I had not been in the pastorate very long when a man in our church approached me and stated that he wanted his daughter to become a doctor. I asked, “Why a doctor?” His response was very clear that he wanted his daughter to be rich so that she could take care of him in old age. It never entered this man’s mind that God might not want his daughter to be a doctor at all, and if a doctor, she might be asked to be a medical missionary in the far-flung regions of Africa.
In another ministry, a man in the church became greatly distressed because the emphasis on missions was leading his son to consider a call to South America. The father had no intention of relinquishing his son to a third-world country. He emphatically stated both to me and his son, “If this process continues, you will be separating yourself from me.” The man eventually left the church because his son sensed a call to the mission field.
It is not uncommon in our area of the country to see houses that have been specifically built to house three generations. Parents have no desire to see their children depart. Indeed, some men in our area view themselves as failures rather than successful when their children want to leave home. Some have gone so far as to suggest that Bible colleges are sinful because they invite children to leave home.
From the opening pages of the Bible, when the great commission was presented in embryonic form (Genesis 12:1–4), the underlying premise was a willingness to leave one’s country, kindred, and father’s house. It was only when Abraham was willing to fulfill this prerequisite that God would make his name great. Indeed, an unwillingness to be scattered in the previous chapter resulted in mass confusion at the Tower of Babel. Those who desired to have a great name by refusal to leave were reduced to the ash heap of history.
This is not to say that it is wrong for a son to assume his father’s company or for children to remain in the town where they were raised. It is to say that parents must not think that a desire of their children to depart for a land to which God has called is an insult to their parenting skills. To the contrary, it speaks volumes about their successful parenting. Children properly raised are like arrows in the hands of a mighty man (Psalm 127:4). Obviously, such arrows are fired to reach the intended target. They do not stay in the quiver, nor do they lie at the feet of the archer, having traveled a mere six inches.
To be sure, God may want some of our children around us to help us in our elderly years (Psalm 128:3), but there should be no parental pressure for this to happen. Indeed, we should not seek to hire our children merely because we want them near. This type of nepotism does great disservice to the Great Commission. Indeed, the goal of parenting is to raise children who can stand on their own two feet. When we “OCD” over our children’s ability to make it on their own, we lack faith in God who is the ultimate controller of the universe.
Parents who believe that communal living is the goal of parenting have done much to hurt the Great Commission. The time has come for more godly mothers like Hannah who are willing to place their children where the call of God can be heard. The successful parent allows their child to say, “Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:9) and “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).