A Portrait for Parents
Passage: Matthew 6:25–6:33
A Portrait for Parents
December 16th, 2007
Way of Grace Church
I. Parenting Experts
Being the father of young children I am always amazed at the amount of parenting books and resources that are out there. Everyone seems to have a different take on how to raise kids.
And of course most of these materials have some expert endorsing their plan, whether it's a medical doctor or a child psychologist or a seasoned nanny.
But the sheer amount of resources out there must make most people ask, "Where exactly should I look for solid parenting advice?"
Bill Cosby put it this way in his book "Fatherhood": In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, it is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything.
So what is a parent to do?
Well, if we are followers of Jesus Christ then we know what resource we need to turn to first. We need to turn to the real parenting expert; we need to turn to God and discover what his word tells us about this critical subject.
Turn with me to Matthew 6:25-33. (bottom of page 811).
At this time of year when we are thinking about and gathering with family, we've been looking together at what God teaches us about family. We've been looking at the "Family Portraits" that God has painted in his word, those depictions that should both inform and inspire us.
We have talked about God's desire that our families be families of faith. We talked last week about how self-giving love and submissive servanthood should characterize a marriage because of Jesus Christ. And so this week we turn to the next logical topic when it comes to family: parenting.
II. The Passage: "...And Yet Your Heavenly Father..." (Matthew 6:25-33)
So whether you are the parents of young children or older children, or even if you have no children, all of us need to hear what God's word tells us about one of the most important jobs in the world. Listen as I read from Matthew 6:25-33:
25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?ï»¿ 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?' or ‘What shall we drink?' or ‘What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Now, I suspect that a good number of us are familiar with this passage. This teaching from Jesus is part of the larger message that we call the Sermon on the Mount. It covers three chapters, from Matthew chapter 5, through chapter 7.
And just so we have a sense of the larger context of these verses, what Jesus is doing in the sermon on the mount is describing for his disciples and those listening, the radically different lifestyle of those who live in the kingdom of God.
In chapter 4 of Matthew, Jesus began his ministry by preaching the coming of the kingdom of heaven (4:17). In verse 23 of chapter 4, we read that he was proclaiming the gospel or Good News of the kingdom. What was this kingdom? It was the transforming reign of God that was being extended through Jesus. Men and women were being invited into this new relationship with God through Jesus. But this kingdom made radical demands on its subjects.
For example, what see here in 6:25-33 is the revolutionary call to a worry-free life. Jesus tells his disciples, "Don't be anxious"..."Don't worry!" Now I know there are some 'worry warts' here who are saying, "Don't worry? Are you kidding? I live to worry? What's wrong with worrying? If you love people you worry about them? Worrying helps me cope!" How can Jesus say, "Don't worry!"
Well, as we see here, he can command us not to be anxious because of the reality of who God is. For followers of Jesus and subjects of God's kingdom, God is a heavenly father who is intimately aware of and fully able to provide for all our needs. We don't have to worry.
The proof of God's provision, as Jesus points out, is all around us! The birds of the air and the flowers of the field are evidence that God cares about his creation. And if he provides for birds and flowers, how much more will he care for those made in his image, especially for those who call upon God as father?
You see, worry stems not ultimately from a lack of information or a lack of control; it flows from a lack of faith; faith in the reality of God's perfect provision. And by perfect provision I mean that God always gives his children what they need; not what they want, but what they need.
Of course, these ideas are not radical in the sense of being new. The Old Testament is filled with encouragements to trust in God and believe that he will provide for his people.
III. Be Imitators of God
But wait a minute. This message was supposed to be about parenting. What are we doing in Matthew 6? Why aren't we in one of those classic parenting passages like Deuteronomy 6 or Ephesians 6? What does living a worry-free life have to do with being a parent?
Well, you may remember last week, what Ephesians 5:1 taught us about out ultimate role model. Consider the connection between this and Matthew 6. Ephesians 5:1...
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
Do you see the connection? Or I should say connections. First, Ephesians 5:1 reminds us that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are, in terms of our relationship with God, we are beloved children. Isn't that what Jesus is confirming in Matthew 6?
God provides for is because we are, through Jesus, his beloved children.
But the other connection is related to Paul's instruction in Ephesians 5:1..."be imitators of God".
So not only did Jesus teach us about the joy of living worry-free as children of God, but through Paul, God is calling us to be like him. Jesus taught this same thing when he declared one chapter earlier in Matthew:
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:44, 45)
As children of God, we are called to be like God. And that includes learning from his example in Matthew 6:25-33. And what is that example?
A. God as Parent
That example in Matthew 6 is connected with God's position or role as Father.
Parents, have you ever thought about the fact that if God is your heavenly Father, you should look to him, not only as a child, but also as a fellow parent? We learn so much about parenting from our earthly father and mother; how much more should we learn from our Father in heaven?
To parent as Christians, to parent according to God's heart, to parent to the glory of God, our parenting must be God-centered. It cannot simply be about this technique or that trick. It must be wrapped up and revolve around the very person of God.
God himself is the ultimate parenting role model. He is the perfect parent.
And so if that's true, what does this passage teach us about parenting? How might we describe the beautiful portrait on display in these verses?
B. God's Provision for Our Needs
Well notice first a point that is extremely obvious. As a Father, as a parent, God lovingly provides for the needs of his children.
God's provision for our needs begins with his knowledge of our needs. Do you remember what Jesus taught at the beginning of this chapter. He was teaching his disciples about pray when he said, ""And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:7, 8)
So as a divine parent God knows what we need and gives us what we need.
Sadly, even though this is about as basic as it gets when it comes to parenting, I know there are many parents in this world who don't even do this; even though they have the means, they don't provide for the needs of their children. That's true of basic needs, like food and clothing. And that's true of other genuine needs.
