|Sam in the temple at Capernaum where Jesus taught|
As a parent I am always asking myself, “Are we teaching our kids about what is really important in life?” As a pastor I have always struggled with children growing up in the faith and being involved in so many wonderful things in the Christian community and then when they get to their HSC year, they pull out of everything to concentrate on study. Then they get their car, their freedom, a job and a girlfriend and all these things take a very quick priority over the things of God. We then find ourselves asking, “Why are they walking away?” I have seen it happen over and over again. I hear the conversations and the reasoning and have always felt helpless as I watch wonderful kids walk away from it all. What are we really teaching our kids about what is important in life? Isn’t this is an imperative question we all must confront as adults? In this western, consumerist, achievement focused, self-gratifying, lucky country, what are we modelling to our children and the children of our communities?
I hear these types of statements from young people:
· I need to stop serving in ministries or going to church so I can focus on my education so I can get a good job and live comfortably.
· I will get a good job and make sure I have security and then I will follow God in my spare time.
· I want to chill with my friends and just relax. Life is to be enjoyed, there’s plenty of time for getting serious later.
My son is doing his HSC this year. We have always tried to teach him to “start the way you mean to finish.” I am encouraged to read in Luke 9: 57-62 that Jesus has an answer for these tough questions. When something is repeated in the Bible three times I always feel it is something we should take note of. In Luke 9, three different people state that they want to follow Jesus. Jesus responds very strongly each time in a manner that is still very relevant still today and would be received just as poorly today as well. In all three responses he was saying, “If you are really serious about following me, then start like you mean to finish”. We hear excuses being justified by the busyness and pressures of modern 21st century, but actually they are excuses that have always been around. It is heartening to think that the same issues that arise today were issues in Jesus’ time too.
Luke 9: 57-58 reads On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said. Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”
In another book of the Bible, the “someone” in this passage was described as a learned scribe. This infers that he was someone who was highly educated. Jesus sensed that he was looking for personal comfort and responded by asking for self-denial. I wonder what Jesus would say to, “I need to stop serving in ministries or going to church so I can focus on my education so I can get a good job and live comfortably.” Would Jesus encourage our kids to abandon everything to focus on study? Of course, I am not saying that being educated is not valuable but when it becomes the main focus and the top priority of our life, leaving following Jesus as a low priority, is that how we are meant to finish? My Son turns 18 in a few months, so we are feeling like this is the last year we can really help him establish good rhythms in life and actually “start the way you mean to finish”. If studying for the HSC is a good reason to stop everything, then there will always be something else to replace study when study is over. Relationships, jobs, leisure, travel, marriage, children etc... there will always be something else we think we must do if we are seeking comfort, stability and status or adventure ahead of Jesus. In his response I hear Jesus saying, “Following me is tough and challenging and it is a different track than the traditional, worldly values in life; are you ready for that?” Are we as parents modelling a life that seeks Jesus over everything else?
Luke 9: 59-60 reads -Jesus said to another, “Follow me.” He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.” Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”
This response of Jesus seems harsh and heartless, unless you really get what the person was saying to Jesus. This person was saying, “Can I go back home and wait for my inheritance – so I will have a good fall back plan? I will stay at home until father has passed and then I will get my inheritance and then I will follow you!” This could have been 10-15 years away. Jesus says, “Your business is life, not death.” Jesus was trying to help him understand that to say, “I will follow you” means to do it NOW. Life is not about accumulating for yourself and/or waiting around for someone to die, for you to get your inheritance.
This is so true today! We think we have all the time in the world to do what we want to do in life. We always want to accumulate more and we just don’t have time to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. The truth is we will never have enough time to get all our affairs in order and to be free enough to serve him, unless we make it our top priority. It is no wonder we hear our children saying:
I will get a good job and make sure I have security, and then follow God in my spare time.
Jesus says, “Leave secular matters to secular people, spiritual matters need to be first if you want to follow me.” I am not suggesting they don’t need to be attended to but we all know how easily they take the place of following Jesus. It is not about what to do and don’t do but more about what needs to come first. Start the way you mean to finish. As our kids begin to think about study, a career, a relationship, an adventure, as they are becoming adults, how do they mean to finish? After all, is it your business life or your eternal life that really matters at the end of this short life? What are we doing in this life that has eternal value?
Luke 9: 61&62 reads - Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home” Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”
Jesus says, “What God thinks needs to be more important than your family and friends.” You can’t please everyone and ultimately you are answerable to God for what you do with the time and resources he gives you. Maybe this person might have been a people pleaser needing to make sure that his family was all okay. Or maybe he was the type of person that would have gone home to make a list of things that needed to be done before he could really commit and we know what happens then! The list never ends and the years roll on and he is still saying “Hmm I really want to serve Jesus with all my heart...one day”. For our kids it is often about enjoying the ease that the Australian life brings us.
I want to chill with my friends, and just relax. Life is to be enjoyed. There’s plenty of time for getting serious later.
Jesus tells us that we can’t have it both ways. We can’t keep putting it off; we must seize the day because we don’t have as much time as we think. We are modelling this to our children by the things that take our time, by the way our home runs, by the things we value and stand for. Does what we are modelling say, “I follow Jesus?” I remember when I was 18 years old; it was a great time in life. I thought life was all ahead of me and there was nothing I couldn’t achieve. I was fortunate to have parents who modelled a Christ-centred life. They were and are successful and talented people who have given their life to honour and follow Jesus. They live in a way that models the way they wanted to finish. It doesn’t mean they don’t struggle with all three issues and more. They are certainly not perfect but I am thankful for the way they have lived their lives.
|Sam with his Pop, someone finishing well.|
The window of opportunity we have to mould and shape our children is not long. I don’t know where the past 18 years have gone. We don’t know if the three talking to Jesus listened and made the right choices but we do know that the same questions keep coming up even today and we know that Jesus’ answer has never changed.
Matthew 6:33. ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
We must teach our children to live in a way that they mean to finish. We must begin as early as we can teaching them that the choices they make really matter. If we want to follow Jesus...every choice, every thought, every day we must live in the way that we mean to finish.