Stewardship: The managing of resources that belong to someone else over which another is entrusted. Time, money, technology, jobs, etc…we’ve been studying that these are given to us by God and we are to make the best use of these resources. Children are no different. Children are also to be considered an entity that God gives us, with great expectations of our exercising good stewardship over them. Of course, like all things, that’s not easy.
Stewardship of our children consists of at least three keys. We’ll go into more detail in a moment, but for now, get your mind ready to appreciate the facts that children belonged to God in the first place, we have a responsibility to train them, and we need to give them back to God and allow them to do whatever it is He called them to do.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights…” (James 1:17). That’s key #1!!! They belonged to God in the first place, and were given to us at the appointed time…whether we wanted them or not. I say that because many couples have discussions about whether or not they want to have children. One comic put it this way, “When deciding between having children or getting a dog, we had to decide if we wanted to ruin our carpets, or ruin our lives.” Some couples are ambivalent about having children. These couples figure “if children come along…we’ll deal with it.” Stewardship over anything you don’t want to have responsibility for in the first place is not going to be easy…but it doesn’t absolve you from that responsibility.
In 1st Samuel 1:11, Hannah begged God for Him to give her a man child. She was barren but wanted so badly to have children. She knew to ask God for a son. She knew it was within His ability to give her a son. So, if God was able to give her a son, doesn’t it stand to reason that that child was a gift? Not only that, but it was a gift Hannah specifically asked for. So I believe that if you ask specifically for children, you have a bigger expectation with regards to your stewardship over them. As we’ll see later, Hannah was more than aware of that added responsibility, and more than ready and willing to meet it.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). This is key #2!!! First, let me just say that this verse is mostly used to exhort parents to focus on the spiritual component to the child’s life and develop that. That’s a part of it, but not the only part. But let me speak to this verse first, as it relates to spiritual training. This verse is not a promise that if we raise our children right and they fall away from the Lord, they will eventually come back like the prodigal son. Cain didn’t come back. No, this verse says that if we raise our children properly while they are under our care, when they are older and can make their own life decisions, they will make decisions in line with what they were taught when they were younger…that is…they will not depart from the values, morals, and ethics which you trained them on.
We also need to train them up to be wise with the knowledge we give them as children. People differ on what exactly wisdom is, but my thoughts are as follows: Wisdom is the practical application of the knowledge we possess. For instance, one of the things we should be teaching our children is how to remain healthy and safe by developing healthy habits and safe practices. We can take our children to the sidewalk and teach them to look both ways before crossing the street. We can do this faithfully for months and years until they learn that in order to be safe, they need to look both ways before crossing the street. Now if the first time they go to cross the street alone they come to the end of the sidewalk and run across the street with reckless abandon and get struck by a car, we say that crossing without looking both ways was not a wise thing to do. Why was it not wise? Because they did not apply the knowledge they had learned. That’s just one of hundreds of examples of how difficult, but extremely important it is to train our children in the way they should go…and how it takes extreme vigilance regardless of whether we are talking about spiritual training or practical training.
Wisdom holds true with spiritual matters as well. We can train and teach and try to encourage and exhort our children to learn God’s Word and to apply it to their lives. We may teach them all they need to know about salvation, but until they apply that knowledge and actually get saved, they’re just being unwise. Knowing that alcohol, fornication, drugs, smoking, etc. are all wrong isn’t enough. We need to teach our children how to make wise choices. After all, can anyone argue against the notion that getting involved in an activity that you know will result in bad consequences is not a wise thing to do? Therefore, it’s not enough to teach and train up our children in right and wrong, good and bad, safe and unsafe, but it’s also necessary to teach wisdom and to pray for them to develop and use their wisdom to apply the knowledge they have been given by you.
“…How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). This is key #3!! We have a responsibility to allow them to fulfill God’s Will for their lives. Whether God has called them into fulltime service as a pastor, pastor’s wife, teacher, missionary, etc. Or whether God has called them into a particular career such as physician, lawyer, laborer, whatever. Our responsibility with our children as it relates to God is to give them to Him for His service. Hannah knew this and made some incredible sacrifices driven by that knowledge and understanding.
For one thing, Hannah was going to give Samuel over to the Lord’s work at the appointed time. She wasn’t going to go and present him until he had been properly weaned (1st Samuel 1:22). This is important to understand. Don’t send your child into whatever it is that God has called them to until they are ready and it’s at the God-appointed time. No matter how eager you or they are, to do anything before they are properly equipped, trained, and ready is to set them up for a fall and that may cause them to lose credibility among those to whom they are trying to minister.
The other point that Hannah understood is that to give your children over to God’s Will, it may mean they will be gone for a long time. In the case of Hannah, Samuel was gone for the rest of his life. “Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there” (1st Samuel 1:28). When Hannah gave Samuel to the Lord, it was for good. It was a one-and-done act. She dropped him off at the temple and he worshipped the Lord there. We can get a sense of how serious Hannah was about leaving her son, God’s gift to her, in the temple to serve the Lord the rest of his life by simply reading her prayer to God in 1st Samuel 2:1-10. She actually gives God thanks for the child that He now has, and she does not.
It will be hard one day to watch both of my girls potentially be called into the ministry to serve God somewhere…far away perhaps. But to prevent them from pursuing God’s will is not only a selfish act against God, but against your own child as well. They will forfeit blessings that are theirs for the taking if they don’t obey and go where God leads them. You, as the parent will lose out on the blessing of being so proud of your child for following God’s will and you’ll miss out on the joy of seeing your child blessed for their obedience to God. Hannah recognized that she was the means God used to add Samuel to this world to do the things God needed him to do. It’s the same with our children. God used us to bring our children into this world to do the things He created them to do. And if they don’t do it, God may not have it in His plans to raise up anyone else to take their place. Thus, all those lives that your child would have impacted will never know what could have been theirs.
There are some lesser areas of stewardship of our children. For example, in Matthew 7:11, Jesus explains that even as evil human beings we know how to give good gifts to our children. God has put it in the hearts of human beings to innately give good gifts to our children. They’re helpless…we can help them…it just makes sense. And, while we’re on the subject of giving, remember, it’s the steward that gives to others with no thought to what will be left over for him in the end. My wife and I have committed two valuable resources (among others) to the raising of our children for God. One is money. We are sacrificing many “luxuries” that we see other families afford, because we have committed to pay for a private Christian education and we are presently homeschooling. The other resource is time. It takes time to teach, train, and raise godly children. Church attendance accounts for three times a week. Dropping you children off and picking them up everyday at their school. It’s not easy, but we believe it will pay off in the end…for both our children and ourselves. We’re not perfect, but Hannah is a great measuring stick, why don’t you see how you stack up against Hannah…