“I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 2:18-19
It turns out that Solomon was quite right to worry about his successor. His son Rehoboam was so inept as a leader that he presided over the breakup of the kingdom. Perhaps Solomon saw some character defect in his son and feared the worst. In the early chapters of Proverbs he appeals over and over to “my son” to heed his words, turn from wickedness, and seek wisdom with all his heart. Check out these verses: Proverbs 1:10; 2:1; 3:1; 3:11; 4:20; 5:1; 5:20; and 6:20. These are only a few of the verses where Solomon appeals to his son’s heart. From our vantage point we perhaps tend to read those verses in a generic sense, as if Solomon is writing for young people in general. But perhaps there is something deeper here, the anxious heart of a father who knows that one day he will have to hand over to his son all that he has spent a lifetime building.
I know of no way to guarantee that your children will follow in your steps. Children have minds of their own, and in the end our sons and daughters must choose for themselves whether they will serve the Lord. However, I do believe we can tip the scales in the right direction by the way we live day to day. Training up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6) certainly means living a consistent Christian life. Our kids have excellent baloney detectors and can smell a phony a mile away. On the other hand, we don’t have to be perfect either. Consistency matters, time spent with our children matters, prayer matters, and faith matters.
Children make many mistakes in the course of life, but those raised in godly homes will be inclined toward righteousness. Christian parents need to take the long view when evaluating how their children are doing. Many teenagers and young adults go through a period of questioning values and testing their limits. But the good seed planted in childhood will eventually bear fruit, though not necessarily as soon as we would like or as abundantly as we would like.
Our children belong to the Lord, not to us. This is a hard lesson to learn, and most of us have to relearn it many times. They are gifts from the Lord, entrusted to our care for a few brief years.
A few months ago I heard someone say a most reassuring thing: “God is not worried about your children.” He knows them better than we do and He loves them with an everlasting love. He will not stop until His work in them is complete. Our part is to be faithful, and God will take care of the rest.
Help me to pass along my faith, O Lord, so that the things I believe in won’t die with me. Amen.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.