Parents—What Future Do You Want for Your Children?
“You young men and also you virgins . . . Let them praise the name of Jehovah.”—Psalm 148:12, 13.
1. What concerns do parents have for their children?
WHAT parents are not anxiously concerned about the future of their children? From the moment an infant is born—or even before—the parents start worrying about his welfare. Will he be healthy? Will he develop normally? As the child grows older, there are additional concerns. By and large, parents want only what is best for their offspring.—1 Samuel 1:11, 27, 28; Psalm 127:3-5.
2. Why do many parents today feel strongly about having their children enjoy a good life when they grow up?
2 In today’s world, however, it is a challenge for parents to provide what is best for their children. Many parents have gone through hard times—wars, political upheavals, economic hardships, physical or emotional traumas, and so on. Naturally, it is their heartfelt desire that their children not go through the same things. In affluent lands, parents may see the sons and daughters of their friends and relatives move ahead in professional careers and enjoy seemingly successful lives. Thus, they feel compelled to do everything they can to ensure that their children too will be able to enjoy a reasonably comfortable and secure life—a good life—when they grow up.—Ecclesiastes 3:13.
Choosing a Good Life
3. What choice have Christians made?
3 As followers of Jesus Christ, Christians have chosen to dedicate their life to Jehovah. They have taken to heart Jesus’ words: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and follow me continually.” (Luke 9:23; 14:27) Yes, a Christian’s life does involve self-sacrifice. Yet, it is not a life of deprivation and misery. On the contrary, it is a happy and satisfying life—a good life—because it involves giving, and as Jesus said, “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
4. What did Jesus urge his followers to pursue?
4 People in Jesus’ day were living under very difficult circumstances. In addition to making a living, they had to bear the harsh rule of the Romans and the oppressive burden of the formalistic religionists of the day. (Matthew 23:2-4) Still, many who heard about Jesus gladly set aside personal pursuits—even careers—and became his followers. (Matthew 4:18-22; 9:9; Colossians 4:14) Were those disciples taking a risk and endangering their future? Note Jesus’ words: “Everyone that has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive many times more and will inherit everlasting life.” (Matthew 19:29) Jesus assured his followers that the heavenly Father knew their needs. He therefore urged them: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matthew 6:31-33.
5. How do some parents feel about Jesus’ assurance that God will care for his servants?
5 Things are not very different today. Jehovah knows our needs, and those who put Kingdom interests first in their life, especially those pursuing the full-time ministry, have the same assurance that he will care for them. (Malachi 3:6, 16; 1 Peter 5:7) Some parents, however, are ambivalent in this regard. On the one hand, they would like to see their children make advancement in Jehovah’s service, perhaps in time entering the full-time ministry. On the other hand, considering the economic and employment situation in the world today, they feel that it is important for young ones to get a good education first so that they will have the necessary qualifications for a desirable job or at least have something to fall back on if needed. To such parents, a good education often means higher education.
Preparing for the Future
6. In what way is the term “higher education” used in this article?
6 The educational system varies from country to country. In the United States, for example, public schools offer 12 years of basic education. Thereafter, students may choose to attend university or college for four or more years, leading to a bachelor’s degree or to postgraduate studies for careers in medicine, law, engineering, and so forth. Such university education is what is meant when the term “higher education” is used in this article. On the other hand, there are technical and vocational schools, offering short-term courses that result in a certificate or diploma in some trade or service.
7. What pressures are students exposed to in high schools?
7 The trend today is for secondary schools or high schools to groom their students for higher education. To this end, most high schools focus on academic subjects that enable the students to score well in university entrance examinations rather than on courses that will equip the students for the workplace. High school students today are under tremendous pressure from teachers, counselors, and fellow students to aim for enrollment in the best universities, where they will hopefully earn the degrees that can open for them doors to promising and well-paying jobs.
8. What choices are Christian parents confronted with?
8 What, then, are Christian parents to do? Of course, they want their children to do well in school and learn the necessary skills for maintaining themselves in the days ahead. (Proverbs 22:29) But should they simply let their children be swept along by the spirit of competition for material advancement and success? What sort of goals do they put before their children, either by word or by personal example? Some parents work very hard and save so as to be able to send their children to institutions of higher learning when the time comes. Others are willing to go into debt for this purpose. The cost of such a decision, however, cannot be measured merely in dollars and cents. What is the cost of pursuing higher education today?—Luke 14:28-33.
