“ And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52)
Parents are responsible to provide materially, physically, socially, spiritually, and mentally (education in contemporary American society) for dependent children. In this way children will grow in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).
Providing for the family in our society takes money, and earning money almost always takes time away from home. The Christian parent thus faces one of the most critical factors in the current crisis in family stability. At a deeper level, the care for children requires time spent with them. How can this double demand on parental time be reconciled? Though the feminist drive for equal pay is understandable, the end result may well be a leveling down rather than the hoped-for leveling up, and increasingly both parents will have to work to maintain financial viability. In most societies of the past, mothers worked outside the home, just as the ideal mother of Proverbs 31 . But until the Industrial Revolution (a terrible time for mothers and children), that work was in the field or forest, with the whole family participating so that the caring and nurturing continued unabated. How do we solve the dilemma?
The attitude of parents toward one another and toward the children and the quality of time spent together have more to do with the creation of a health-giving atmosphere than does the amount of time together. Nevertheless, the amount of time is part of the equation.
To begin with, children need both parents as a vital part of life. True, the mother seems to have been assigned by nature and Scripture the primary role in nurturing, at least the younger children. But both parents are essential. The solution may be connected with motive: Why does the father work such long hours? Why does the mother seek outside employment?
The father may work long hours because of unbiblical values or a misperception of how love is best expressed. Many a sincere father is genuinely surprised to find children alienated when he has “proved his love” so unstintingly by such tireless work for many years, never dreaming that his son or daughter really wanted him all along, not his lavish gifts. Others are simply materialistic and put the acquisition of things above the development of quality relationship. Still others are proud and driven to prove their worth through outdistancing others in achievement or wealth. Still others are selfish and enjoy work or hobbies or recreation or fun with “the boys” more than time with the family. All these motives are wholly inadequate and if followed may well lead to the crippling or destruction of the family or of some member of the family.
Christian workers sometimes neglect family responsibility for a higher motive—advancing the kingdom of God. There are times when such a motive is legitimate. Motives must be clear, however. Many a traveling minister travels because he enjoys it. He may even be afraid to face the reality of failure at home and thus seek to escape. If a man is truly called to an itinerant ministry, he may well be called to a life of celibacy, like Paul. If he is already married, he has part of his ministry call already settled—his home—and he will neglect that responsibility only at the risk of everything, for church ministry is reserved for those who succeed in the responsibilities of the home (1 Tim. 3:2-5; Titus 1:6-9).
And why does the mother seek outside employment during the hours a child is at home—or ought to be? If economic survival is the question, the choice is right, but “economic survival” and a better standard of living are not synonymous. Instead of glorying in what must surely be the highest of all callings — making a home — they are deceived into thinking that success in the marketplace is the only way to prove their value. Others work as an escape from the drudgery of diapers and dishes, only to find the drudgery of a nine-to-five routine. And in our society at least, 95 percent return home to play catch-up and do the housework anyway. Balancing satisfying work and the well-being of our children requires sacrifice and discernment. If material goals or self-image or competing on “an even footing” with men are more important than nurturing children, perhaps the choice not to have children is more reasonable — a choice increasing numbers of “liberated” women make. But that choice, though honest, does not redeem a distorted system of values.
Scripture places a premium on teaching one’s children. “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds. . . Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers” (Deut. 11:18-21, NIV).
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Instruction in the ways of God is the responsibility of both parents, but the father is responsible to be sure it takes place. This includes full participation in the life of a Bible-teaching church, but it is also to be on a daily basis as part of the family life. A daily time when the family gathers to hear and discuss a portion of Scripture, pray, and sing together should be the cornerstone of family life. So how is it in your family? How can we promote the welfare of each person in the family? How do you function together as parents? How can you support those you know who are parents?