As a pastor, it is always helpful to remember that this is not my church. It is Christ’s church. He is the Chief Shepherd and as pastors and leaders we are under-shepherds, or stewards, assigned to oversee and care for the flock until our Lord returns.
In the same way, as a parent, it has been good for me to remember that my children are not my own, but God’s children. He is their Heavenly Father and I am an under-parent, a steward, assigned to oversee and care for them until they are reunited with Him. Their Heavenly Father loves them more than I, their earthly father, could ever comprehend.
This is perhaps a different perspective, but a helpful one, to see parenting as stewardship. Stewardship is the care and responsible management of something, or in this case someone, entrusted to our care. This means our children do not ultimately belong to us. Our children belong to God. It is important to remind ourselves of this. You may have to repeat this a few times for it to sink in: “My” children really belong to God, but they have been entrusted to my care.
Here are two principles for parenting-as-stewardship:
1. Children are a gift from the Lord (Ps 127:3). Biology tells us that our offspring are the mixture of their mother and father’s DNA, which together “made” a child. As Christians we know that is purely the means of delivery. The creation of a child is not just science, it is the miracle of life, and we know God is the giver of life. We are knit together in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13). God is behind it all. If God is the ultimate maker of humans, not mom and dad, then our children belong to Him. If our children belong to us we could raise them how we want, teach them what we want, and discipline them how we want. But they’re not just our kids, they’re God’s first and foremost. Rightly viewing our children's parentage is essential for Christian rearing. A correct parenting lens means we must raise our children as God commands, teach them what He believes and discipline them as God desires. But the responsibility is also a joy. Children are a gift and the weight of their stewardship is a privilege.
2. The goal of parenting is discipleship. Every parent knows that the gift of children comes with responsibilities. Offspring need to be looked after, changed, fed, clothed, disciplined, trained and raised. As Christians, we understand that the responsibility of parenting goes further than keeping our kids alive or producing functioning adults. The main priority for Christian parents is to teach our children diligently the ways of the Lord (Deut. 6:7). After all, they are on loan to us from God. As the passage in Deut. 6 continues, we are to impress upon our children the ways of the Lord when we are at home, on a walk, when we lay down for bed and when we get up in the morning. It is an all-encompassing priority in raising children. We are to show “our” children their true Heavenly Father. We miss this reality when our focus is on helping our kids fit in, be comfortable, make the sports team, be well liked, graduate or be successful. Maybe we are missing our highest calling as parents? Paul in Ephesians 6 tells fathers in particular to bring up their kids in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The instruction is not to bring them up in our way, or the world’s way, but in God’s ways. The priority is not only to make adults but to make disciples.
Parenting is a special, weighty privilege. In Mark 10, we see people bring children to Jesus and the disciples rebuking them for doing so. The text says that Jesus was indignant, or angry, at the rebuking. He said, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.” It is a simple observation: bringing children to Jesus delighted him, and hindering them angered him. As parents, who are ultimately raising children that belong to God, we need to consider how our parenting may be hindering them from coming to Jesus? Or is it helping our children come to Jesus? With the backdrop of Mark 10, does your parenting anger Jesus or delight him? We must not miss the highest calling in raising children: that they might know, love, and obey the Lord.
One practical way I try to keep parenting-as-stewardship in front of me is to frequently and actively tell my children that Jesus loves them. I would encourage you to tell your children the same. I know we love our kids and hopefully we tell them often. But, as stewards of God’s children, it is more important that they know their Heavenly Father loves them. As an under-parent of our Heavenly Father to “our” kids, I believe God wants us to frequently remind them of His love. As I remind my children of God’s love for them, it reminds me that I am but a steward, entrusted to raise them to know, love and obey the Lord above all else.