Do you have rules in your family? If we are honest rules make life easy: rules and structure ensure that we have order, obedience, training etc in our home. When we have these things in our family we start to think that we are doing family life in a way that pleases God. The Pharisees made that mistake. The Pharisees had a system of rules and regulations that they trusted, they trusted these things for their salvation. The Pharisees were legalistic and Jesus came to change all that.
Legalism is where we emphasise the law instead of the life, where we focus on the letter of the law rather than the spirit, where we look at the externals not the heart.
I heard someone painting a picture by telling this story (and I can’t remember who) that way back in Israel’s history God’s law was given to each family. This law was given by God and it had its purpose. Somewhere along the way there was a godly man who really wanted his family to follow God, so he created a practice that helped his family do the right thing. There was nothing wrong with this practice, it was helpful. Maybe it was reading the ‘Scripture’ at breakfast time. Over time, those kids grew up, and they did love God and obey his commandments, so they too followed their father’s footsteps and had ‘reading the Scriptures at breakfast’ and then the next generation and the next all did the same. Before long it became something more than a tradition that their forefather instigated, it became a law. (Now this is only an example because I’m not particularly well studied in knowing which laws the Israelites created, except I know the Pharisees listed a lot!) The point of the story is to see that laws that we create can come from a good heart, and even a good practice, but it doesn’t mean it reflects God’s heart.
There is nothing wrong with putting a structure in place in our family that helps us do the right thing. But when we start to place our trust in that practice, our trust that our kids will be right with God, we will put so much weight in the importance of that practice, that we won’t deviate from it at all – most likely out of a fear that our children will walk away from God, or do something else that we wouldn’t like (like wear immodest clothing, watch inappropriate movies, make wrong friends, spend their time unwisely, etc)
What are you putting your trust in for your children’s hearts?
- Do you trust family traditions and practices you have established as a part of your family culture?
- Do you trust the friends that you have carefully selected for your kids?
- Do you trust the books and movies you allow into your home?
- Do you trust the structure of your day?
- Do you trust the church that your family attends?
- Do you trust God?
Sometimes when we say we ‘trust God’ it is a bit like a bandaid; a trivial or flippant or cop-out expression. But let’s test it: what will happen in your family if you don’t follow through on one of your family practices? Will that create a stress in your heart? Especially if a month goes by without getting time for that special activity? What about if your husband doesn’t agree, or find time for it – do you start to unravel, thinking there is no hope for your family? What if you find out your kids have been reading inappropriate books, or seeing stuff online do you freak out and dish out the guilt and punishments or do you trust God to change the heart and renew the mind?
Trusting God isn’t a passive thing where we just hang and wait for God to intervene. Trusting God is about our relationship with Him, interacting with him. We cannot trust a person whom we don’t know, we can think that they are reliable, we may have confidence in their reputation but we will only trust a person we know. When Jesus tells us that love is more important than anything do we believe that enough to live it out? When God’s word tells us that Jesus was grace and truth, and that we are to be like Jesus – do we seek to be grace and truth?
One of the tests that I put on myself is that when things go wrong what is my reaction? Do I tighten the rules, redefine the structure, increase the supervision? Or do I go to God and cry for help, do I go to God with my child, and together we pray and ask for God’s wisdom. Having structure and family practices aren’t a wrong thing – they are helpful. But if we place our trust in those things, we are just like the Pharisees – they didn’t think they needed a saviour cause they were doing all the right things but they didn’t have a relationship with Jesus.
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Some trust in chariots and some in horses but we will remember the name of the Lord our God… I learnt a song with these words when I was a child. How often the song comes back to me – mostly just this line. It is taken from Psalm 20. I remember my dad explaining this one to me – horses are the creation and chariots are things that man made, but we are to trust in God alone. The horse and the chariot aren’t bad things – we just aren’t to put our trust in them.