needs loving discipline as well. A parent shows genuine love by ‘looking for his child with discipline.’—Proverbs 13:1, 24; 22:6.
15. What shows the necessity of parental discipline?
15 The necessity of parental discipline can be seen from a school counselor’s description of children who come to her office: “They are pitiable, laden-hearted, and lost. They are crying as they talk about how things really are. Many—many more than one might think—have attempted suicide, not because they are so happy they just can’t stand it; it’s because they feel so unhappy, uncared about, and stressed out because at such a young age they are ‘in charge’ and it’s just too much to handle.” She added: “It is a scary thing for a young person to feel that he is running things.” True, children may balk at discipline, but they actually appreciate parental guidelines and restrictions. They are happy that their parents care enough to set limits for them. “It’s taken a terrific load off my mind,” said one teenager whose parents did.
16. (a) What happens to some children reared in Christian homes? (b) Why does the wayward course of a child not necessarily mean that the training given by the parents was not good?
16 Yet, despite having parents who love them and who provide fine training, some youngsters, like the prodigal son in Jesus’ illustration, reject parental guidance and go astray. (Luke 15:11-16) That in itself, however, may not mean that the parents did not fulfill their responsibility to train up their child properly, as Proverbs 22:6 directs. The statement about ‘training up a child according to the way for him and he will not depart from it’ was given as a general rule. Sadly, like the prodigal, some children will ‘despise obedience to a parent.’—Proverbs 30:17.
17. From what may parents of wayward children draw comfort?
17 A father of a wayward son lamented: “I have tried and tried to reach his heart. I do not know what to do because I have tried so many things. Nothing has worked.” Hopefully, such wayward children will, in time, recall the loving training they received and return as did the prodigal. The fact remains, though, that some children rebel and do immoral things to the great hurt of their parents. Parents may draw comfort from knowing that even the greatest teacher to live on earth saw his longtime student Judas Iscariot betray him. And Jehovah himself was no doubt saddened when many of his own spirit sons rejected his counsel and proved rebellious through no fault on His part.—Luke 22:47, 48; Revelation 12:9.
Children—Whom Will You Please?
18. How can children show that they put God first?
18 Jehovah urges you young ones: “Be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:1) Young people put God first by doing this. Do not be foolish! “Anyone foolish disrespects the discipline of his father,” God’s Word says. Neither should you arrogantly presume that you can do without discipline. The fact is that “there is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness.” (Proverbs 15:5; 30:12, American Standard Version) So heed the divine direction—“listen” to, “treasure up,” “do not forget,” “pay attention” to, “observe,” and “do not forsake” the commandments and discipline of parents.—Proverbs 1:8; 2:1; 3:1; 4:1; 6:20.
19. (a) What powerful reasons do children have for obeying Jehovah? (b) How can young ones show that they are grateful to God?
19 You have powerful reasons for obeying Jehovah. He loves you, and he has given his laws, including the law for children to obey their parents, to protect you and to help you enjoy a happy life. (Isaiah 48:17) He has also given his Son to die for you so that you can be saved from sin and death and enjoy everlasting life. (John 3:16) Are you grateful? God is watching from the heavens, examining your heart to see if you truly love him and appreciate his provisions. (Psalm 14:2) Satan is also watching, and he is taunting God, claiming that you will not obey Him. You make Satan glad and Jehovah “feel hurt” when you disobey God. (Psalm 78:40, 41) Jehovah appeals to you: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice [by being obedient to me], that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Proverbs 27:11) Yes, the question is, Whom will you please, Satan or Jehovah?
20. How has one youth maintained the courage to serve Jehovah even when she gets scared?
20 It is not easy to do God’s will in the face of pressures that Satan and his world exert upon you. It can be scary. One youth noted: “Being scared is like being cold. You can do something about it.” She explained: “When you’re cold, you put on a sweater. If you’re still cold, you put on another one. And you keep on putting something on until the coldness goes away and you’re no longer cold. So praying to Jehovah when you’re scared is like putting on a sweater when you’re cold. If after one prayer I’m still scared, I pray again, and again, and again, until I don’t feel scared anymore. And it works. It has kept me out of trouble!”
21. How will Jehovah back us up if we really try to put him first in our lives?
21 If we really try to put God first in our lives, Jehovah will back us up. He will strengthen us, providing angelic help when it is needed, even as he did for his Son. (Matthew 18:10; Luke 22:43) Be courageous all you parents and children. Have Christlike fear, and it will bring you enjoyment. (Isaiah 11:3) Yes, “fear the true God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole obligation of man.”—Ecclesiastes 12:13.
Can You Answer?
□ What responsibilities did Jesus’ early followers need to balance?
□ What responsibility must Christian parents fulfill?
□ What help is available to Christian elders with families?
□ What valuable service may sisters perform in the congregation?
□ What counsel and direction is it vital that children heed?
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Often a mature Christian woman can provide a younger woman with needed help
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What comfort can parents with wayward children get from the Scriptures?