‘Train them for God, train them for Christ, and train them for eternity’ – JC Ryle’s 17 duties of Parents
‘Train well for this life, and train well for the life to come; train well for earth, and train well for heaven; train them for God, train them for Christ, and train them for eternity. Amen.’ So concludes JC Ryle’s sermon Duties of Parents based on Proverbs 22:6 ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.’
The sermon is a must read for all who are parents or god-parents and for all who train or teach children at church and for all who wish to pray for parents in their responsibilities. But if you want the headings for all 17 points of this sermon then here is how JC Ryle urges you to train your children rightly:
1.train them in the way they should go, and not in the way that they would
2. train up your child with all tenderness, affection, and patience
3. train your children with an abiding persuasion on your mind that much depends upon you
4. train with this thought continually before your eyes that the sould of your child is the first thing to be considered
5. train your child to a knowledge of the Bible
6. train them to a habit of prayer
7. train them to a habits of diligence, and regularity about public means of grace
8. train them to a habit of faith
9. train them to a habit of obedience
10. train them to a habit of always speaking the truth
11. train them to a habit of always redeeming the time
12. train them with a constant fear of over-indulgence
13. train them remembering continually how God trains his children
14. train them remembering continually the influence of your own example
15. train them remembering continually the power of sin
16. train them remembering continually the promises of Scripture
17. train them, lastly, with continual prayer for a blessing on all you do
Thanks to Richard Underhill who introduced me to this sermon at New Word Alive 2011.
1. Do we understand that our own church has a ‘culture’ including a set of often unspoken assumptions that shape the attitudes and opinions surrounding the question of whether women should return to work?
2. Does this culture create and enforce an expectation that there is only one godly thing a family can do in deciding if and when women return to work. Does that culture operate blindly ie without any regard for each family’s set of circumstances and situation?
3. To what extent is the culture of our church informed by biblical principles of child-rearing and to what extent by culture and tradition. Do we expect a uniform pattern of behaviour amongst women once children come along? Are women under an unfair pressure in terms of what is appropriate as a ‘Christian’ in the decision as to whether they return to work or not?
4. How do we provide practical advice and assistance for couples starting a family as they reach their decision? How do we appropriately help them assess where they stand on that spectrum between choosing to work – having to work – choosing to stay at home.
5. Do we prepare young couples before children come along eg in marriage preparation so that the decisions that they make on Continue reading »
Who decides whether moms return to work and how should dads do their work differently?
In my experience as a pastor it’s the women who worry about whether or not they should return to work after kids come along. It’s women who feel guilty (whether they do or don’t) and it’s women who talk about it, a lot. And the men? Well I can’t remember having one conversation with a Dad about his views on the matter!
What does this say about the dads? If men are to lead in the home and manage their households well and if men and to love and service and cherish their wives then they can’t abdicate responsibility and delegate it to their wives.
Husbands, whether or not your wife goes back to work is not your decision alone but it is your responsibility alone. Are you playing your part and praying your part?
Four questions then to the dads
1) Husbands are you leaving your wives to make the decision?
2) Husbands are you supporting your wives once the decision has been made. Are you affirming it as a JOINT decision? Are you anticipating and dealing with the guilt your wife is no doubt feeling?
3) Husbands might you be the one responsible for your wife going back to work because you want her money to support a lifestyle you want? Or are you ready to sacrifice, financially to protect her place in the home.
4) Husbands do you know you wife? Do you understand her desires and capacities? Are you speaking the gospel into this situation to ensure that gospel thinking is driving the decision?
How men should do their work
The question of how to ensure that the family thrives isn’t just about the wife’s work but how the husband does his work too. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy for mum to give up work to be available for her children but for Dad to be no-where to be seen. For wives to sacrifice their working lives but husbands not even to change their working patterns when raising the same children.
So 10 reflections for the Dads on the way you work when kids come along.
1. Are you an absentee father? Children need their fathers as much as their mothers. A wife at home is not an excuse for a life at work.
