Intentional Parenting or Unintentional Consequences

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The ultimate parental dereliction of duty is to allow the children to parent themselves. Your children need a dad and a mom who will give them definite direction in the way they should go. And the promise of scripture is that when they are old, they will not depart from it. That is quite a risky promise, but it is God’s, not mine.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 2:12-13, 22

Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord or for their duties as priests…. Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel.

Eli was the high priest of Israel as the period of the Judges was coming to a close. Arguably, there was no higher public role than his. Yet there was a job more important than being the Chief Spiritual Officer of Israel, and that was being a dad to his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas.

Now while these two were grown men and Eli was very old at the time of this story, it is obvious that many years had passed where Eli had been derelict in his parental duties. Hophni and Phinehas were very wicked men, even though they were priests of the Lord like their father.

The story of this family doesn’t give any details of their upbringing, except that as we have already seen, this was a time in Israel’s spiritual journey that God had been moved to the margins and people were doing whatever they thought best. (Judges 22:25) We don’t know what had happened, or what had not happened. We don’t know if Eli had been off shepherding Israel but not shepherding his own home. We don’t know if Eli was simply lazy as a dad, or if he had a pushover personality, or if his sons were just bad apples, or all of the above.

What we do know is that when we get to these early chapters in 1 Samuel, Hophni and Phinehas were abusing their spiritual authority. They were cheating people out of sacrifices that were meant to the Lord, they were seducing women who came to worship, and were using their role to benefit themselves, and they had deeply offended the Lord, who was now ready to end not just their ministry as priests, but their very lives:

Eli said, “You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the Lord’s people are not good. If someone sins against another person, God can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?” But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the Lord was already planning to put them to death. (1 Samuel 2:24-35

Now like many parents, Eli had a heartfelt concern for his sons’ wicked behavior. But unfortunately, like many parents, his concern was not matched by action. And his dereliction of duty only allowed their evil to grow worse, until it reached the point where God had determined to slay them. Keep in mind that God didn’t predetermine that these two would be evil—that is not what the writer is telling us when he says, “they wouldn’t listen to their dad, for God was planning to kill them.” What he is saying is that because of their deliberately evil actions, the Lord allowed their hearts to grow beyond repentance. In other words, God had given them what they were determined to have, and now they would harvest the wild oats they had sowed.

Of course, the over-arching purpose of this story is to connect the increasingly lawless times of the judges with the arrival of the Israel’s monarchy. Interestingly, scripture takes quite a bit of space to do that, using Judges, Ruth and the early part of 1 Samuel to make sure we know how awful society will get when God is not at the center. The account of Eli and his evil spawn is yet one more story that adds to this indictment.

Yet while that is the general theme, we can still extract some very important life applications from these accounts—including this one. One of those applications for me is the recognition that my highest call and chief mission in life is to honor Christ by being an effective father. Furthermore, the fruit of my mission will be seen in my kid’s and grandkid’s lives as they reach adulthood—it will be reflected in their own reverence for the Lord and the values of godliness they choose to live by. As they follow God of their own accord, that is the greatest tribute to what kind of dad I have been

Now that won’t happen just by virtue of being a parent to your children. It will be the result of intentional parenting and a determination to be the kind of mom or dad that honors God—especially the kind that honors God by insisting that your children give him the respect that is due.

Eli didn’t. He let his boys parent themselves until it was too late. The good news is, you can be different, especially if your children are still young. And if they are not, then start with where you are and exert the godliest influence you can. And with God’s help, your sincere efforts will have an effect.

The ultimate parental dereliction of duty is to allow the children to parent themselves. Your children need a dad and a mom who will give them definite direction in the way they should go. And the promise of scripture is that when they are old, they will not depart from it. That is quite a risky promise, but it is God’s, not mine.

Going Deeper With God: Have you ever shared your spiritual values with your children, or grandchildren? If you haven’t, look for an opportune time to tell them what you believe and why you believe it. Believe me, it will leave an impression.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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