Sacrificial Parenting

I often hear a sentiment expressed by parents: "I don't help because my kids didn't sign up to go without. It's okay for me to sacrifice, but not my kids."

If we hold to that sentiment and don't help others because we don't want our kids to go without, then we are teaching our kids that the most important thing in life is not sacrificing or going without. Instead of teaching our children to serve others, we are teaching them to only serve others when it is convenient.

When we become Christians, we are dying to ourselves. That is what is represented in baptism. We are declaring Jesus to be our King, choosing to live for Him. If we are to live for Him, then we are to sacrifice ourselves like He modeled for us. This will enable others to see Him and make Him their king. Christianity shouldn't be about what can I get. About us being saved. About us being blessed. That is the lie of the consumer-minded American church. Following Jesus is about following Jesus as King of our lives. Dying to ourselves and living for Him.

And yet, we won't sacrifice some money because we want to use it on our children because we don't want them to go without some little toy that they want. By living this way, we teach our children, no matter what words we may use to make ourselves more comfortable in our disobedience to God, that the most important thing in life is to be comfortable rather than follow Jesus.

A few years back, there was a father standing with his two daughters on the platform at a New York Subway station. The train was coming in. Next to the family, a man starting having a seizure and fell off the platform right in front of the oncoming train. There wasn't enough time to get him out of the way, so the father jumped off the platform, grabbed the guy, positioned him between the tracks, and laid on top of him as the train flew over them, barely providing enough clearance for them to survive. That father was a true hero.

To leave his daughters on the subway platform to save a seizing man's life. That's what the gospel is about. To risk your life for another, at the risk of living your children parentless.

If we're honest with ourselves, we struggle with that level of sacrifice. Especially those of us who have kids. Should I endanger myself to follow Jesus if I have children? If following Jesus is sacrificial, if following Jesus is dangerous, do we really want our kids to follow Jesus?

The answer to both questions is a resounding "yes."

If I was given the choice between my children's teeth rotting out of their head or following Jesus, I would want them to follow Jesus with rotten teeth.

If I was given the choice between my children not knowing how to read and write or following Jesus, I would choose for them to follow Jesus while being uneducated.

All too often, I hear parents say that they aren't going to train their kids to follow Jesus. They say that decision has to be their child's decision. When people tell me this, it just tells me that they don't really believe. Because they don't let their child decide if they are going to brush their teeth or learn math and reading. They believe those are good things for their children, so they teach those things to their children.

It's also true that the children who we try to raise up in the Lord may choose to reject following Jesus some day. Just like God doesn't eliminate our free will, we can't eliminate their free will. They will always have the choice to follow Jesus or not follow Jesus. Just like they can choose to reject brushing their teeth, reading, or writing at some point in the future. But just because they can choose to reject these important things doesn't mean that we don't think it is important enough to teach these things to them today.

Thankfully, it's not an either/or. We can teach our children to brush their teeth and follow Jesus. We can teach our children reading, writing, and arithmetic and how to follow Jesus. They actually go well together.

But the best tool to teach our children to follow Jesus is us modeling what it looks like to follow Jesus. Stepping out in faith. Living dangerously when Jesus calls. We must follow Jesus if we want those around us to follow Jesus. The reason our communities aren't being reached for Jesus isn't because we haven't figured out the right program to reach them; it's because those of us who go to church on Sundays aren't surrendered to Jesus and living for Him. We don't model His sacrifice by becoming a living sacrifice for others.

We think we need to save ourselves for our kids, but we must really model the self-sacrifice of Jesus to them in order for them to be saved. Because in our attempts to save ourselves, we might just lose our children's souls.