“No one can slave for two masters . . . You cannot slave for God and for Riches.”—MATT. 6:24.
1-3. (a) What financial problems do many face today, and how do some attempt to solve them? (See opening image.) (b) What concerns arise in regard to child rearing?
“JAMES, my husband, returned home from work exhausted every day, but his income covered little more than our daily needs,” explains Marilyn.* “I wanted to lighten his load and to help buy our son, Jimmy, some of the nice things his schoolmates enjoyed.” Marilyn also wanted to help their extended family and to save up for the future. Many of her friends had moved to other countries in order to earn more money. But when she personally contemplated such a move, she had mixed emotions. Why?
2 Marilyn dreaded leaving her precious family and their stable spiritual routine. Still, she reasoned, others had gone abroad for a time, and their families seemed to survive spiritually. But she wondered how she could raise Jimmy from a distance. Could she successfully help bring up her son “in the discipline and admonition of Jehovah” over the Internet?—Eph. 6:4.
3 Marilyn sought guidance. Her husband did not want her to leave, although he said that he would not try to stop her. Elders and some others in the congregation advised her not to move away, but several sisters urged her to go abroad. “If you love your family, you’ll go,” they told her. “You can still serve Jehovah.” Despite her misgivings, Marilyn kissed James and Jimmy good-bye and left for a job overseas. “I won’t be gone for long,” she promised.
FAMILY OBLIGATIONS AND BIBLE PRINCIPLES
4. Why do many emigrate, but who often end up caring for the children of such ones?
4 Jehovah does not want his servants to live in abject poverty, and migration is one of the oldest remedies for poverty. (Ps. 37:25; Prov. 30:8) To avoid starvation, the patriarch Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy food.* (Gen. 42:1, 2) Today, most who choose to emigrate do not leave their homes because they are starving. They may, however, be laboring under crushing debt. Others simply desire to raise their family’s standard of living. To reach their goals in a weakening economy, many end up living apart from their immediate family, either inside or outside of their own country. Often, they leave their minor children in the care of one parent, an older sibling, grandparents, other relatives, or friends. Though it grieves emigrants to leave behind a mate or children, many who go abroad feel that they have no choice.
5, 6. (a) What did Jesus teach about happiness and security? (b) For what material things did Jesus teach his followers to pray? (c) In what way does Jehovah bless us?
5 In Jesus’ day, many people were likewise poor and disadvantaged, and they may have felt that they would be happier and more secure if only they had more money. (Mark 14:7) But Jesus wanted people to place their hope elsewhere. He wanted them to rely on the Source of lasting riches—Jehovah. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he explained that real happiness and security do not depend on material things, nor on our own efforts, but on our friendship with our heavenly Father.
6 In his model prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, not for financial security, but for our daily needs, “our bread for this day.” He pointedly told his listeners: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures on the earth . . . Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matt. 6:9, 11, 19, 20) We can trust that Jehovah will bless us as he promises. God’s blessing is not merely a nod of approval; it is his active share in providing what we really need. Indeed, the only way to attain true happiness and security is to trust in our caring Father rather than in money.—Read Matthew 6:24, 25, 31-34.
7. (a) To whom has Jehovah assigned the responsibility of raising children? (b) Why do both parents need to be actively involved with their children?
7 ‘Seeking first God’s righteousness’ includes viewing family obligations as Jehovah does. The Law of Moses contains this principle that applies to Christians: Parents need to give their own children spiritual training. (Read Deuteronomy 6:6, 7.) God has assigned this responsibility to the parents, not to grandparents or to anyone else. King Solomon stated: “Listen, my son, to the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the instruction of your mother.” (Prov. 1:8) Jehovah intended that both parents be physically present to share in guiding and teaching their children. (Prov. 31:10, 27, 28) Much of what children learn from their parents, especially in spiritual matters, comes from hearing them converse about Jehovah on a daily basis and from observing their example firsthand.
8, 9. (a) What changes often occur when a parent lives apart from the family? (b) What emotional and moral damage can separation cause?
8 Before going abroad, emigrants try to weigh the risks and sacrifices involved, but few foresee all the consequences of leaving their family behind. (Prov. 22:3)* As soon as Marilyn left, she began to suffer the gnawing pain of separation from her family. So did her husband and son. Young Jimmy kept asking her, “Why did you leave me?” And as the months that Marilyn had planned to be away turned into years, she noticed disturbing changes in her family. Jimmy was becoming withdrawn and was growing emotionally distant from her. With sadness, she recalls, “His love for me went away.”
9 When parents and children do not live together as a family, they can suffer emotional and moral damage.* The younger the children and the longer the separation, the deeper the harm. Marilyn explained to Jimmy that she was sacrificing for his benefit. But to Jimmy, it felt as if his mother had abandoned him. In the beginning, he resented her absence. But later, when she returned for visits, he resented her presence. As is common among left-behind children, Jimmy felt that she had forfeited her right to his obedience and affection.—Read Proverbs 29:15.
10. (a) How can substituting material gifts for a parent’s presence affect children? (b) What is lacking when a parent tries to raise his or her children from a distance?
10 Although Marilyn tried to compensate for her absence by sending money and gifts, she saw that she was alienating her son and unintentionally training him to put material things ahead of spiritual interests and family relationships. (Prov. 22:6) “Don’t come back,” Jimmy would tell her. “Just keep sending presents.” Marilyn began to realize that she could not raise her son by “teleparenting” through letters, telephone calls, or video chats. She explains, “You cannot hug your child or kiss him good-night over the Internet.”