2. Agree a time (if at all possible) when you’ll be home that day. It gives something for your spouse to work towards. Don’t think ‘just another half hour at work’ without also thinking what impact might it have on my wife.
3. Do you get home from work to see your children, play with them, ask them about their day and most importantly read the Bible and pray with them? You need to take the lead in spiritual matters.
4. How do you sacrifice in your work for the sake of your wife and children? Do you think they notice?
5. Are you quick to share responsibilities in the home when you return? Do you look for ways to help out? Do you ensure your wife gets at least a short break from the kids?
6. Are you pro-active in asking your wife how her day has been? Do you take a genuine interest?
7. Do you take a genuine interest in how the children are?
8. What about the weekend. Is your job Monday to Friday but your wife’s job Monday to Sunday? Do you give your wife a break by taking the children out for a morning, day, etc. on a Saturday?
9. Do you lead in the marriage in spiritual matters by praying with and for your wife in her new role?
10. If your wife works for money might you consider dropping a day a week at work to care for your children?
A. Why do women return to work after children?
In the following list I’m not trying in any way to pass comment on the reasons women return to paid employment, merely to identify them.
1. Financial necessity
For many the option of choosing to stay at home is not open to them. Economic necessity means at least some part-time work to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. In parts of the world it would be beyond the wildest dreams of any family to survive on a single income.
2. Financial improvement
For others work is a choice but a choice in which economics plays a big part. It might be possible to live for a few years on one income but going back to work is about ensuring a better quality of life for a family. It’s about having enough not just to pay the bills but to enjoy a nice holiday, etc.
3. Missing the world of work (maybe even a grief over loss of independence)
Someone described stopping work to look after a baby as a form of grief; the loss of a life, of a world, in which so much energy, time and commitment had been given and so many rewards had been received. For some it feels as if a life has ended and it’s not too strong to think of those first few months at home as a grieving over a loss of independence.
There are friends at work you don’t see any more and then there is the enormous challenge of leaving something you’re good at to do something you don’t feel very good at.
The goal for some women is to re-enter the work-place and resume the career ‘as soon as’.
4. Escaping the isolation of caring for a baby
‘When I became a mother I found myself for the first time in my life without a language, without any way of translating the sounds I made into something other people would understand.’ Rachel Cusk writes in ‘A Life’s work’.
Someone else commented:
‘I went to a dinner party on Thursday. And I had nothing to say. I was out of it. I couldn’t talk about the only things that mattered to me.’
Raising children full-time at home when everyone else is out in the world of work can be an isolating experience.
5. The embarrassment of staying at home ie peer-pressure
It’s inevitable that people will start to ask ‘are you coming back to work’ even before the birth. In a culture (see below) that has created the expectation that mothers will work it can be a little awkward to tell people you’re not.
6. The cultural expectation is that women should have it all.
Good bosses desperately want to keep good employees and do their utmost to keep women in work.
The culture creates favourable terms to ensure women can work (and thus fosters the expectation)
The law protects a woman’s right to return to work after the birth of a child.
‘Policy makers urgently need to face up to the fact that the values underlying much social policy may not match the desires of women not the extent that they have assumed.’ Professor Geoff Dench
7. The battle to prove that you can have it all
Almost the definition of the modern woman is to have it all. Those who choose to give up work to raise children feel that they are not
B. Should Christian wives go back to work?
1. The bible’s model of a godly woman or ‘an alphabet of wifely excellence’
The wife of Proverbs 31 is a purposeful, energetic, wise, successful, strong, capable wife.
She cares for the family, she earns an income.
‘Wise daughters aspire to be like her, wise men seek to marry her, and all wise people aim to incarnate the wisdom she embodies, each in his own sphere of activity.’ Waltke
There is nothing unbiblical or sinful about a mother working alongside her duty to her family.
This woman works in a way that keeps the priority of being a wife and mother.
