Job is given God’s highest commendation. God said of Job, ‘There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil’, Job 1. 8. Surely such a man taught his children to fear God and to do what is right. He should have expected all of his children to become godly adults, a credit to their father and mother. We all can tend to become determinist in our philosophy, feeling that proper training will guarantee moral, responsible adults. We tend to feel if some children do not turn out well it must be the fault of the parents.
But Job was not complacent about his children. He realized the potential for evil in us all. ‘And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts".Thus Job did regularly’, Job 1. 4-5. Job knew that in spite of his training his children could sin and even reject God. They did not inherit his faith, hence his constant concern. Faith must be an individual matter.
As parents then, what is our responsibility? Certainly we must love them and teach them the Word of God. God said to Israel, ‘And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up’, Deut. 6. 6-7. We are responsible to train our children and to discipline them, Prov. 22. 6; 23. 13-14. As long as they live under our roof they should abide by the standards of the home. Our children should be reared in the fellowship of the assembly, hearing the Word of God and observing the godly conduct of the believers. We should constantly pray for them.
When young people enter their teens they enter a critical period of life. Their thinking matures and they are given more choices. Now they must formulate their own beliefs and standards as they enter adulthood. Some seem to transit this period of life quite easily, adopting the beliefs and mores of their parents without too many questions. Others struggle and may decide to reject some of the beliefs of their parents. Is there a God? Did Jesus Christ really rise from the dead? Is the Bible truly inspired and authoritative? Is sex outside of marriage wrong? What is wrong with smoking pot? Peer pressure and the world’s culture entice young minds to conform and the pleasures of sin beckon.
It is a difficult time for parents who long to see their children follow their steps and watch the struggle with deep concern. They know how wrong decisions can impact life for years to come. To try drugs may lead to a permanent addiction and to a destroyed life. If one makes poor choices in marriage, the consequences may be long lasting and painful.
Parents are used to controlling their children. Now they must begin to let go. They can pray and be available for counsel but parents cannot control the thinking of the adolescent. There can come a feeling of real helplessness concerning a wilful child who you know is making wrong choices and rejecting some of your core beliefs. The time may come when young people have reached their later teens and are so fiercely rebellious that you will have to let them go. If the standards of the home are intolerable to them they will have to make their own living and go their own way. The father had to let the prodigal son go his way until he was satiated with sin and broken by its consequences. There is no way this process can be shortened. Repentance only comes to the hurting. And parents then may isolate the rebel from the other children to eliminate his influence on his siblings. It is a time of hard decisions.
Part of our humanity as made in the image of God is the ability and responsibility to make choices and decisions. We cannot assume responsibility for our children’s decisions as they enter adulthood. We may pray and exhort but we cannot force them to change their values and choices. We may have to accept the fact that they have never been saved, even though a childhood decision was made. Jesus said, ‘Therefore by their fruits you will know them’, Matt. 7. 20. Time has a way of showing the reality of faith.
All parents have made some mistakes in rearing their children. One can confess these and know God’s forgiveness. Then we must allow our children to live their own lives and be accountable to God for them. God states emphatically, ‘The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself’, Ezek. 18. 20. But we can pray and pray and pray. The prodigal may yet come home.