People like me want successful children. To be honest, we don’t just want successful children. We’re obsessed by the need to make sure our children succeed in everything they do. Friends of mine once put their infant daughter under a mobile of musical notes and played Mozart for hours, because they believed this would make her an excellent musician. (It didn’t.) A man from my church insisted that his newborn son sleep with a football at all times so that he might grow up to be a star quarterback. (He didn’t.) My generation of parents has driven their children to the point of exhaustion, whether in school or sports or music or drama or dance.
Psalm 112 speaks to parents (and others) who want the next generation to succeed. Here’s how the psalm begins: “How joyful are those who fear the LORD and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed” (112:1-2). The New Living Translation captures the sense of the Hebrew of the italicized phrase, which literally reads, “his seed will be strong in the land.”
Did you notice what parents should do to ensure their children’s success? There’s not a word here about forcing young ones to master latent skills and talents. In fact, nothing in Psalm 112 suggests that parents who want their children to do well should make their children do anything. Rather, the emphasis in this psalm is upon what the parents do. To put it simply: Parents, if you want successful children, focus on yourselves. In particular, focus on your relationship with God (fear the LORD) and on living according to his revelation (delight in obeying his commands).
“But,” an eager parent might object, “this psalm says nothing about children succeeding in school or sports. It doesn’t offer a formula for how to get them into the best college.” Indeed. Psalm 112 is concerned about the kind of success that matters most … success in life, in faith, in influence based on integrity. This psalm shows how parents might lead their children to be godly people whose lives are truly blessed by the Lord. The key, if you will, is for parents to have a deep faith in God that shapes everything they do in life. Their children will be powerfully influenced by what they observe and experience from their parents, and they will be drawn to a life of genuine success.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Why do you think parents in our day are so driven to make their children successful? If you’re a parent, how do you live out the promise of Psalm 112:1-2? Are you letting your children experience your faith in God? Will they say that you delight to obey God’s commands?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for the encouragement and corrective of Psalm 112. It is so easy for me, as a parent, to become so worried about my children’s success in the idols of my culture that I neglect the success that matters most: success in faith, in faithfulness, in discipleship, in living each day for you. Forgive me when I get my values and priorities mixed up.
Help me, dear Lord, to have an authentic faith in you, so that my children might be encouraged in their own faith. Help me delight to obey you so that my children may share in the joy of obedience.
Today, I pray for parents who read this reflection, that they might be encouraged and challenged to focus on the integrity of their faith and discipleship. May they live in such a way that their children are drawn to you.
I ask as well that all of us in the body of Christ, whether we are parents or not, might have a burden to see the next generations know and serve you. May we be encouraged and challenged to have a growing relationship with you and to live out our faith in every setting of life. Amen.