In his book Changing the Game, John O’Sullivan addresses the fast growing cultural phenomenon of youth sports. O’Sullivan does not claim to be a follower of Jesus but even secular observers see the signs of danger. O’Sullivan issues an insightful warning to parents, “Remember that your kids may be the most important thing in your life, but they are not the only thing. It is easy, and tempting, to put aside everything that we love to do for the sake of our kids and their activities, but this is not a very healthy way to live. It sends your children the message that the world exists to serve them.”
As Christian parents, we have the responsibility to raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). We are to bring them under our authority and ultimately under God’s authority. We are to help them take their place in God’s world. We want them to serve God and others. But if we are not careful, we can send the opposite message the way we live our lives. We can so coddle them and shelter them and orient our life around them that they come to see themselves as the center of the universe.
I believe O’Sullivan captures the root issue for many parents when he says “your kids may be the most important thing in your life…” While our children are certainly important, God is central. Our lives are not to be lived for the glory of our children but for the glory of God. Whenever the safety or happiness or comfort of our children becomes the priority, we have a problem.
Eli, the priest of Israel, presents a cautionary tale. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, took advantage of their position as priests. They took portions of the sacrificial meat that was prohibited. And they engaged in illicit sexual relations with the women at the temple. They were judged for their sin. But Eli also fell under judgment because he failed to restrain them (1 Samuel 3:13). Eli loved God—but he loved his sons more. Our culture is raising narcissists. May God help us to raise servants!
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