“Children are an inheritance from Jehovah.”—PS. 127:3, ftn.
SONG 134 Children Are a Trust From God
1. Jehovah entrusts parents with what?
JEHOVAH created the first couple with the desire to have children. The Bible rightly says: “Children are an inheritance from Jehovah.” (Ps. 127:3, ftn.) What does that mean? Imagine that a close friend asks you to look after a large amount of money for him. How would you feel? Likely, you would be honored that he trusts you. But you might worry about how you will keep the fortune safe. Jehovah, our closest Friend, gives parents something to look after that is far more valuable than money. He entrusts them with the welfare and happiness of their children.
2. What questions will we discuss?
2 Who should decide if and when a married couple will have children? And what can parents do to help their children have a happy life? Consider just some of the principles found in God’s Word that can help Christian couples to make wise decisions.
RESPECT A COUPLE’S DECISION
3. (a) Who should decide if a couple will have children? (b) What Bible principle should a couple’s friends and family keep in mind?
3 In some cultures, newly married couples are expected to start having children as soon as possible. They may even feel pressure from their family and others to follow that custom. Jethro, a brother in Asia, says, “In the congregation, some who have children pressure the childless couples to start a family.” Jeffrey, another brother in Asia, observes, “Some tell childless couples that they will have no one to take care of them when they grow old.” However, each couple should decide for themselves whether to have children. That is for them to decide; it is their responsibility. (Gal. 6:5, ftn.) Understandably, friends and family want a newly married couple to be happy. But all need to remember that the decision whether to have children or not belongs to the couple.—1 Thess. 4:11.
4-5. What two subjects do couples need to discuss, and when is it best to have such a discussion? Explain.
4 A couple who decide to have children do well to discuss two important questions: First, when do they want to have children? Second, how many children do they want? When is the best time for a couple to have such a discussion? And why are those two subjects so important?
5 In most cases, before they get married, a couple do well to address the subject of having children. Why then? One good reason is that being of the same mind on this matter is important. Also, they will need to consider whether they are ready for that responsibility. Some couples have decided to wait at least a year or two after their wedding before having children because becoming parents will consume much time and energy. They reason that by waiting for a while, they will give themselves time to adjust to married life and draw closer to each other.—Eph. 5:33.
6. How have the times in which we live affected some couples?
6 Other Christians have chosen to consider the pattern set by Noah’s three sons and their wives. Those three couples did not have children immediately. (Gen. 6:18; 9:18, 19; 10:1; 2 Pet. 2:5) Jesus likened our time to “the days of Noah,” and there is no doubt that we are living in “critical times hard to deal with.” (Matt. 24:37; 2 Tim. 3:1) With that reality in mind, some couples have concluded that they would like to postpone having children so that they can devote more time to sharing in the Christian ministry.
7 When deciding whether to have children and how many children to have, wise couples “calculate the expense.” (Read Luke 14:28, 29.) Experienced parents confirm that raising children not only costs money but also costs time and energy. Thus, it is important for a couple to consider such questions as: ‘Would both of us have to work to supply the family’s basic needs? Do we agree on what our “basic needs” are? If we both would have to work, who would look after our children? Who would influence their thinking and actions?’ Couples who calmly discuss those questions take to heart the words of Proverbs 21:5.—Read.
8. What challenges do Christian mates need to anticipate, and what will a loving husband do?
8 A child requires and deserves considerable time and energy from each parent. So if a couple have a number of children who are close in age, the parents may find it challenging to give each child the needed attention. Some couples who had a number of young children confessed that they felt overwhelmed. A mother may struggle with feeling drained physically and emotionally. Could that have an impact on her being able to study, pray, and share in the ministry regularly? A related challenge is being able to pay attention during Christian meetings and to benefit from them. Of course, a loving husband will do what he can to support his wife when their children need attention, both at meetings and at home. For example, he could help his wife with household chores. He will work hard to ensure that all benefit from a regular Family Worship program. And Christian fathers will regularly accompany the family in field service.
TEACHING CHILDREN TO LOVE JEHOVAH
9-10. What is vital for parents who want to help their children?
9 What are some things that parents can do to help their children learn to love Jehovah? How can they protect their children from moral dangers? Consider some steps that parents can take.
10 Pray for Jehovah’s help. Note the example set by Manoah and his wife, who became the parents of Samson. When Manoah found out that he and his wife were going to have a son, he pleaded with Jehovah for guidance on how to raise their child.
11. How can parents imitate Manoah’s example, as related at Judges 13:8?
11 Nihad and Alma, from Bosnia and Herzegovina, learned from Manoah’s example. They explain: “Like Manoah, we pleaded with Jehovah to instruct us how to be good parents. And Jehovah answered our prayers in various ways—through the Scriptures, Bible literature, congregation meetings, and conventions.”—Read Judges 13:8.
