One of the challenges in raising children from a biblical perspective is to navigate the difference between ownership and stewardship. I am the eldest of four boys, and my mother told us of a crisis of faith she faced when we all began to express a call to the mission field. Our family was led to faith and discipled by missionaries, and so we had this influence and inspiration from a young age. At the time, we were unaware of it, but our mother struggled with where a call to missions would take us and what the challenges would be.
We have always been a very close family, and the evening dinner table in our home was one of laughter, debate, passion and bonding. We lived life together, and in our ideal world, we would marry, have children and continue to live in this way. A call to the mission field, however, would throw all of this into disarray.
The reality we had to work through is that the ideal world we wanted would come one day in heaven, but that while we are still on earth, there is a mission to complete. In the face of all of this, my mother had to work through letting us go. She reached this point one Sunday morning, and so, unknown to us, she went to the altar during the Sunday service and laid her claim to ownership of our lives before the Lord. She reached a place where she could recognize that God had ownership of our lives and that He had entrusted us to her as a stewardship.
This change in paradigm led to a position that encouraged us to follow God’s will unconditionally rather than follow what seemed best to her. One of the stand-out characteristics of her stewardship has been a commitment to prayer so that my brothers and I know that wherever our call takes us, she is lifting us up in prayer.
I am now a father of four boys, and I am so tempted to want them to follow God’s will my way. I want big family meals on Sundays, to be able to pop in for a visit anytime, to go on vacation together, and especially to see grandchildren without much effort. I like the idea that I have some ownership of my sons, that God would share this with me.
In 1 Samuel 1, we read of God’s blessing on Hannah in giving her a son. It must have been very tempting for her to claim Samuel as her own—she had waited and prayed for so long. But, Hannah understood the difference between stewardship and ownership, and we have a beautiful picture of how she is a careful steward of young Samuel under the ownership of God.
We like to think of attributes of God like all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present; but what about all-owning? If He created everything and we hold that it is only in Him that we live and move and have our being, then our children must belong to Him. This belonging is not partial so that we share it with Him; it is a complete and total belonging so that, for my sons, God is their complete and eternal Father. He gives my wife and me the privilege and responsibility of being earthly parents whose primary role is to steward them into a relationship with the heavenly Father through the person and work of Jesus. The result is that while they can turn to me for help at any time, they are able to turn to a heavenly Father who is infinitely more capable of meeting every need.
We have a lost world that is in desperate need to know God as Father. As Christian parents, we have a stewardship before the God to raise children who will step out and follow God wherever that takes them. Godly parents who yield ownership of their children to God and then take the stewardship of those children seriously will lead to Christians who change the world for God’s Kingdom. May there be many more parents like Hannah and the amazing lady that I call my mother!