This is a very simple, and incredibly profound question to ask. Because although the answer we should give will have many of us giving a hearty “Amen” – as good as any Southern American preacher from the 60’s – it’s not the answer that most of us think of often enough. Here are 4 answers we are more likely to give – if we are being honest.
This is the most common (verbalised) reason for parenting. We parent for the sake of our kids. That is the ultimate goal. The non-Christian (and much of the Christian) parenting world holds their kids’ wellbeing as the top priority. “As long as my kids are happy, I’ve done my job”. Now this is indeed a noble goal. We ought to pursue this goal – in the long run. We have called this blog Parents For Eternal Life for the reason of helping us think about parenting for our kids’ good into eternity. However, if this is our ultimate goal, it will skew our parenting in the wrong direction. It will inevitably create a kid-centred family, rather than a Jesus-centred family. And while that might be good for their self-esteem inside the home, it won’t ultimately help them into eternity. It won’t even help them into high school. We must parent for the sake of someone else first.
Ourselves and our own fulfilment
Again, this is an incredibly common reason for becoming a parent. What a fulfilling task! And it is true. While I am convinced that Paul is correct in 1 Cor 7 that being single is better, there is something fulfilling about becoming a parent. There is something in this. And anyone who has been robbed of that reality for whatever reason will testify to that fact from the opposite perspective (if that’s you – find someone to grieve with!). However, the fulfilling nature of parenthood must be a by-product that comes from our ultimate parenting goal. For if this is our top priority, our parenting will be us-focussed. This means it will be lacklustre Christian parenting at best, and at worst, guilty of aiding and abetting our children’s eternal deaths. Not to mention that our kids can never fulfil our deepest needs. I can’t even get 1 perfect day! We must parent for the sake of someone else first.
Our family or friends
Now this one sounds a bit odd. Who parents their kids for the sake of their friends? Well, probably most of us to a degree. How often do we get our kids to perform for friends or family? How much do we want them to be well-behaved when others are around? Even just randoms at the supermarket! And then there is the pressure that we can feel from our parents – whether or not they are applying it! If you change the way you do things when others are around, it could be an indicator that you’re trying to impress some peeps with your mad parenting skillz. Or perhaps the reason you do everything you do is for the sake of others. Parenting for another audience is likely to be buried further down in our subconscious, but I imagine we all have it lurking down there somewhere. So it’s a worthwhile thing to ponder honestly. But we must parent for the sake of someone else first.
And then there is this doozy. How often do you do things in parenting just to keep your spouse off your back? Or because you don’t want to rock the boat? Or to prove yourself as a good parent? The best parent? We are a team, and we ought to be working together, and in that sense it’s helpful to do things for the sake of your husband/wife. But when this moves to the centre, again our parenting will be skewed. We will make decisions based on the personality and fears of our spouse, rather than the will of God. We must parent for the sake of someone else first.
Who ought we parent for then?
Well the answer we’re looking for is C) God. Lock it in Eddy. We ought to be parenting for God and his glory. Now this sounds obvious, even a touch cliche perhaps. And am I only saying this because I’ve been reading a John Piper book recently? Haha – no. I’m saying this because the glory of God is what should be driving everything we do. When God’s glory is the centre, it enables us to give everything else their proper attention. We will love our kids better if we’re seeking God’s glory, because our love won’t be tainted by mixed motivations. We will do what is best for them ahead of what is comfortable or self-seeking. And we will seek righteousness in the way we interact with our kids too. It will be far more fulfilling, as living for God’s glory is our ultimate purpose in life. It will free us from the slavish grip of other people’s gaze, by giving us an audience of one. It will enable us to honestly approach parenting together with our spouse for the same purpose, and increase the unity of approach.
Parenting for the glory of God is the only central endpoint that will keep everything in its right place. Otherwise things will start slipping. How do you go about this? Well start by asking this question in bed at night:
How did we go at parenting for God’s glory today?
We still live outside the garden, and will continually fall short of where we long to be in our parenting. So don’t use the question to incur (even more) guilt. Use it as a tool to keep your perspective in check and to keep pointing you in the right direction.