You cannot give what you do not have
At least once a year I try to read a book on parenting. It deepens my understanding of the task to which God has called me. It also reminds me of truths I may have started to take for granted. One such truth, for example, is that I cannot give what I do not have.
In Deut. 6:5-7 Moses instructed the Israelites: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
The basic idea is that parents should teach their children God’s Word, and that they should use every opportunity to do so. Sounds simple enough, but did you notice how Moses introduced the command to teach? Before he deals with a parent’s ministry, he deals with a parent’s heart. The first command of the passage is that we should “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (v. 4).
Jesus called this “the great and first commandment” (Matt. 22:38). Here we have the first key to an authentic and enthusiastic witness: a genuine love for the Lord. We all have things that we are passionate about. I had a high school teacher who was passionate about cricket. It was a passion that we exploited if we didn’t want to have class. “Sir, what do you think of the Proteas’ chances at the world cup?” We’d sit back and listen as he waxed lyrical about his favourite players. He was positively effervescent in his enthusiasm for the game.
It is the love of God which compels us to share his gospel with others (2 Cor. 5:14). Sadly, we often find that Christians share their faith reluctantly. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they were ashamed of the gospel, as though it wasn’t “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). If we don’t love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and might, we won’t be motivated to share his Word with others. You cannot give what you do not have.
How can I grow in my love for the Lord? That is where the second command of the passage comes in: “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (v. 6). Our love for the Lord is deepened by our knowledge of him. Our love is a response to his love revealed in the Word and in his Son (1 John 4:19). For example, in Psalm 1:2 we are told of the blessedness of those whose “delight is in the law of the LORD” and meditates on it day and night. Similarly, David wrote: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11).
Have you ever joined a conversation only to realize that we have no idea what they are talking about? We stand there quietly, politely nodding our heads, but we’re just looking for an opportunity to leave. If we want to participate joyfully in Christian fellowship or share our faith effectively with family and friends, we must know what we are talking about. We cannot give what we do not have.
These are the fundamental requirements for an authentic, enthusiastic, and effective witness. We must love the Lord our God and his Word must be on our hearts. Only then are we equipped to share it with others.
Because of Christ,
As I parked my car outside a friend’s house, he walked up to me and remarked: “Do you know your front right wheel is flat?” I hadn’t noticed and awkwardly tried to turn the exchange into a joke. He stopped me and said: “That isn’t safe, man; not for you and not for your family.” I had it checked later that day.
We live in a materialistic world. This is not new. Proverbs 11:28 warns us: “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall”. These words were penned by one of the richest men in the Old Testament: Solomon. Yet even Solomon understood that wealth has its limits and that it is a flimsy foundation for confidence. As Jesus explained: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt. 6:19-20).
Christians would do well to heed these warnings. Our confidence should not be in the abundance of our possessions. We must be careful that the things we own don’t own us. Jesus added: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21).
Psalm 24:1 says: “The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein”. We don’t actually “own” anything; God has entrusted some of his abundance to us. How we manage this blessing will say a great deal about our priorities, desires, and spiritual maturity.
At this point you probably expect a lecture on generosity and benevolence. These are important Christian disciplines that defined the early church and should shape us as well. However (you knew this was coming), this is not what I want to focus on. I want to focus on how you take care of the things God has entrusted to you. They were given to take care of your family (or, if you are alone, yourself).
Look at Proverbs 27:23-27: “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? When the grass is gone and the new growth appears and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field. There will be enough goats' milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls.”
This proverb teaches a lesson drawn from rural life. There are flocks and herds, grass and vegetation, fields and milk. These imagines may be strange those of us who grew up in the city, but they are the stuff of life out on the farm. Tending to your livestock is important because they will provide wool (v. 26), milk (v. 27), food (v. 27), and yes, money (v. 26). Tending to your field is also important because it produces food for the livestock (v. 25).
We understand the concept. This is the “circle of life” stuff our childhood cartoons sang about, but there is more to it than that. Look at how the passage ends: “food for your household and maintenance for your girls” (v. 27). If you are a breadwinner or homemaker there are people who depend on you. Your family (“your household”) depends on you. There may even be people that you employ: “your girls”. This is most likely a reference to servants, which the NIV makes explicit when it translates it “servant girls”.
In both cases there are people who rely on you for “wool… milk… food”. You may not have fields or flocks, but you have a car that gets you to work, a home that keeps your family warm and dry, and other tools that enable you to ply your trade. You, and the gifts that God has blessed you with, are the means by which God takes care of your family or employees. How you manage your fields and flocks impacts them. In other words, you must take care of the things that take care of your family. The wise stewardship of the means that God has provided for you, is a blessing to your family. If you squander what God has given, or if you aren’t attentive to it, your family and your employees will suffer.
Can God provide for your family without you? Absolutely. God takes care of those who have no one else to take care of them. Just look at Psalm 68:5: “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” Trust that the Lord will take care of them when you can’t. But this does not mean that we can be unwise stewards of what he has entrusted to us.
Heed God’s wisdom and learn to take care of the things that take care of your family.
Because of Christ,
What do you want most for your child?
What do you want most for your child? Good grades? Athletic achievement? While these are noble goals we have to ask ourselves how important these things are to God. How do our goals for our children differ from what the world wants for them?
What does God want for your children? God desires godliness more than grades. Look at Deut. 4:9: “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children”. Later, in Deut. 6:5-7, we read: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
First, God wants your children to grow up with godly parents. In both passages God addresses the parents first. God expects parents to “take care, and keep your soul diligently” (4:9). You cannot tend to the soul of your child if you neglect your own. You cannot teach the love of God to your children, if you do not “love the Lord your God with all your heart” (6:6). Parents, be godly examples.
Second, God wants your children to be taught by godly parents. A godly example is important because so much of what our children learn about God is “caught, not taught”. Your example will always speak louder than your words. This does not mean, however, that you should not use words. What does God say? “Make them known to your children” (4:9) and “teach them diligently to your children” (6:7). Deliberate, consistent and constant (note “when you sit... when you walk... when you lie down” in 6:7) teaching is vital. Pastors and youth leaders have a role to play, but their role is supplementary. Parents, get to know God’s Word and teach it to your children.
There is obviously more to being a Christian parent, but this is a great place to start. What do you want most for your children? How does it differ from God’s desire for them?
Because of Christ,