11. (a) How does a couple’s living apart for secular work affect their marriage? (b) How did one sister come to realize that she should rejoin her family?
11 Marilyn’s relationship with Jehovah and with her husband, James, were suffering too. Her Christian association and ministry were limited to one day a week or less, and she had to fend off her employer’s sexual advances. With no mate nearby to lean on when facing problems, both Marilyn and James became emotionally involved with others and nearly gave in to sexual immorality. Marilyn came to see that even though she and her husband did not commit adultery, while living apart they could not follow the Bible’s direction to fill each other’s emotional and sexual needs. They could not share a spontaneous thought, glance, or smile, the gentle touch of a hand, a warm embrace, intimate “expressions of affection,” or the marital “due.” (Song of Sol. 1:2; 1 Cor. 7:3, 5) And they could not fully worship Jehovah together with their son. “When I learned at a convention that regular family worship is vital for us to survive Jehovah’s great day, I understood that I needed to go home,” Marilyn recalls. “I had to start rebuilding my spiritual and family life.”
GOOD ADVICE—BAD ADVICE
12. What Scriptural advice can be given to those who are living apart from their family?
12 Marilyn’s decision to return home met with mixed reactions. The elders in her overseas congregation commended her for her faith and courage. But some others who were also living away from their mate and family did not. Rather than following her good example, they tried to dissuade her. “You’ll be back here in a short time,” they said. “How will you make ends meet if you go back home?” Instead of making such discouraging comments, fellow Christians should “advise the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be . . . working at home,” their own home, “so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.”—Read Titus 2:3-5.
13, 14. Why does it take faith to put Jehovah ahead of family expectations? Illustrate.
13 Many emigrants have grown up in cultures that place tradition and duty to family, especially to parents, above all else. For a Christian to go against popular practice or the wishes of family in order to please Jehovah is truly an act of faith.
14 Consider Carin’s story: “When my son Don was born, my husband and I were working abroad, and I had recently begun to study the Bible. Everyone in my family expected me to send Don back home to be raised by my parents until we were financially stable.” When Carin insisted on raising Don herself, her relatives, including her husband, called her lazy and laughed at her. “Frankly, at the time, I could not fully understand what was wrong with leaving Don with my parents for a few years,” Carin says. “But I knew that Jehovah gave the job of raising our son to us—his parents.” When Carin became pregnant again, her unbelieving husband demanded that she have an abortion. Carin’s earlier good decision had strengthened her faith, and again she stood firm for Jehovah. Now she, her husband, and their children are happy that they all stayed together. If Carin had sent away one or both of her children to be raised by others, the outcome could have been very different.
15, 16. (a) Describe one sister’s experience as a child left behind. (b) Why did she decide to follow a different course with her own daughter?
15 A Witness named Vicky relates: “For a few years, I was raised by my grandmother, while my parents kept my younger sister with them. By the time I rejoined my parents, my feelings for them had changed. My sister felt free to express herself to them, to hug them, and to enjoy a close relationship with them. I felt distant from my parents, and even into adulthood, I found it hard to show them my true feelings. My sister and I have assured our parents that we will take care of them in their old age. But I will do so more out of duty, while my sister will care for them more out of love.
16 “Now my mother wants me to send my daughter to her for her to raise, just as she sent me back to her mother. I tactfully refused,” Vicky says. “My husband and I want to raise our own child in Jehovah’s ways. And I do not want to damage my future relationship with my daughter.” Vicky has seen that the only successful course is to put Jehovah and his principles ahead of financial goals and family expectations. Jesus plainly said: “No one can slave for two masters,” for God and for Riches.—Matt. 6:24; Ex. 23:2.
JEHOVAH MAKES OUR EFFORTS “SUCCESSFUL”
17, 18. (a) In what do Christians always have a choice? (b) What questions will we consider in the next article?
17 Our Father, Jehovah, has committed himself to helping us obtain the things we really need if we put the Kingdom and his righteousness first in our lives. (Matt. 6:33) Thus, true Christians always have a choice. Jehovah promises to provide a “way out” that does not require compromising Bible principles, no matter what challenges we face. (Read 1 Corinthians 10:13.) When we “wait expectantly” for Jehovah, when we “rely on him” by praying for his wisdom and direction and by following his commands and principles, then “he will act in [our] behalf.” (Ps. 37:5, 7) He will actively bless our sincere efforts to serve only him as the one true Master. If we put him first, he will make our lives “successful.”—Compare Genesis 39:3.
18 What can be done to help repair the damage caused by separation? What practical steps can we take in order to provide for our families without living apart from them? And how can we lovingly encourage others to make right decisions in this regard? The following article will consider these questions.
Names have been changed.
On each of their trips to Egypt, Jacob’s sons may have spent no more than three weeks away from their families. When Jacob and his sons later moved to Egypt, they brought their wives and children with them.—Gen. 46:6, 7.
See “Immigration—Dreams and Realities” in the February 2013 issue of Awake!
Reports from various countries indicate that living apart from a mate or children in order to work abroad is a factor that for some has contributed to serious problems. These include infidelity on the part of one or both mates, homosexuality, or incest, and among children, increased behavioral and academic problems, aggression, anxiety, depression, or suicidal tendencies.