If we see two women in a department store, each with a child or two, should we be able to tell which mother is a Christian and which is non-Christian? Are there external evidences (things we can see) as well as those qualities in their minds and hearts that make them behave a certain way?
Spiritually, you cannot prepare too much to have a child. Every mother should spend the weeks before her child is born in studying Scripture, praying, seeking God and doing good works! That thought is underpinned with the idea that if you think you know anything, you know nothing yet as you ought to know (1 Cor. 8:2). I am finding myself daily wishing I had studied harder and with more earnestness when I was young, before I ever became a wife or a mother. Why? After the children were born, every bit of knowledge, understanding and wisdom that I had was stretched and used to its fullest, and I was left wishing I had more. In the thick of motherhood, moments to study and gain the strength you wish you had are so much harder to come by, since free time is virtually non-existent.
There are many challenges to motherhood. Of course, we may feel foolishly over confident to tackle such challenges beforehand. When we are actually faced with those same apparently easy issues, we are surprised when they stump us. Then we don’t always respond well to them and can do damage to ourselves and certainly put our children at a disadvantage. All this is not to mention the impact of our bad example being unimaginably far-reaching. Any possible spiritual growth that we can accomplish ahead of time can only help. As we encounter challenges with our own siblings, with church members, or even people of the world, we should meet each with the understanding that the goal is to overcome temptations, not fall to them. Overcoming temptations is what strengthens us and provides a new source of motivation to be the kind of Christian that will excel. We are trying for a change in *heart* for the Lord, which will entirely transform our motherhood for the better.
The whole key is our mind as a Christian and that our perspective of motherhood is that motherhood is a Christian endeavor, something we’re doing as a steward of God, bought with a price, and we are not our own. How strong is our will and determination to forsake all for Christ? How whole-hearted am I really? With that sober-mindedness underpinning our motherhood, we will approach everything differently than we would if we were in it for ourselves. For example, as we try to guide the house, our primary (most vital) task is to guide the children spiritually, to train them in the things that are important spiritually (Gal. 6:8). “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.:16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides,…” (Matt. 23:15-16). “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matt. 23:24-26). As we rule our children, we’d must keep in mind that we should rule with diligence (Rom. 12:8), kindness and wisdom, etc. “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven” (Col. 4:1). So many other things could be cross-referenced here, but the idea would be that a Christian mother is truly a Christian in every respect. And what exactly is a Christian? We have plenty to study on that topic, enough that there would be no need to overlap anything.
Most young girls think that when they get married, they will automatically make good wives and mothers. After all, they will be in love with the one they marry and so they will never fuss or fight with them, and the babies will all be good and never cry or be sick. What most young girls do not realize is that what they are right now is what they will be as a wife and mother. The habits they have now, the character traits they possess will be what they carry with them through life and into eternity—unless they make a conscious effort to change. Are teens and young girls part of whom the apostle Paul was talking about when he told Titus that the older women should teach the younger? He obviously was not talking *just* about young married women. He must have included those young girls who also plan to marry and bear children. “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra 7:10). Notice that Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and so became one of the chief tools in the Lord’s hands to accomplish His will in the return of the captives of Israel. What if a young girl actively prepared her heart for the day she hopes to have children? Might she do a better job of this great work? What about the women who already have children, can they study and grow to do a better job?
Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words” (Dan. 10:12). Daniel set his heart to understand and to chasten himself before God and his words were heard. Do Christian mothers need to be heard by God as they deal with their children and try to teach them His love?
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:3-5).
The two major words used in the Titus 2 passage (translated love in the English) are defined below.
- NT:5362 philandros (fil’-an-dros); from NT:5384 and NT:435; fond of man, i.e. affectionate as a wife: KJV – love their husbands.
- NT: 5388 philoteknos (fil-ot’-ek-nos); from NT: 5384 and NT: 5043; fond of one’s children, i.e. maternal: KJV – love their children.
In these two definitions, you can see the relationship to the main word phileo which is a friendship love.
There are different words for love, but the passage in Titus 3:4 uses the same root for both love their husbands, love their children. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared (Titus 3:4), (same root word as love husbands, love children). 5363. philanthropia, fil-an-thro-pee’-ah; from the same as G5364; fondness of mankind Philanthropia: means be fond of, (friend to (not of) them.) If loving our children (being fond of them, a friend TO them—in the WAY God wants us to) were something that just came naturally, He wouldn’t command that we be taught. We should seek our Creator’s wisdom in this great work and not rely on our own or another man’s wisdom.
Notice the very telling passages from the Psalms which describe how true friends behave toward each other:
- “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother” (Psa. 35:13-14).
- “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17).
- “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).
We know that true friendship is one of the best things in the world. What if our children can count on having a mother who is a true friend? What do true friends do for each other?