2. The priority for wives
teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
i) The primary Christian duty of wives and mothers, according to Paul, is that they should ‘love their husbands and children’.
Love, as defined by God’s love is measured in sacrifice and service.
ii) Busy at home – John Stott comments: ‘It would not be legitimate to base on this word either a stay-at-home stereotype for all women, or a prohibition of wives being also professional women. What is rather affirmed is that if a woman accepts the vocation of marriage, and has a husband and children, she will love and not neglect them.’
iii) Such a biblical understanding of womenhood should bring:
- Blessing to the home
- Fulfilment to the wife
- Honour to God
iv) Our culture of ‘liberation’ works to undermine God’s priorities and replace it with a secular agenda
- Feminism makes the mistake of equating equality of status with equality of role.
- Feminism encourages women to forsake their calling to care for husband and children in pursuit of self-fulfilment in a career outside the home.
3. What is the Biblical principle that should be at work in the decision?
“In what way can I best love those God has called me to love (especially my husband and children) as I love and serve Christ? By working outside the home or by working inside the home? By working part-time, full-time or not at all.”
Key conclusion: The answer to this question will be different for
i) different families
ii) in different situations and circumstances
iii) with different gifting and capacities
iv) and even for the same family in differing seasons of life.
Our natural inclination is to polarise the debate by reducing everything to a simple ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ view on moms going back to work.
What we need to recognise is that in our churches there will be a spectrum of positions. A scale shall we say between 1 and 10 in which 1 is a decision to choose to work (there is no economic necessity no need other than a self-motivated decision to seek a career) and 10 a decision to choose to stay at home (again a situation in which the income of a wife plays no part) and then a 5 represents the woman who willingly or unwillingly has to look for paid work to pay the bills.
For the most part it won’t be obvious to us where any couple sits on this spectrum and that usually means that we are not in a position to judge the motives of those who work and those who don’t.
In the next post we’ll consider:
What are the dangers in women trying to hold together the world of work and home?
What part should husbands play in all this?
A. Why we need to think about this topic
Lots of churches and Christians avoid discussing this ‘hot-button’ topic in the church. It’s one accompanied by strong opinions (and emotions). There is also a real danger in discussion of a polarising parties in the church and wounding other Christians. But here are 6 reasons why we have to talk about it;
1. It might be a difficult conversation but it’s one that the whole church needs to have together. The alternative is individual women seeking to resolve their theology and their feelings in one to one conversations between friends.
2. It’s an issue that involves the men too! Husbands have a responsibility to lead. For them to opt out is for them to abdicate their responsibility to lead as heads of the home. Whether or not wives return to work is the primary responsibility of their husbands. A whole church conversation helps the men and reminds them of their responsibility.
3. It’s an issue that needs to be worked through in advance. It’s not just a topic for couples who already have children but for those planning the future. For example, the key factor in whether or not a wife returns in my experience is economic. Can the family function on one income?
For some couples, the decision is made for them in the house that they buy and the mortgage that comes with the house that locks a couple in for 20-25 years. Some bills can’t be deferred but must continue to be paid. Couples with kids can help couples without to anticipate where they might be in a matter of a few years.
4. It’s an chance for the church family to learn how to listen better, discover how it’s possible to graciously disagree and an opportunity to put into practice practical support and encouragement, one couple to another.
5. It’s a discussion in which all sides feel guilty. One author has written
‘One interesting trend I have noted as a pastor, counselor, husband, and friend is that in general, whether mothers choose to work or stay home, they feel a level of guilt associated with the decision. Moms that work feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children and moms that stay home feel guilty about not using their college degree or their professional skills to contribute to the family finances.’
6. It’s an issue in which surprisingly little has been written to help us think it all through. The quote above is from a short article – literally the only piece I could find on the topic. Unless we shed light on the topic together individual couples we will be leaving couples to think it through on their own.
