Our children's behaviour doesn't exist in a vacuum - it affects others. And a child's delinquency can sometimes be matched by the delinquency of their parents.
Take for example, Old Testament priest Eli. He had two delinquent sons who not only hurt a family, but caused untold damage to a community and nation.
In 1 Samuel 3:13 God speaks to Samuel about the parenting of Eli...
I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them.
The result of Eli's poor parenting was not just trouble in Eli's home, but the loss of a war in which 30,000 men died and who knows how many families grieved.
Eli knew about the sinful behaviour of his children and did nothing about it. And he is no model of godliness either. In fact Eli grew fat on ill-gotten gains from his children. Perhaps that is why he never restrained them. He enjoyed what his children could offer him, more than cherishing the protections of God for his family and society. I think some fathers standing on the sidelines of their sons' football games could learn from this as they try to live out their dreams vicariously through their children. But the thing to note is that unrestrained behaviour does not teach wisdom. Rather it allows for a growth in foolishness which at heart has no fear of God...
"Eli's sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the LORD." (1 Samuel 2:12)
As parents we must be active and vigilant in the correction and restraint of our children. No parent wants to hear what Eli heard about his children "it was the Lord's will to put them to death." (1 Samuel 2:25)
A message for young people
Children ought not kick out against mum and dad's discipline and restraint. If you are a young person reading this and struggle with your parents' discipline, spare a thought for mum and dad. They know the consequences of your actions could ruin you and others. They also have the maturity to know their accountability to God for the way they raise you. Parents have a tough job - their love for their children and community means they will often act in ways that children may hate them for.
But the truth is - every time a child wishes their parents were more like other parents, who lets their children do anything, that child has wished for a parent like Eli.
But Eli was a parent who allowed his children to self destruct and be condemned by God. He was a parent who allowed for untold hurt to be visited upon an entire community.
If you are a young person whose parents love you enough to do hard things - and you have kicked against them - then I would encourage you to repent before God and apologise to your parents and tell them you love them.
Honour God before your kids
Eli made one big mistake in parenting which you pick up in a question asked of him by God "Why do you honour your sons more than me..." 1 Samuel 2:29
Whenever a parent honours their children more than God, the potential for ruining their children is heightened. In fact whenever God is not first in any aspect of life, our lives will suffer. If this can happen in the family of a priest in Israel, one might wonder if the most concealed idolatry in the Christian church today could be the idolatry of our children. Heaven forbid that we have to learn that "it was the Lord's will to put them to death."
The Bible is very clear as it speaks to parents and children. The exhortation of God's word is to put God first in your life. Thankfully Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners … parents and children.
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