Our Children—A Precious Inheritance
“Look! Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah; the fruitage of the belly is a reward.”—PSALM 127:3.
1. How did the first human baby come to be born?
CONSIDER the miraculous events that Jehovah God made possible by the way he created the first man and woman. Both the father, Adam, and the mother, Eve, contributed a part of themselves that developed within Eve’s womb into a fully formed new person—the first human baby. (Genesis 4:1) Down till today, the conception and birth of a child fill us with wonder and are described by many as nothing short of a miracle.
2. Why would you say that what occurs inside the womb of a pregnant woman is a miracle?
2 Within some 270 days, the original cell that was created within the mother as a result of her union with the father grows into a baby made up of trillions of cells. That original cell has within it the instructions needed to produce more than 200 kinds of cells. Following those marvelous instructions, which are beyond human understanding, these cells of stunning complexity develop in just the right order and manner to form a new living person!
3. Why do many reasoning people agree that God must be responsible for the birth of a new living human?
3 Who, would you say, is the real maker of the baby? It is surely the One who created life in the first place. The Bible psalmist sang: “Know that Jehovah is God. It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalm 100:3) Parents, you well know that it is not because of any brilliance on your part that you have produced such a precious little bundle of life. Only a God of infinite wisdom could be responsible for the miraculous formation of a new living human. For thousands of years, reasoning people have credited the formation of a child inside its mother’s womb to the Grand Creator. Do you?—Psalm 139:13-16.
4. What human fault could never be ascribed to Jehovah?
4 Is Jehovah, though, an unfeeling Creator who simply instituted a biological process whereby men and women could produce offspring? Some humans are unfeeling, but Jehovah is never like that. (Psalm 78:38-40) The Bible says at Psalm 127:3: “Look! Sons [and daughters as well] are an inheritance from Jehovah; the fruitage of the belly is a reward.” Let us now consider what an inheritance is and what it gives evidence of.
An Inheritance and a Reward
5. Why are children an inheritance?
5 An inheritance is like a gift. Parents often work long and hard to leave their children an inheritance. It may consist of money, property, or perhaps some treasured possession. In any case, it is evidence of a parent’s love. The Bible says that God has given parents their children as an inheritance. They are a loving gift from him. If you are a parent, would you say that your actions show that you view your little ones as a gift that the Creator of the universe has entrusted to you?
6. What was God’s purpose for enabling humans to have children?
6 Jehovah’s purpose in granting this gift was to have the earth populated with the descendants of Adam and Eve. (Genesis 1:27, 28; Isaiah 45:18) Jehovah did not individually create every human, as he did the millions of angels. (Psalm 104:4; Revelation 4:11) Instead, God chose to create humans with the ability to produce children who would resemble their parents in identifiable ways. What a marvelous privilege it is for a mother and father to bring forth and care for such a new person! As parents, do you thank Jehovah for making it possible for you to enjoy this precious inheritance?
Learn From Jesus’ Example
7. In contrast with what some parents do, how did Jesus show interest in and compassion for “the sons of men”?
7 Sad to say, not all parents consider children a reward. Many show little compassion for their offspring. Such parents do not reflect the attitude of Jehovah or of his Son. (Psalm 27:10; Isaiah 49:15) In contrast, consider Jesus’ interest in young ones. Even before Jesus came to earth as a human—when he was a mighty spirit person in heaven—the Bible says that his “fulness of delight was with the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8:31, Rotherham) His love for humans was so great that he willingly gave his life as a ransom so that we might receive everlasting life.—Matthew 20:28; John 10:18.
8. How did Jesus set a good example for parents?
8 While on earth, Jesus set an especially fine example for parents. Consider what he did. He took time for children, even when he was very busy and under stress. He watched them at play in the marketplace and used aspects of their behavior in his teaching. (Matthew 11:16, 17) During his final trip to Jerusalem, Jesus knew that he would suffer and be killed. So when people brought little ones to see him, Jesus’ disciples, perhaps in an effort to protect Jesus from further stress, tried to turn the children away. But Jesus reprimanded his disciples. Showing his “fulness of delight” with little ones, he said: “Let the young children come to me; do not try to stop them.”—Mark 10:13, 14.
9. Why may what we do be even more important than what we say?
9 We can learn from Jesus’ example. When young ones come to us, how do we respond—even when we are busy? As Jesus did? What children need, especially from their parents, is what Jesus was willing to give them—his time and attention. True, such words as “I love you” are important. Yet, actions speak louder than words. Your love is manifest not only by what you say but even more so by what you do. It is shown by the time, attention, and care that you provide your little ones. Doing all of that, however, may not produce tangible results, at least not as quickly as you would hope. Patience is required. We can learn patience if we imitate the way Jesus dealt with his disciples.