Now I'm going to assume that every parent here knows how to provide for the basic needs of their children. You know they need food, shelter, clothing, health, hygiene, etc.
But what I believe all of us need to be reminded of is the fact that there are other critical needs that God calls us to meet as parents. Do you know the needs your children have?
They have a need for love and affection. Do you hug your kids on a regular basis and tell them you love them?
Children have a need for encouragement. Are you quick to offer a word of encouragement to your kids, or a critique?
Children have a need for communication. Do you talk with your children about things going on in their life? Maybe more importantly, do you listen to what they have to say?
Children have a need for protection. Are you protecting your children from things they shouldn't be listening to, things they shouldn't be watching, friends they shouldn't be spending time with? They need you to do this. They're the child, your the parent. Protect them, don't shelter them. Protect and teach them about making good decisions.
Children have a need for discipline. Do you love your children enough to teach them about right and wrong by disciplining them, by showing them that they have to be accountable for their actions?
In general, children have a need for parents to be parents. Even when they test the limits and challenge your parenting, deep down they desire their parents to be parents.
What breaks my heart is when I see tiny kids, 4, 5, 6, 7 years old riding bikes or walking down the street by themselves or with a group of kids their same age. There is no parent around. These kids just seem to be cut loose, to do whatever.
Now, I don't know the whole story there, but I have known many cases where that kind of parenting has nothing to do with a parent who is unable to be there; it has to do with parents who are unwilling to be there.
Children need you to be like God in the sense that they need you to know their real needs and provide for their real needs. That even applies to those of you who have children who are now adults.
C. God's Purpose in His Provision
But there is something else in this passage, something even bigger. Something we've skipped over up until now. But we can't skip over it.
Notice that, according to Jesus, God's provision for our needs is not an end in itself. What I mean is that God is not satisfied with merely giving us food and clothing. He doesn't provide for these needs and then pat himself on the back and say, "Mission accomplished!"
This may sound crazy, but parents, knowing and meeting the genuine needs of your children, the genuine needs we talked about is not enough. When we look around us we see that you do not need to love God in order to be a parent who provides. There are some great parents out there who might provide for these needs, but don't look to God for their guidance.
So what more is there?
Mothers, fathers, if you have trusted and are trusting in Jesus Christ as your only hope, then God has called you to the next level of parenting.
Look again at verses 31 through 33:
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?' or ‘What shall we drink?' or ‘What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Do you see the ultimate purpose in God's provision? The goodness of God's provision is meant to point us to the greatness of God himself. The care of heaven is intended to direct our hearts to the King of Heaven. God rain downs blessings in love in order that we might submit to His loving reign.
Fathers, mothers, parents, the goal of your parenting should not simply be to provide, it should be to point. Are you pointing? Are you a parent who points? What am I talking about?
God is calling us to point our children to him in order that he might be first in all things.
You see, Jesus was trying to teach his disciples in this passage that God's provision should do two things: first, it should free them from the tyranny of anxiety and the misguided pursuit of power and possession. And second, it should remind them of God's incomparable goodness and grace.
And both of those things should drive them to pursue life in loving obedience to the King.
And that is the very same thing that your parenting should do. Your provision for your children should free them from the bondage that can come from lovelessness, indifference, fear, abuse, neglect in their childhood, AND...and it should be reminder to them of God's incomparable goodness and grace...if you teach them, if you teach them that God's goodness and grace are the sources of everything they have, everything you give them.
Parents, what is your goal in parenting?
Sadly, I have met too many parents, Christian parents who seem more concerned about what kind of scholarship their child will earn, about what kind of student they are, rather than what kind of servant they will be for the King of heaven.
Parents, God is calling you to first, first (v. 33), first teach your child to seek first the kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul put it this way in Ephesians 6: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (6:4)
But what does that mean? Does that mean we need to replace everything they do now with intensive Bible study, Christan videos, Christian music, church activities, etc. No, those can be good things but listen to what God taught his people in Deuteronomy 6:
4 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.ï»¿ 5 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (6:4-9)
Do you see what Moses was teaching the Israelites? Your instruction, your pointing, should be woven into the tapestry of your life.
When you sit down to eat, what do you teach your children about gratitude in light of God's provision? When your family encounters real adversity, what do you teach your children about God's purposes?
When your child comes to you with questions, what do you teach your children about where we find answers? When you blow your top and say something to your child that you immediately regret, what do you teach them about humility and repentance and forgiveness?
As the day comes to an end, and you see the western sky filled with indescribable colors, what do you tell your children about the Maker of heaven and earth?
God is calling us to point our children to him in order that he might be first in all things. And that can only happen through Jesus Christ. Jesus not only gave us the right to address God as Father, he also died and rose again to finalize our adoption as sons and daughters by grace through faith.
IV. The Portraits in Your Home
Let me wrap this up this morning by being as clear as I can about THE most important point in actually applying these truths. This is it. This is the key to God-honoring, biblical parenting. If you leave with just one thing this morning, this needs to be it. Are you ready?
If you really want your children to seek first the kingdom of God then...seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
The writer Robert Fulghum wrote somewhere, Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
The fact that our children are watching us shouldn't be a reason to worry. It should be a reminder that God has called us to love him with our all through Jesus Christ. And when we do, when we do, our children will see Jesus, they will be pointed to Christ the King through our life.
Don't expect your children to have a heart for God if you do not. They can in spite of you. God can give them that heart. But you might also be the stumbling block that inoculates them to the truth of the gospel.
Very early in the lives of children it becomes very apparent to them who's in charge of their home; they learn what rules and drives their family.
I pray that they see Jesus Christ as Lord in all of our homes, in all of our lives.
Pointing children to God begins with living as His child. Being a parent for God begins with looking to our Father in heaven.
Let's praise God for his parenting advice.