Teaching our children “success” (Deuteronomy 6)

  • What does success in life look like? If you are a mother or father, how are you modeling success in front of your child?

It’s only natural to crave success.  After all, no one sets out in life to be just “average.”  But success can mean different things to different people.  Success depends entirely on one’s goals.

If you’re a mom or a dad, I’d wager that “success” means that your son or daughter comes home with a solid report card, or gets a lot of cheers on the soccer field.  Success means they grow up to marry a good, moral Christian spouse and raise kids who likewise are upstanding little achievers who don’t drink or lie or swear.

All of this, of course, is achievable without Jesus.  “Success,” when measured this way, is little more than external performance at best and a form of self-righteous idolatry at worst.

When the people of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land, Moses led the people in something of a “revival service,” a way of reiterating their role in their relationship with God.  In one of the most famous sections of Deuteronomy, God tells his people what successful parenting looks like:

“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.

3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)

Success, in the Christian sense, isn’t about achieving a list of goals—as worthy as that may be.  Success is about being faithful to the character of God.  Now, that doesn’t mean we raise a generation of monks and ministers.  But it does mean that we raise a generation of men and women who see their career as part of God’s larger story.  There was a puritan proverb long ago that said: “God loveth adverbs.”  The meaning, of course, is that God is as concerned with what we do as he is how we do it.  How do we raise soccer players who show God’s love to their teammates and coaches?  How do we raise boys and girls who honor the boundaries set by God (and their parents) when it comes to dating?  How do we raise young adults who choose a career path that doesn’t merely maximize their potential, but becomes an avenue for living out the gospel in their workplace?

I realize this is a larger conversation, but for the purpose of this summer we would like to challenge you to get involved in our Vacation Bible School program here at Tri-State Fellowship.  You can click here to find the details through our Facebook page.  Our prayer is that we impact the hearts and lives of the children who participate, as well as their parents and those in the community who might be entering our walls for the very first time.

And even if you’re unable to participate directly, we ask that you pray diligently for the success of this event.  After all, our children will grow up to believe in something.  We pray that God’s story would be the one that takes root.

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