Jesus’ Patience and Affection
10. How did Jesus teach his disciples a lesson on humility, and with what success at first?
10 Jesus was aware of the ongoing competition for prominence among his disciples. One day, after arriving in Capernaum with his disciples, he asked them: “‘What were you arguing over on the road?’ They kept silent, for on the road they had argued among themselves who is greater.” Instead of harshly reprimanding them, Jesus patiently provided an object lesson in an effort to teach them humility. (Mark 9:33-37) Did it produce the desired results? Not immediately. Some six months later, James and John put their mother up to requesting from Jesus prominent positions in the Kingdom. Again, Jesus patiently corrected their thinking.—Matthew 20:20-28.
11. (a) What customary task did Jesus’ apostles fail to perform after arriving in an upper room with Jesus? (b) What did Jesus do, and were his efforts successful at that time?
11 Soon the Passover of 33 C.E. arrived, and Jesus met privately with his apostles to celebrate it. On arriving in the upper room, not one of the 12 apostles took the initiative to perform the customary service of washing the dusty feet of the others—the menial task of a servant or of a woman in the household. (1 Samuel 25:41; 1 Timothy 5:10) How it must have grieved Jesus to see that his disciples continued to show evidence of aspiring to rank and position! So Jesus washed the feet of each one and then earnestly appealed to them to follow his example of serving others. (John 13:4-17) Did they? The Bible says that later that evening “there also arose a heated dispute among them over which one of them seemed to be greatest.”—Luke 22:24.
12. How might parents imitate Jesus in their efforts to train their children?
12 When your children fail to respond to your counsel, do you parents appreciate how Jesus must have felt? Note that Jesus did not give up on his apostles, though they were slow in correcting their shortcomings. His patience eventually bore fruit. (1 John 3:14, 18) Parents, you do well to imitate Jesus’ love and patience, never giving up in your efforts to train your children.
13. Why should a parent not gruffly dismiss a child’s inquiry?
13 Young ones need to sense that their parents love them and are interested in them. Jesus wanted to know what his disciples were thinking, so he listened when they had questions. He asked them what they thought about certain matters. (Matthew 17:25-27) Yes, good teaching includes attentive listening and genuine interest. A parent should resist any inclination to put off an inquiring child with a gruff: “Go away! Can’t you see that I am busy?” If a parent really is busy, the child should be told that the matter will be discussed later. Parents must then make sure that it is discussed. In this way the child will sense that the parent really is interested in him, and he will more readily confide in the parent.
14. What can parents learn from Jesus about showing affection to their children?
14 Can parents appropriately show their affection by putting their arms around their children and hugging them? Again, parents can learn from Jesus. The Bible says that he “took the children into his arms and began blessing them, laying his hands upon them.” (Mark 10:16) How do you think the young ones responded? Surely their hearts were warmed, and they were drawn to Jesus! If there is genuine affection and love between you parents and your young ones, they will respond more readily to your efforts to discipline and teach them.
The Question of How Much Time
15, 16. What has been a popular child-rearing concept, and what apparently prompted it?
15 Some have questioned whether children really need much of their parents’ time and loving attention. A child-rearing concept that has been skillfully promoted is called quality time. Advocates claim that children do not need a lot of their parents’ time as long as the limited time spent with them is meaningful, well-thought-out, and planned. Is the quality-time concept a good one, conceived with the welfare of young ones in mind?
16 One writer who had spoken with many children said that what they “wanted most from their parents was more time,” along with “undivided attention.” Significantly, one college professor observed: “The term [quality time] has grown out of parental guilt. People were giving themselves permission to spend less time with their children.” How much time should parents spend with their children?
17. What do children need from their parents?
17 The Bible does not say. However, Israelite parents were urged to speak with their children when they were in their house, when they walked on the road, when they lay down, and when they got up. (Deuteronomy 6:7) This clearly means that parents need to interact with children and to teach them constantly each day.
18. How did Jesus take advantage of opportunities to train his disciples, and what can parents learn from this?
18 Jesus successfully trained his disciples as he ate with them, traveled with them, and even relaxed with them. He thus took advantage of every opportunity to teach them. (Mark 6:31, 32; Luke 8:1; 22:14) Similarly, Christian parents should be alert to use every opportunity to establish and maintain good communication with their children and to train them in Jehovah’s ways.
What to Teach and How to Do It
19. (a) What is needed besides spending time with children? (b) What do parents primarily need to teach young ones?