The Cost of Pursuing Higher Education
9. What can be said about the financial cost of higher education today?
9 When we think of cost, we usually think of financial expenditures. In some countries, higher education is government sponsored and qualified students do not have to pay fees or tuition. In most places, however, higher education is expensive and is getting more so. A New York Times Op-Ed article observes: “Higher education used to be regarded as an engine of opportunity. Now it’s certifying the gap between the haves and the have-lesses.” In other words, quality higher education is fast becoming the domain of the rich and influential, who put their children through it to ensure that they too become the rich and influential of this system. Should Christian parents choose such a goal for their children?—Philippians 3:7, 8; James 4:4.
10. How is higher education closely linked to advancing the present system?
10 Even where higher education is free, there may be strings attached. For example, The Wall Street Journal reports that in one Southeast Asian country, the government runs a “pyramid-style school structure that unabashedly pushes the cream to the top.” “The top” ultimately means placement in the world’s elite institutions—Oxford and Cambridge in England, the Ivy League schools in the United States, and others. Why does the government provide such a far-reaching program? “To fuel the national economy,” says the report. The education may be practically free, but the price that the students pay is a life engrossed in advancing the present system. Though such a way of life is highly sought-after in the world, is it what Christian parents want for their children?—John 15:19; 1 John 2:15-17.
11. What do reports show regarding alcohol abuse and sexual immorality among university students?
11 Then there is the environment. University and college campuses are notorious for bad behavior—drug and alcohol abuse, immorality, cheating, hazing, and the list goes on. Consider alcohol abuse. Reporting on binge drinking, that is, drinking for the sole purpose of getting drunk, New Scientist magazine says: “About 44 per cent of [university students in the United States] binge at least once in a typical two-week period.” The same problem is common among young people in Australia, Britain, Russia, and elsewhere. When it comes to sexual immorality, the talk among students today is about “hooking up,” which according to a Newsweek report “describes one-time sexual encounters—anything from kissing to intercourse—between acquaintances who’ve no plans to even talk afterward.” Studies show that from 60 to 80 percent of students engage in this kind of activity. “If you’re a normal college student,” says one researcher, “you do it.”—1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:9, 10.
12. What pressures are college students exposed to?
12 In addition to the bad environment, there is the pressure of schoolwork and examinations. Naturally, students need to study and do their homework to pass the exams. Some may also need to hold at least a part-time job while going to school. All of this takes a great deal of their time and energy. What, then, will be left for spiritual activities? When pressures mount, what will be let go? Will Kingdom interests still come first, or will they be put aside? (Matthew 6:33) The Bible urges Christians: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) How sad that some have fallen away from the faith as a result of succumbing to the demands on their time and energy or of getting entangled in unscriptural conduct at college!
13. What questions must Christian parents consider?
13 Of course, immorality, bad behavior, and pressures are by no means limited to the college or university campus. However, many worldly youths view all such things merely as part of the education, and they think nothing of it. Should Christian parents knowingly expose their children to that kind of environment for four or perhaps more years? (Proverbs 22:3; 2 Timothy 2:22) Is the risk involved worth whatever benefit the young ones may receive? And most important, what are the young ones learning about things that should come first in their life?a (Philippians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:21) Parents must give serious and prayerful consideration to these questions, as well as to the danger of sending their children away to school in another city or another country.
What Are the Alternatives?
14, 15. (a) In spite of popular opinion, what Bible counsel applies today? (b) What questions can young ones ask themselves?
14 Today, the popular opinion is that for young people to succeed, the only option is to get a university education. However, instead of following what is popular, Christians heed the Bible’s admonition: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) What is God’s will for his people, young and old, in this final stage of the time of the end? Paul urged Timothy: “Keep your senses in all things, suffer evil, do the work of an evangelizer, fully accomplish your ministry.” Those words are surely applicable to all of us today.—2 Timothy 4:5.
15 Rather than be caught up by the materialistic spirit of the world, all of us need to ‘keep our senses’—our spiritual bearings. If you are a young person, ask yourself: ‘Am I putting forth my best effort to “accomplish my ministry,” to make myself a qualified minister of God’s Word? What are my plans for pursuing my ministry “fully”? Have I considered taking up full-time service as a career?’ These are challenging questions, especially when you see other youths indulging in selfish pursuits, “seeking great things” that they think will lead to a bright future. (Jeremiah 45:5) Christian parents, therefore, wisely provide their children from infancy with the right kind of spiritual environment and training.—Proverbs 22:6; Ecclesiastes 12:1; 2 Timothy 3:14, 15.
