John Wesley said, “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.” Augustine of Hippo prayed, “If I am Thy child, O God, it is because Thou gavest me such a mother.” Similarly John Newton testified, “As I was her only child, she made it the chief business and pleasure of her life to instruct me, and bring me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” These examples alone should prevent us from the low view of motherhood increasingly apparent today.
Children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). They are to be cherished and protected. Parenthood, on the other hand, should be counted as a privilege instead of something to be avoided or a season to get through as quickly as possible. The role of parents in the lives of children is indispensable and its importance cannot be overstated. These gifts from God are also a tremendous responsibility.
The role of parents in the lives of children is indispensable and its importance cannot be overstated
Mothers as primary caretakers
One Reader’s Digest article notes, “What the very young want, and urgently need, child development experts agree, is not education or socialisation, but the affection and … attention of their parents.” In 1 Timothy 5:10, Paul lists the raising of children among other good works. Paul reiterated a similar point to Titus, where woman are told to be “working at home” (Titus 2:5). In the New Testament husbands are said to be the head of the household, as Christ is to the head of the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). This makes them responsible for gospel-shaped leadership, laying down their lives in order to see the family’s needs met. This leadership must extend to caring for their children and being actively and personally involved in their lives, yet the emphasis of the New Testament seems to make women the primary caretakers of children.
In spite of this, the lights of a successful career seem to draw many mothers away from their homes and children. I am in no way discounting that financial reasons might be behind these decisions, especially in single parent households, but surely in many cases the decision is based on nothing other than the desire for a career over caretaking at home. This is an area where we need much grace and direction from God. Perhaps some of us need to hear this stirring challenge from Christopher Ash, in Married for God, “Never despise the significance of parenthood in the service of God! For many, especially (dare I say it?) mothers, what they do as parents will prove more significant in eternity than the most glittering career in the eyes of the world.”
Three ways Christian Mothers care for their children
How are mothers to do this God-given task? Just a few ways are studying the Bible with their children, loving them as they imitate Christ, disciplining them and developing their characters.
Study the Scripture together. Mothers should instil a biblical worldview in their children by studying the Scriptures with them. In Deuteronomy 6:6-7 God says: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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.” Parents are to talk about the Scriptures with their children all the time, not only when they pray before a meal. The Israelites were even commanded to put scriptural passages up around their homes (Deuteronomy 6:8-9). Before we conclude this responsibility is only the father’s, hear Solomon, “Hear your father’s instruction and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8).
Love your children (Titus 2:4). A mother’s love is exemplary and has a remarkable ability to shape a child’s love. It comforts (Isaiah 66:13). It is compassionate (Isaiah 49:15). Love is much more than affirming words. It is self-sacrificial, finding its greatest and clearest definition in Christ’s love for us (1 John 3:16-18). Self-sacrificial love is obedience to God by modelling Christ’s love. We should remember that children learn through observing our actions and not merely by hearing our words.
A mother’s love is exemplary and has a remarkable ability to shape a child’s love.
Discipline them. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him (Proverbs 22:15; also see Hebrews 12:7-11). With this Biblical precept, women are to discipline their children for their children’s good. Today there is growing pressure for parents to provide as little direction, instead allowing their children to discover themselves and their own way. This is as foolish as it is ineffective. Parents must train up a child in the way he should go; even when they are old they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Mothers are to train their children in all ways. The term train in Proverbs means to dedicate or discipline. It implies character development. A child whose character is developed in the right ways will have a very hard time going astray. May God help mothers be godly caretakers and stewards of their children.