19 Simply spending time with children and even teaching them is not all there is to rearing them successfully. Vital, too, is what is taught. Notice how the Bible emphasizes what this should be. “These words that I am commanding you today,” it says, “you must inculcate . . . in your son.” What are “these words” that children need to be taught? Evidently, they are the words that had just been mentioned, namely: “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7) Jesus said that this is the most important of all God’s commandments. (Mark 12:28-30) Parents primarily need to teach young ones about Jehovah, explaining why he alone is worthy of our whole-souled love and devotion.
20. What were parents of old commanded by God to teach their children?
20 However, “these words” that parents are urged to teach their children include more than simply to love God with one’s whole self. You will notice that in the preceding chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses restates the laws that God wrote on tablets of stone—the Ten Commandments. These laws include commands not to lie, not to steal, not to murder, and not to commit adultery. (Deuteronomy 5:11-22) So the need to impart moral values to their children was impressed upon parents of old. Christian parents today need to provide their children with similar instruction if they are to help them to have a secure, happy future.
21. What was meant by the instruction to “inculcate” God’s word in young ones?
21 Note that parents are told how they are to teach “these words,” or commandments, to their young ones: “You must inculcate them in your son.” The word “inculcate” means “to teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions: urge on or fix in the mind.” So God is, in effect, telling parents to institute a planned program of Bible instruction that has the express purpose of impressing spiritual matters on the minds of their children.
22. What were Israelite parents told to do to instruct their children, and what did that mean?
22 Such a planned program takes parental initiative. The Bible says: “You must tie them [“these words,” or commandments of God] as a sign upon your hand, and they must serve as a frontlet band between your eyes; and you must write them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:8, 9) This does not mean that parents should literally write God’s laws on doorposts and gates, tie a copy of them on the hands of their children, and place one between their eyes. Rather, the point is that parents should constantly keep the teachings of God before their children. Teaching their children should be done in such a regular, constant way that it is as though God’s teachings are right there before the children all the time.
23. What will be considered in next week’s lesson?
23 What are some especially important things that parents need to teach their children? Why is it vital today that children be both taught and trained to protect themselves? What assistance is now available to parents to help them teach their children effectively? These and other questions that concern many parents will be considered in the following article.
Parents, Protect Your Precious Inheritance
“Wisdom is for a protection . . . [It] preserves alive its owners.”—ECCLESIASTES 7:12.
1. Why should parents view their children as gifts?
PARENTS bring into the world a new living person who has physical characteristics and personality traits similar to their own. The Bible calls such little ones “an inheritance from Jehovah.” (Psalm 127:3) Since he is the true Life-Giver, Jehovah is really entrusting parents with what ultimately belongs to him. (Psalm 36:9) Parents, how do you view receiving such a precious gift from God?
2. What was Manoah’s response upon learning that he was to become a father?
2 Surely such a gift should be received with humility and appreciation. Over 3,000 years ago, the Israelite Manoah responded in this way when his wife was informed by an angel that she was to bear a child. Upon hearing the good news, Manoah prayed: “Excuse me, Jehovah. The man of the true God that you just sent, let him, please, come again to us and instruct us as to what we ought to do to the child that will be born.” (Judges 13:8) Parents, what can you learn from Manoah’s example?
Why Divine Help Is Needed Now
3. Why is God’s help in rearing children especially needed today?
3 Now more than ever before, parents need Jehovah’s help in rearing their children. The reason? Satan the Devil and his angels have been hurled from heaven down to earth. “Woe for the earth,” the Bible warns, “because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:7-9, 12) “Like a roaring lion,” the Bible explains, Satan is “seeking to devour someone.” (1 Peter 5:8) Lions usually prey on the most vulnerable, often the young. Wisely, then, Christian parents look to Jehovah for direction to protect their children. How much effort are you making to do so?
4. (a) Knowing that a lion is roaming in the neighborhood should prompt what reaction from parents? (b) What do children need for protection?
4 If you knew that a lion was loose in the neighborhood, protecting your children would surely be a primary concern. Satan is a predator. He seeks to corrupt God’s people, thus making them unworthy of God’s approval. (Job 2:1-7; 1 John 5:19) Children are an easy target. To escape the snares of the Devil, children must come to know and obey Jehovah. Bible knowledge is essential. “This means everlasting life,” Jesus said, “their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Furthermore, young ones need wisdom—the ability to understand and to apply what they learn. Since “wisdom itself preserves alive its owners,” you parents need to instill the truth in the hearts of your children. (Ecclesiastes 7:12) How might you do this?
