This article is part of a limited series called Be A Man. These articles are taken from a Bible study I conducted for several months. The purpose of these blogs is to examine and discuss what it means to be a man, a husband and a father according to the Bible, and how we are to live that out in our modern world. While the Bible study was originally for men, not all topics are gender specific, meaning that women, wives, and mothers can still learn and be encouraged from these articles.
“Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
“Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
“Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” – Genesis 4.1-7
It might strike you as odd that I would only read the beginning of this story. For those of you that are familiar with the Bible, these few verse start the story of the murder of Abel at the hands of his brother, Cain. While that whole account is worth its own, there is something specific that I want to focus on. While it may not be obvious to you right now, this portion of Scripture holds some powerful truths about our role as parents, particularly in the areas of worship and raising our children.
Cain and Abel go out to the field to give sacrificial offerings to the LORD. It’s a story that has been told in churches and Sunday School classrooms for decades. But the question that has always bothered me has largely gone unaddressed: Who taught them to give sacrificial offerings to the LORD?
If you grew up in the church like me, this was something that was brushed over, mostly because the rest of the Old Testament speaks frequently about the offering of sacrifices to God. And for small children, that is fine. But as Christians grow older and grow in spiritual maturity, brushing over things will not cut it.
God did not command these offerings. God doesn’t give anyone specific instructions on sacrificial offerings Until the days of Moses. So that means that someone else had to do the teaching. Someone else had to give these boys the instructions as to what so okay and not okay for offerings to the LORD. The only two people that could have taught them were the only other people on the Earth, Adam, and Eve.
I do not have an answer as to why Adam and Eve taught them about offering sacrifices to God, or what it was in this way. That may be something we never know or something that we will have to make grand assumptions about. Regardless, the parents taught their children to worship. The first parents did it, and it Remains something that parents need to be doing today. So let me as you a question, whether you are a father or mother.
How are you teaching your children to worship?
Let the question linger before you answer. How are you teaching your children to worship? As a single parent, a couple, as a guardian, a foster parent, whatever parental role you have does not matter; the questions must be answered. A companion question would be, what are you teaching them, if how you are teaching them is difficult to answer.
Whether we realize it or not, we are teaching our children all about worship by the way that we worship. If you are a stoic, unmovable pillar, you may be giving your children the impression that worship is a task that you accomplish on Sunday. You stand, you sing. Then you sit and listen to a minister. Then you are done.
You could be a dancer, a worship leader, a musician; all of your actions and attitudes are speaking to your children about what worship is, and how we are supposed to do it. Whether we like it or not, worship is a learned behavior.
I sing out the old hymns and chorus, loud and strong because I saw my father do it, and somewhere in my mind, I made the connection. This is how you do worship. You sing, loud and strong.
Obviously, there is more to worship than just this, and I don’t want to leave you with a false impression that worship is limited to songs, or reserved for the church setting. But what I want to do is get the wheels turning. Examine your own life.
What do you do when that hymn is played in church? Do you participate in the Christian holidays, like Lent and Advent? Do you regularly tithe? Do you give your time to a local charity? Do you grumble and complain when the pastor calls you to act on your faith?
Whatever way you worship, in whatever vein of Christianity you subscribe to, you are informing your children’s understanding of worship through your actions and attitudes. And as a parent, that is our role. That isn’t something that we should be passing off to the lead pastor of the youth leaders. That is our responsibility, our job. If our kids have a faulty view of worship, that fall on our heads. It fell on Adam and Eve’s.
How are you teaching your children to worship?
We can’t be sure what all Adam and Eve taught their children about worship, but we know that they did teach them something. They sat down with their kids the devastating reality of the past. Once life was perfect, and they lived in communion with God. Then they abandon God. They disobeyed His Law, and as a result, they had to leave His presence and live with the consequences of their actions. Adam and Eve must have shared how things used to be, and how very broken things were now.
Some theologians believe that Cain and Abel’s offerings were mankind’s first attempts to make a bridge to God, to try to repair what we had broken. They think that by making an offering, Cain and Abel were trying to restore things to the way that they were.
