Little things

Luke 16:10 reads, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is righteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”  In the immediate context, the application is toward the use of our money; today I would like to apply it to the relationship between parents and children.

Parents tend to judge their parenting based on “big things.”  By “big things,” I mean major events and accomplishments — getting the child baptized, getting them through college, getting them married well, keeping them off drugs, etc.  But it has been my experience that “little things,” daily spiritual maintenance and life guidance, tend very strongly to lead to the “big things.”  On the other hand, the “big things” often wind up being false positives; the “biggest thing” of all, their eternal salvation, winds up being a secondary consideration at best once the child is old enough to make his or her own decisions.

Consider the following “little things” that help mold a child’s future:

Are you having spiritual conversations?  Are you taking every opportunity to impart spiritual wisdom (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)?  How can you measure their spiritual progress without asking them spiritual questions and listening to their answers?

Do you pray together?  Sincere, heartfelt prayers are a challenge in our busy times.  Still, the apostle Paul exhorts us, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Mealtimes have always been the easiest time for families to pray as a unit, but these days we don’t even meet around the table very often.  We hear social scientists often lament the breakdown of families as a result; perhaps the absence of family prayer is largely to blame.  I am shocked to hear the so-called prayers offered by some children.  Clearly they are not being instructed in prayer; I fear they are not even being exposed to prayer.

Are you teaching them to sing songs of praise and instruction?  Or are you teaching them the glory of your favorite rock or country group and barely noticing whether they are singing in church at all?  We are told that children are affected by music even in the womb; yet Christian parents often allow their children to be completely inattentive during worship services, saying they are “too young for it to matter.”  How can children learn to “teach and admonish” (Colossians 3:16) if they are not being taught and admonished by their own parents?

Do you teach them to consider others?  Your own child’s personal preferences are not the only issue when considering a restroom break or drink of water.  Getting up during the sermon or song service (or even during a prayer) causes a needless distraction.  Children don’t think that way, but adults do — or at least, adults should.  The same principles apply with regard to the usage of smart phones during worship services.  Often we struggle just to get people to silence them; but the occasional “ding” is not nearly as distracting as a teenager (or a parent) texting or internet surfing.  And yes, I’ve seen it happen.  So have you, I would imagine.

Do you teach them to arrive early?  Sneaking through the door just before (or during) the announcements is the clearest signal imaginable that we do not take the occasion seriously.  We would not tolerate them showing up at school or soccer practice five minutes late, nor should we.  We made sure our girls were as much as a half-hour early for events such as college admission exams; we wanted them to “get their minds in the right place” so they could “do their best.”  Why would Bible study or worship services be any different? 

Maybe the real problem is, we’re confused about what the “big things” actually are.  Jesus lists them in terms plain and simple to understand.  “Seek first His kingdom” (Matthew 6:33).  Again, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).  And again, returning to our original context, “No servant can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13).  If we think getting our children to heaven is more important than getting them into a good college or a good marriage, we should try telling them so from time to time — both with our words and with our actions.