5. (a) How can wisdom be imparted? (b) How does Proverbs describe the value of wisdom?
5 You can—and should—read to your children from God’s Word. But helping them to love and obey Jehovah requires more than that—it requires understanding on their part. To illustrate: A child may be told not to cross the street before looking both ways. Yet, some children do not obey. Why not? The consequences of being hit by a car may not have been explained often enough or in a manner that impresses the danger upon the child, overcoming the “foolishness” that could lead to an accident. Imparting wisdom takes time, as well as much patience. But how valuable wisdom is! “Its ways are ways of pleasantness,” the Bible says, “and all its roadways are peace. It is a tree of life to those taking hold of it, and those keeping fast hold of it are to be called happy.”—Proverbs 3:13-18; 22:15.
Teaching That Imparts Wisdom
6. (a) Why do children often act unwisely? (b) What battle is going on?
6 Often young ones act improperly, not because they have not been taught what is right, but because the teaching has not reached their heart—their inner self. The Devil is waging a battle for the heart of young ones. He schemes to see that they are exposed to ungodly influences of his world. He also tries to exploit their inherited sinful inclination to do bad things. (Genesis 8:21; Psalm 51:5) Parents need to recognize that a real war is being waged for the heart of their children.
7. Why is telling a child what is right or wrong not sufficient?
7 Parents usually tell a child what is right or wrong, believing that they have taught him a certain moral principle. They may say to the child that it is wrong to lie, to steal, or to have sexual relations with anyone to whom one is not married. However, the child needs to have a stronger motivation for obeying than simply because his parents say so. These are Jehovah’s laws. The child should learn that the course of wisdom is to obey God’s commandments.—Proverbs 6:16-19; Hebrews 13:4.
8. What kind of teaching can help children act wisely?
8 The complexity of the universe, the diversity of living things, the change of the seasons—all such things can help a young child appreciate the existence of an all-wise Creator. (Romans 1:20; Hebrews 3:4) Further, the child should be taught that God loves him and has made provision through the sacrifice of His Son to give him eternal life and that he can make God happy by obeying what He says. Then likely the child will come to want to serve Jehovah, despite attempts of the Devil to stop him.—Proverbs 22:6; 27:11; John 3:16.
9. (a) What does lifesaving teaching require? (b) What are fathers instructed to do, and what does this involve?
9 The kind of teaching that protects a child and motivates him to do what is right takes time, attention, and planning. It requires that parents accept direction from God. The Bible says: “You, fathers, . . . go on bringing [your children] up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) What does that mean? “Mental-regulating,” in the original Greek, conveys the idea of “putting mind in.” So fathers are, in effect, urged to put the mind of Jehovah in their children. What a protection that will be for the young ones! If children have God’s thoughts, his way of thinking, inculcated in their mind, they are safeguarded against wrongdoing.
Desire Motivated by Love
10. To instruct your child effectively, what is it important for you to know?
10 In order for you to fulfill your desire to bring your child up properly, however, your efforts need to be prompted by love. An important factor is good communication. Find out what is happening in your youngster’s life and what his or her views are. In a comfortable setting, tactfully draw out your child. At times, you may be shocked by what he says. Be very careful not to overreact. Rather, listen with sympathetic concern.
11. How can a parent put God’s mind in a child?
11 True, you may have read to your child from the Bible about God’s laws prohibiting sexual immorality, even doing so a number of times. (1 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 5:5) This may have impressed upon your young ones what is pleasing and not pleasing to Jehovah. However, putting his mind in a child requires more. Children need help to reason on the value of Jehovah’s laws. They need to be convinced that his laws are right and good and that obeying them is the proper and loving thing to do. Only if you reason with your children from the Scriptures so that they accept God’s viewpoint can it be said that you have put his mind in them.
12. How can a parent help his child to get the proper view of sexual relations?
12 When talking about sex, you might ask, “Do you think that obeying Jehovah’s law not to have sexual relations before marriage will rob a person of happiness?” Encourage your child to explain his answer. After reviewing God’s marvelous provision for producing a child, you might ask: “Do you think our loving God would make laws to rob us of enjoyment of life? Or do you think his laws are there to make us happy and to protect us?” (Psalm 119:1, 2; Isaiah 48:17) Get your child’s thinking on this matter. Then you might draw attention to examples of how sexual immorality has led to heartache and trouble. (2 Samuel 13:1-33) By reasoning with your child so that he understands and accepts God’s view, you will have gone a long way toward putting God’s mind in him. However, there is something else you can do.