That may well be true, but true or not, something else is striking and important for us as Christian parents: Adam and Eve shared their spiritual experiences with their children.
Adam and Eve didn’t hide the past, the truth about who they were, where they came from, and what they did. There was an openness about their brokenness. They couldn’t hide the reality that things were not good. So they humbled themselves and shared their story with their sons.
How many of you have sat down with your children and told them about who you are? Not what you do now, or what you like to do in your free time, those are things that they should already know. I’m asking, what do you children know about your sins?
What do they know about your past, your time before you came to faith in Jesus Christ?
What do they know about your struggles and temptations?
The church for so long has created a space where these questions are not asked, and answers are not demanded. But I believe that sharing your spiritual experiences with your children is one of the best things that you can do for them, and yourself.
You have a chance, to be honest, to be real. Rather than dancing around the “missing years” of your life when you can’t remember what happened, you can be vulnerable with those that love you and care about you. You can admit an addiction or a troubled past. This could be a time of enlightenment, a chance to finally understand why you act this way in certain moments, like why you suddenly become quiet when people start discussing abuse.
It can helpful for our children as well. They may be struggling with the same thing that you did as a young man or woman. Being able to tell them how you stumbled and fell may help them see that they can do to rise above the problem and avoid sin. They may need to hear that they are not alone in the universe, that there are people struggling with the same issues, generation after generation. Ask any kid, to know that they aren’t alone and that they can make it out of their current circumstances has the power to change their entire life. You can help in that situation by sharing your spiritual experiences.
I would be doing all parents a disservice if I didn’t remind you that you can also share the good spiritual experiences you have had. Yes, life is full of tragedy, but there are also moments of great joy and gladness. There are times of prophecy and words of encouragement spoken to you. There are times when prayers have been answered. There are times when God has delivered you from satanic attack and surrounded you with holy protection. Do not hold that back from your children.
They need to know and see the wonderful things that God is doing, especially in your life. If you are the primary shaper and molder of your son or daughter, it is imperative that you share the good things that have happened in your life as well as the bad.
Doing this will encourage openness and transparency between you and your children whether it is about the small things or the deep things. Life doesn’t offer many chances to be so transparent, to be so honest with our children. We should take them, we should make them.
This is a story about Cain and Abel. They are the main characters in this incident. But one has to ask, where are Adam and Eve?
I’m sure that they were working, busy tilling the earth, but in the story of Cain and Abel’s spiritual journey, where were their parents? Adam and Eve weren’t there when the boys brought their offerings to the LORD. They aren’t mentioned when Cain gets angry at Abel. They don’t make an appearance when God talks to Cain about his offering and the looming temptation that would lead to Abel’s death.
Where were Adam and Eve?
As our children grow up, they will be partaking on their own spiritual journey. They will be worshiping. They will be having conversations with God. They will be bombarded by temptations. And the question must be asked of us today, where are you?
Adam and Eve’s absence can be attributed to the writer’s focus on their sons, but that is no excuse for an absence in the boys’ spiritual journey. The same is true for us and our children.
We need to be there for our children, not just to instruct and guide them to faith in Christ. That is important, and I am in no way diminishing that. But there is more than just salvation that is going on in a child’s life. They are facing struggles and temptations, some of which we never had to face. As fathers and mothers, we need to be there, always ready to lend a hand. We need to be a constant shadow, not to frighten or scare, but to love.
Our kids need help. They will need a hand bearing the burden. They will need encouragement to resist the devil and his temptation. They will need instruct and correction. They will need someone to always be there to help them travel the spiritual journey. it is not a journey to be made alone, and it is our role to be a guide and aid as our children go.
We may not instinctively come to this portion of Scripture and think that there is something to be gleaned for raising our children. It is a story of the first murder in history. True, but there is a lot that also said about our role as parents and what we need to think about and doing. It is our responsibility to teach our children how to worship. It is our right and privilege to share our spiritual journey with our children. It is our role to be a loving shadow, offering a hand as our children walk through life. May you realize the immense task before, but also see the great blessing in doing it.
This is what it means to be a parent.
This is what it means to be a man.
All Scripture references provided by Biblegateway.com
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