While raising children is not solely the mother’s responsibility, when it comes to child rearing much of the daily influence will come from mom. As a mother of three teens, I know the temptation in parenting to create an appearance of what I want my children to be when it comes to spiritual things. It is a noble and right thing to want them to grab on tightly to the baton of faith as we teach them to run this race. However this desire can easily be turned into a recipe for an external religion that seeks to please people and not our redeeming Savior.
The Pharisees, though justly earned, get a bad rap. I know for myself it is easy to think of them as those hoity toity ne’r-do-wrongs that had no concern for anything other than their own spiritual goodlookingness. But could it be that Pharisees had good intentions?
They were the upholders of the sacred law of Moses and they oversaw religious practices. These spiritual fathers devoted their lives to the keeping of the law. There is some nobility in this. The law was given and expected to be kept. They were doing just that. The problem was that they missed the purpose of the law. Instead of discovering their inability in the law they found their identity it. Before we jump down their holier-than-thou backs, it is here that I pause and reflect on how my role as a mother can sound like a Pharisee training officer.
It is a temptation beyond measure at times to find my own identity not only in how I am behaving, but sometimes even more so how my children are behaving. Before I know it, I am actually training them to set their focus on the external accoutrements that Jesus spoke so harshly against. Isn’t this sounding like the cleansing of the outside of the cup that Jesus warned against (Luke 11:38)?
Ways to Raise a Good Little Pharisee
While our intentions may start out right they can easily get derailed and the focus shifted to external behaviors. After all, those are much easier to see than the motives of our hearts. There are many ways this can subtly take place. Here are a few ways moms (and dads too) can raise a good little Pharisee.
- Make them always feel like they can do a little bit better. Make sure you accompany all your praise with a side bar lesson on how to improve things next time. Want to take this to a higher level? Limit your praise of them to be only when they are doing what you want them to do. Slather it on when they are finally giving you what you want to see. With hold it otherwise.
- Make spiritual things obligatory. I am not saying that you let your child run the show when it comes to spiritual disciplines. We should encourage our children to have a personal walk with God. Modeling this is a great place to start. But I am talking more about the mandatory approach to spiritual things. Creating an environment of “you are a good Christian boy or girl if you…” is so easy to do. (Insert rewards and sticker charts for Bible reading or godly behavior.) So instead of demanding spiritual things, help them to delight in them instead. Also, understand them when it is not so delightful. Haven’t you been there? What helped you in those times?
- Blast their achievements so as to create a personal identity they must maintain. I am as guilty as the next mom for filling my Facebook and Instagram with my kids receiving awards or accomplishing some major feat of childhood saintliness. There is a balance we need to be careful of; be proud of your children and share it with your friends and family but if the only time you are blasting out information about your kids is when they are “accomplishing” be aware of the message you are sending them. Try just appreciating them in their “normalness.” Let them see that you are totally impressed with more than just their outward achievements.
We All Need the Cross Daily
I don’t want to load my children with burdens too difficult to bear (Luke 11:36). Instead I want to come beside them in their walk of faith and teach them that with the call to a godly life there is grace and mercy. We all need the cross daily. As we lead them to the place where they see their righteousness for what it truly is (dirty rags) be sure to remind them of the powerful reality that if they trust in Christ, he is their righteousness and that is enough. We do not need to improve on it or add to it.
Dazzle them with who God is and what he has done for them. Let them live in that reality and let it be there joy. They don’t have to make the mark. Christ already did. What a joy what a delight. Teach them the truth about what God, through Christ, has provided for them. Teaching our children to understand that through Christ we no longer need to look good enough keeps the focus on the gospel. They don’t have to attain righteousness because Christ is their righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). They can stand before God because of that alone. What joy!
“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:3-4).
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