- “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:6).
- “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel. 10 Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not…” (Prov. 27:9-10).
- “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17).
If the children are still at home, they are the mother’s work; however, we have a different situation today than they had during the time of Titus. What happens nowadays when the children become kindergarten age? The world takes them away from us! Previously mothers had twenty four hours a day, seven days a week with the children until they were grown. Now how many hours do they have? We have at least eight hours less. Also the children have school programs or projects to do at home—which means mothers have even less time with them. Yet young mothers still have a responsibility to teach their children. They must love their children and teaching them is showing love. Should mothers teach less or as much? Mothers need to teach everything! What is the mother’s job when the children get home from school every day? Children always seem to have homework to do. Then what happens to the Bible teaching time? Both the church and the parents have serious competition for the souls of children today. Under the guise of education, the humanists are claiming soul after soul. If we are to keep the children’s hearts, we have to teach them about God and His ways. We need to win their hearts for God before they go to school.
This trust might be compared to Hannah’s job with young Samuel before she had to give him over to Eli and the service of the temple. The whole nation of Israel knew that Eli had not trained his own children well, and Hannah might have been tempted to forsake her vow because Eli was not a strong influence for the Lord. But she trusted the promises of God and gave her best to Samuel’s training while she had him at home. We must fight for our children’s souls. If a mother really loves her child, what will she do? Making sure she has time at home with the children to teach them every day will be her top priority. The mother’s time belongs to her children. Today there is a battle for our children’s hearts and souls, but many are blind to the fight. If we are blind to the fight, who will win? We must actively teach the truths in God’s word as well as teach by a godly example.
We must show mercy in teaching and training our children. In addition to providing physically for those who depend on us, we must also be concerned with their training, even sometimes through affliction—maybe theirs and ours! We must teach skills, chores (all part of diligence), but especially Bible study, whether or not they want it! It’s not merciful to neglect them just because they’re disinterested little hyperactive page turners who rebel by sighing and rolling their eyes. Sometimes we need the “forehead of flint” to be willing to “butt heads” with our children because we love them enough to do it. Eli lived to regret his permissiveness. God shows His love for us by carefully providing His words for us, training us, nurturing us. “The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes. Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word: It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Psa. 119:64, 67, 71). It is merciful to our child to reward according to their works, whether punishments or rewards. It is by God’s mercy that He rewards us according to our works. “Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work” (Psa. 62:12). Which is more merciful, to withhold punishment from our child and let him go to hell, or inflict hardship now and save his soul?
- “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell” (Prov. 23:13-14).
- “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Prov. 3:11-12).
- “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb. 12:4-6). The Greek meaning is: (3809. paideia, pahee-di’-ah; from G3811; tutorage; i.e. education or training; by implication disciplinary correction). “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed” (Heb. 12:7-13).
- “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Prov. 19:18).
Consistent punishments are necessary, but so are rewards and motivations. Do we place equal emphasis on being faithful to reward our children for doing right, to show our appreciation for the good they do and rejoice at a job well done? The Lord wants us to succeed, and uses His praise and promise of certain rewards for our motivation. “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matt. 10:41-42).
Like God, we should do everything we can to help our children to succeed—by doing our utmost to bring out the best in them, not discouraging them. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Do my words always show mercy, and build others up, or do they sometimes tear down or bring out the worst in others? “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness (#2616 mercy)” (Prov. 31:26). “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, (building up) that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29).
Sometimes, out of mercy, we just have to find a way to MAKE children do right: The Lord’s care of Lot is one example: “And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city” (Gen. 19:16). Even in our punishments, we must show mercy. Does our punishment match the level of our exasperation, or the degree of the children’s bad behavior? The Lord knows it is human nature to punish our children to please ourselves, and not always in a way that will profit our children. When they fail to do something right and we are embarrassed, should we hit them on the head and call them a fool? Should we pinch them in some soft spot and twist the skin until it makes a blood blister? When we want to let them know they are not pleasing to us, should our face show anger, hatred or meanness? “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Heb. 12:9-10). “He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (Psa. 103:9-17). (pity: same word as used for mercy in other passages – #7355. racham, raw-kham’; a prim. root; to fondle; by impl. to love, especially to be compassionate, closely related to the word for a mother cherishing & nourishing the baby in her womb). When our children are genuinely remorseful, or trying to please us, do we have enough discretion to go lightly on their punishment at those times? “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:13). The Greek definition is: (#2920. krisis, decision, (for or against); by extension a tribunal; by implication justice). In other words, this is what you deserve, but this (lesser punishment) is what you get. How do we want to be treated? Do we treat our children that way? Consider David’s reaction to those who should have been punished (Shimei, Absolom, Joab, even Amnon). Was David merely without strength of character, or was he showing God’s mercy, by giving those people ample time to repent?