16. How can Christian parents wisely provide the right kind of spiritual environment for their children?
16 “Mother watched our association very closely,” recalls the eldest of three boys in one family in which the mother has been a full-time minister over the years. “We did not associate with our schoolmates but only with those in the congregation who had good spiritual habits. She also regularly invited those in full-time service—missionaries, traveling overseers, Bethelites, and pioneers—to our home for association. Listening to their experiences and seeing their joy helped to implant in our hearts the desire for full-time service.” What a joy to see today all three sons in the full-time ministry—one serving at Bethel, one having attended the Ministerial Training School, and one pioneering!
17. What guidance can parents provide young ones in their choice of school subjects and vocation goals? (See box on page 29.)
17 Besides providing a strong spiritual environment, parents must also offer their children, as early as possible, proper guidance in their choice of school subjects and vocation goals. Another young man, now in Bethel service, says: “Both of my parents pioneered before and after they got married and did their best to pass on the pioneer spirit to the whole family. Whenever we were choosing subjects at school or making decisions that would affect our future, they always encouraged us to make a choice that would give us the best opportunity to find part-time work and pioneer.” Rather than choose academic subjects that are geared toward a university education, parents and children need to consider courses that are useful in pursuing a theocratic career.b
18. What job opportunities might young ones consider?
18 Studies show that in many countries, there is an acute need, not for university graduates, but for people to work in the trades and services. USA Today reports that “70% of the workers in the coming decades will not need a four-year college degree, but, rather, an associate degree from a community college or some type of technical certificate.” Many such institutions offer short courses in office skills, auto repair, computer repair, plumbing, hairdressing, and a host of other trades. Are these desirable jobs? Certainly! Perhaps they are not as glamorous as some might envision, but they do offer the means and the flexibility needed by those whose true vocation is service to Jehovah.—2 Thessalonians 3:8.
19. What is the surest way to a life of joy and contentment?
19 “You young men and also you virgins,” entreats the Bible, “let them praise the name of Jehovah, for his name alone is unreachably high. His dignity is above earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:12, 13) Compared with the positions and rewards that the world offers, a career in full-time service to Jehovah is without doubt the surest way to a life of joy and contentment. Take to heart the Bible’s assurance: “The blessing of Jehovah—that is what makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”—Proverbs 10:22.
a For accounts of those who valued theocratic education more than university education, see The Watchtower, May 1, 1982, pages 3-6; April 15, 1979, pages 5-10; Awake! June 8, 1978, page 15; and August 8, 1974, pages 3-7.
b See Awake! October 8, 1998, “In Search of a Secure Life,” pages 4-6, and May 8, 1989, “What Career Should I Choose?” pages 12-14.
Can You Explain?
• In what do Christians put their trust for a secure future?
• What challenges do Christian parents face regarding their children’s future?
• What must be considered when counting the cost of pursuing higher education?
• How can parents help their children to pursue a career in Jehovah’s service?
[Box on page 29]
What Is the Value of Higher Education?
Most people who enroll in a university look forward to earning a degree that will open doors for them to well-paying and secure jobs. Government reports show, however, that only about one quarter of those who go to college earn a degree within six years—a dismal success rate. Even so, does that degree translate into a good job? Note what current research and studies have to say.
“Going to Harvard or Duke [universities] won’t automatically produce a better job and higher pay. . . . Companies don’t know much about young employment candidates. A shiny credential (an Ivy League degree) may impress. But after that, what people can or can’t do counts for more.”—Newsweek, November 1, 1999.
“While today’s typical job requires higher skills than in the past . . . , the skills required for these jobs are strong high school-level skills—math, reading, and writing at a ninth-grade level . . . , not college-level skills. . . . Students do not need to go to college to get a good job, but they do need to master high school-level skills.”—American Educator, Spring 2004.
“Most colleges are seriously out of step with the real world in getting students ready to become workers in the postcollege world. Vocational schools . . . are seeing a mini-boom. Their enrollment grew 48% from 1996 to 2000. . . . Meanwhile, those expensive, time-sucking college diplomas have become worth less than ever.”—Time, January 24, 2005.
“Projections from the U.S. Department of Labor through 2005 paint the chilling scenario that at least one-third of all four-year college graduates will not find employment that matches their degrees.”—The Futurist, July/August 2000.
In view of all of this, more and more educators are seriously doubting the value of higher education today. “We are educating people for the wrong futures,” laments the Futurist report. In contrast, note what the Bible says about God: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk. O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”—Isaiah 48:17, 18.
[Picture on page 26]
They set aside personal pursuits and followed Jesus
[Picture on page 31]
Christian parents wisely provide their children from infancy with a strong spiritual environment