13. Understanding what can especially motivate a child to obey Jehovah?
13 Wisely, you will not only teach your child the consequences of disobeying Jehovah but also explain how Jehovah is personally affected by the way we live. Show your child from the Bible that we can cause Jehovah pain when we fail to do his will. (Psalm 78:41) You might ask, “Why do you not want to hurt Jehovah?” and explain: “God’s enemy Satan claims that we serve Jehovah for selfish reasons and not because we love him.” Then explain that by keeping integrity, Job made God’s heart rejoice, thus providing an answer to Satan’s lying charge. (Job 1:9-11; 27:5) Your child needs to understand that depending on how he behaves, he can make Jehovah either sad or happy. (Proverbs 27:11) This and many other vital lessons can be taught to children by using the book Learn From the Great Teacher.*
14, 15. (a) Which lessons in the Teacher book have motivated children? (b) What good results have you had from using the book? (See also box on pages 18-19.)
14 A grandfather in Croatia who reads the Teacher book with his seven-year-old grandson writes that the boy told him the following: “Mum said to do something, but I didn’t want to do it. Then I remembered the chapter ‘Obedience Protects You,’ so I went back and told her I would be obedient to her.” Regarding the chapter “Why We Should Not Lie,” a couple in Florida, U.S.A., said: “It provides questions that invite children to open their hearts and admit errors they would otherwise not admit.”
15 The Teacher book has more than 230 pictures, and there is a caption, or description, for each picture or group of pictures. “Often my son will fix his eyes on a picture and not want the page turned,” noted one appreciative mother. “Not only are the pictures appealing but they teach lessons on their own, or at least cause children to ask questions. Regarding a picture in which a child is watching television in a darkened room, my son asked, ‘Mommy, what is that boy doing?’ in a tone that indicated that he knew that something was wrong.” The caption to the picture reads: “Who can see everything we do?”
Vital Education for Today
16. What is it vital that children be taught today, and why?
16 Children need to know the proper and the improper use of their private body parts. Yet, talking about this is not always easy. A newspaper columnist observed that she grew up in an era in which using words that refer to the sexual organs was considered rude. Concerning the teaching of her children, she wrote: “I’m going to have to get over my embarrassment.” Truly, when out of embarrassment parents avoid the subject of sex, it does not protect a child. Sexual molesters exploit a child’s ignorance. Learn From the Great Teacher addresses the subject in a wholesome, dignified manner. Informing children about sex does not take away their innocence, whereas failing to do so can lead to their being robbed of it.
17. How does the Teacher book help parents to teach their children about sex?
17 In chapter 10, when discussing the wicked angels who came to earth and fathered children, the child is asked, “What do you know about sex relations?” The book gives a simple, dignified answer. Later, chapter 32 explains how children can be protected from sexual predators. Many letters have reported that such teaching is vital. One observed: “Last week when my son Javan saw his pediatrician, she asked if we had discussed with him the proper use of private parts of the body. She was very impressed that we had done this using our new book.”
18. How does the Teacher book discuss paying homage to national emblems?
18 Another chapter deals with the Bible account of the three Hebrew youths Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to bow to an image representing the Babylonian State. (Daniel 3:1-30) Some may not relate paying homage to an image to saluting the flag, as the Teacher book does. However, note what author Edward Gaffney had to say in an interview by U.S. Catholic. He mentioned that when his daughter told him after her first day at public school that she had learned a “new prayer at school,” he asked her to repeat it to him. “She put her hand on her heart,” said Gaffney, “and proudly began, ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag . . .’” He continued: “All of a sudden, it kicked in. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were right. There is an aspect of national spirituality that’s being shaped in our schools at a very early stage—an unquestioning transcendent loyalty.”
Worth All the Effort
19. What rewards are there for teaching children?
19 Really, teaching your children is worth all your effort. A mother in Kansas, U.S.A., was moved to tears upon receiving a letter from her son. He wrote: “I feel very fortunate to have had an upbringing that left me relatively emotionally stable and whole. You and Daddy certainly deserve commendation.” (Proverbs 31:28) Learn From the Great Teacher can help many more parents to teach children so as to protect this precious heritage.
20. What should parents always remember, and what effect should that have on them?
20 Our children deserve all the time, attention, and effort we can give them. They are young for such a short time. Take advantage of every opportunity to be with them and to help them. You will never regret it. They will come to love you. Always remember, your children are God’s gift to you. What a precious inheritance they are! (Psalm 127:3-5) So treat them as such, as though you are answerable to God for how you rear them because the fact is, you are.
Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. See chapter 40, “How to Make God Happy.”