12. What example did Joseph and Mary set for their children?
12 Teach by example. What you say is important; however, what you do will likely have a bigger impact on your child. We can be sure that Joseph and Mary set an excellent example for their children, including Jesus. Joseph worked hard to support his family. In addition, Joseph encouraged his household to appreciate spiritual things. (Deut. 4:9, 10) Though Joseph was not required by the Law to take his family with him to Jerusalem “from year to year” to celebrate the Passover, he did. (Luke 2:41, 42) Some fathers in his day may have viewed such a family trip as inconvenient, time-consuming, and expensive. Yet, Joseph obviously appreciated spiritual things and taught his children to do the same. Also, Mary knew the Scriptures well. By her words and actions, she no doubt taught her children to love God’s Word.
13. How did one couple follow the example of Joseph and Mary?
13 Nihad and Alma, mentioned earlier, wanted to follow the example set by Joseph and Mary. How did that help them to raise their son to love and serve God? They say, “By our way of life, we tried to show our son how good it is to live according to Jehovah’s principles.” Nihad adds, “Be the kind of person you want your child to be.”
14. Why do parents need to know whom their children associate with?
14 Help your children to choose good associates. Both mother and father need to know whom their children are associating with and what they are doing. That includes the parents’ knowing whom their children are communicating with through social media and on their mobile phone. Those associates can impact how the children think and act.—1 Cor. 15:33.
15. What can parents learn from the example of Jessie?
15 What can parents do if they are unfamiliar with computers or mobile devices? Jessie, a father in the Philippines, says: “We knew little about technology. But that did not stop us from making our children aware of the possible dangers of electronic devices.” Jessie did not ban his children from using such devices just because he was unfamiliar with them. He explains: “I encouraged my children to use their electronic devices to learn a new language, to study for the meetings, and to read the Bible daily.” If you are parents, have you read and discussed with your children the balanced advice about texting and online photo sharing that you can find on the “Teenagers” section of jw.org®? Have you reviewed with them the videos Who’s in Control—You or Your Devices? and Be Social-Network Smart?* That material can be valuable as you teach your children how to use electronic devices wisely.—Prov. 13:20.
16. What have many parents done, and with what result?
16 Many parents exert themselves to arrange opportunities for their children to associate with those who set a good example in serving God. For instance, N’Déni and Bomine, a couple in Côte d’Ivoire, often invited the circuit overseer to stay in their home. N’Déni relates: “This had a very good effect on our son. He began pioneering and now serves as a substitute circuit overseer.” Can you arrange similar association for your children?
17-18. When should parents begin training children?
17 Start training children as early as possible. The earlier parents begin training their children, the better. (Prov. 22:6) Consider Timothy, who in time traveled with the apostle Paul. Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and his grandmother Lois trained him “from infancy.”—2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15.
18 Another couple in Côte d’Ivoire, Jean-Claude and Peace, were able to raise all six of their children to love and serve Jehovah. What helped them to be successful? They followed the example of Eunice and Lois. They say, “We inculcated God’s Word in our children from infancy, starting shortly after they were born.”—Deut. 6:6, 7.
19. What is involved in inculcating God’s Word in your children?
19 What does it mean to “inculcate” Jehovah’s Word in your children? “To inculcate” means “to teach and impress by frequent repetitions.” To do so, parents need to spend time regularly with their young ones. It could at times seem frustrating to have to repeat instructions to the children. However, parents can strive to see this as a way to help their children understand God’s Word and apply it.
20. Explain how Psalm 127:4 can be applied to raising children.
20 Be discerning. Psalm 127 compares children to arrows. (Read Psalm 127:4.) Just as arrows can be made from different materials and can vary in size, no two children are precisely alike. So parents need to determine how to train each of their children. A couple in modern-day Israel who successfully raised two children to serve Jehovah tell what they found to be helpful, “We conducted a Bible study with each child separately.” Of course, each family head will decide whether studying in that way is necessary or possible.
JEHOVAH WILL HELP YOU
21. What help can parents expect from Jehovah?
21 Parents may at times feel overwhelmed by the challenges they face, but children are a gift from Jehovah. He is always available to help. He willingly listens to the prayers of parents. And he answers those prayers by means of the Bible, our publications, and the example and advice of other mature parents in the congregation.
22. What are among the best things parents can provide?
22 It has been said that raising children is a 20-year project, but parents never really stop being parents. Among the very best things they can give their children are love, time, and Bible-based training. Each child will respond differently to the training. However, many of them who have been raised by parents who love Jehovah feel as does Joanna Mae, a sister in Asia: “Looking back on the training I received from my parents, I am so thankful that they disciplined me and taught me to love Jehovah. They did not just give me life, they gave me a meaningful life.” (Prov. 23:24, 25) Millions of Christians could express similar sentiments.
SONG 59 Praise Jah With Me
Should a married couple have children? If they do, how many children should they have? And how can they train their children to love and serve Jehovah? This article presents modern-day examples and points to Bible principles that can help us answer those questions.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A Christian couple discuss whether they will have children, evaluating both the joys and the obligations.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A couple study separately with their children because of the children’s ages and abilities.