In future posts we’ll answer the following;
1. Why do women return to the world of work after their children are born? (see http://wp.me/p1i2hG-k8)
2. Biblically speaking, should women return to work and what criteria should we apply is assessing that decision? Are some reasons biblically justified and others not? (see http://wp.me/p1i2hG-k8)
3. What part should husbands play in this debate and in their role as parents? How should they do their paid work differently when the kids come along? (see http://wp.me/p1i2hG-kG)
4. How do we support mothers who do go back to work, as a church family? (see http://wp.me/p1i2hG-lE)
5. How do we support mothers who don’t go back to work, as a church family? (see http://wp.me/p1i2hG-lE)
Purely for the purpose of this discussion we will use the word ‘work’ to means ‘paid work’. Wives who stay at home work extremely hard but it’s too complicated to keep switching terminology.
The great news is that a growing number of books are putting this right by giving thoughtful, biblical practical insights into how we can and should put the gospel into practice in the Christian life. I’ve just really enjoyed Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey which is a model of how to take the gospel and apply it to an important contemporary issue. Another book by Harvey models how to work the gospel out in a marriage, When sinners say I do tackling themes such as sin and forgiveness in the marriage.
Here’s a great summary sentence that highlights what a different book results from bringing the gospel to bear on a marriage rather than simply apply counselling techniques or observations from common grace.
What if you abandoned the idea that the problems and weaknesses in your marriage are caused by a lack of information, dedication, or communication? What if you saw your problems as they truly are: caused by a war within your own heart.
Without such biblical clarity, we have no context for the cross and no ongoing awareness of our need for grace and mercy.
In other words such books help us to see that grace is at the heart not just of our justification but our transformation and holiness and because they intensely practical books we cannot but see the difference applying ‘saving grace’ makes to ambition or marriage or any other aspect of discipleship.
I’m looking forward to reading a new book by Elyse Fitzpatrick Give them grace one of a number of great books demonstrating what grace-filled parenting looks like. The blog of the same name is well worth a look
Last night at 9.30pm (GMT) our second son, Felix Luther, was born. He is perfect in every way and the most undeserved gift of God to us for however long God gifts him.
The birth of a child is a cause to celebrate, a reason to marvel and produces in the life of any believer a reason to worship. The words of Psalm 139 immediately come to mind:
13 For you created his inmost being;
you knit him together in his mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because he is fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 His frame was not hidden from you
when he was made in the secret place,
when he was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw his unformed body;
all the days ordained for him were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
It is too much that God should be so kind.
A second birth
And yet as I look at this new life and thank God I also pray that God would work a second miracle and bring about a second new birth no less miraculous and no less a divine gift than the first.
A Puritan prayer taken from ‘The Valley of Vision‘
O God, I cannot endure to see the destruction
of my kindred. Continue reading »
A few weeks ago parents at our church met to discuss parenting and Christmas. The question we were all wanting an answer to was the obvious one – ‘What do we tell our kids about Santa?’
Essentially you can do four things with the Father Christmas tradition; ignore it, embrace it, build on it or knock it down.
Ignore Father Christmas
You might wish Santa away but the reality is that you can’t ignore him. Whether it’s Santa coming to nursery or the conversations your kids are having with their friends or remarks of well-meaning non-Christian family or even the woman at the supermarket checkout everyone will be asking your child ‘are you looking forward to seeing what Father Christmas will bring?’ We may wish the problem away but it’s not going away.
Embrace Father Christmas
Some Christians ask ‘why not simply join in the fun?’ and they embrace the story of Christmas, Rudolph and all.
But we had a few concerns:
- There is a difference between fun fairy tales and the things we ask our children to believe in
- If we seek to celebrate Christmas as a story about Jesus and at exactly the same time Christmas as a story about Santa (and the presents) Santa will always win first place in own children’s hearts!
- The attributes of Santa mirror the attributes of God e.g. He sees everything you do, he can be everywhere in the world in one night, he gives good gifts, he’s a famous ‘old man’ in the sky and yet he rewards on the basis of being good quite the opposite Continue reading »
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