Parenting: Burden or Blessing of Labor

Bible Study Parenting

Raising children is an important aspect and duty of humanity. If you have been a parent for more than a few days, you are surely aware that it is a difficult and laborious undertaking. You may also find yourself struggling to identify the rewards associated with parenting. The easy thing to recognize is that the children you are raising look to you for everything, and it is nice to be needed. It is also rewarding to realize they will learn how to be adults by watching you as they develop, and it is nice to understand the importance of your influence. Most of all, when you look at your children you see the product of love, and it is incredible to imagine that the Lord loves you so much that He give you the responsibility for these young lives. Now if you really consider these things, and you probably have, they may (at times) sound like burdens.

The Burden

God uses us, male and female, to provide for the birth, development, and education of our next generation. We are all aware that procreation is not the same as creation, and that God did not need man to help Him create anything. This is evidenced by the fact that man was the last creation of God. However, notice that God expects us to take responsibility for duplicating our created selves. For reasons not explained in Genesis 1:28, God’s first commandment to us: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…” makes it clear that God requires humankind to procreate for the purpose of filling the earth with human inhabitants.

Considering this commandment alone, one could make the case that procreation as a required action assigned by God is a burden. Even the next command of God, which directs us to reign over all other living things of the earth, sounds like a burden given to man. Although these given assignments may not be seen by most people as assigned laborious burdens, anything that is a requirement of God does require some effort and is therefore a burden. As happy as new parents are to have children, parenting is very laborious or will soon seem to be. Some might even admit that the job in itself is so big that it will provide times of overwhelming confusion, anguish, dejection, or even hopelessness. For this person, procreation and preparation may be nothing more than a burden of life.

But this is not the intention of the Lord. Notice in Genesis 1:28, that prior to the assignment to procreate and subdue the earth, God blessed His created man and woman. This blessing, followed by the direction to be the suppliers of human population and the keepers of all else He created, places humankind in a position of authority under God. Still this sounds like a huge burden placed on the shoulders of humanity. This duty to reproduce might well be a burden if it was for no other benefit but to populate the earth. Thankfully there is more to the story.

As we know, a child’s life can only be established by God. In fact, every child belongs to God before being given to their parents – therefor the burden of creation remains the burden of God. Jeremiah was informed by the Lord that He knew him before he was established in his mother’s womb. Job acknowledged in Job 31:15 that he was created by the Lord and established in his mother’s womb, just as all others are. Psalms 127:3 tells us that the child belongs to the Lord and is His heritage. By heritage, the Lord is indicating that each child is an heirloom belonging first to Him. God made clear in Ezekiel 16:20, when He said: “…whom thou hast borne unto me,” that although the mother gives birth to the child, the child is borne for God. Just as you might expect, He decides to whom, and at what moment, a child is given.

So it is established that the giving of a child to human parents is indeed an inheritance, but where is the blessing?  Children are established in the womb according to that original blessing given in Genesis 1:28, but what about that burden of populating the earth?  Is this inheritance nothing more than our havening to care for the possession of God, even if the task is to be a laborious challenge? Is this parenting thing nothing more than the passing down of a debt established by God and acknowledged in Genesis 1:28? There does not seem to be much of a benefit for parents if this blessing is limited to the burden of populating the earth.

Case Study

In a little while, this lesson is going to reveal the blessing of parenthood and establish how a family is blessed beyond the giving of the so-called burden of procreation and preparation, but first we need take a look a real world case study to understand the necessity of allowing God to be the center of the parenting and family-building effort. Our care study focuses on the family of David. A family whose members had all they could need to be the best of the best. One who, from today’s perspective, had every advantage and should have been as happy and successful as any family on the earth. Not only did they seem to have every earthly advantage, they had at their head, a man who was personally anointed through a spokesman from God Himself, to be an influential and powerful leader of an entire nation. David was a father, a King, and a man in the line leading to Jesus Christ. Keep all of this in mind as we look at David and his family.

David describes to his son Solomon the expectations of the Lord concerning the development of the family. David is an expert on the subject, as we will soon see.


A Song of Ascents, of Solomon.
1 Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate. (Psalms 127, NASB)


It is understood that this Psalm is written to encourage David’s son Solomon to think at a higher level. To teach him to look beyond his own understanding and place God at the head of his thinking process. For Solomon, the message was surely relative to his future business, family, and leadership endeavors.  David wanted Solomon to understand that if any such endeavors were to be entered into without the blessing of the Lord, they were destined to fail. He instructs him to keep his designs out of the building process, and let the Lord’s blueprints establish the structure.

This reality applies to all of us even today. Since our focus is on the family, we can get a lot out of the imagery of the house built in this passage. Although the assertions in this passage are true even of a physical structure, the relationship of family is what is actually being illustrated. If families are not built according to the will and design of the Lord, but are built according to one’s own design, they will not be blessed. Just as the house and the city referenced in Psalms 127:1 will fall, the family will fall.

It is all about intention. If a house or a city is built on pride, and are watched over by the prideful, there will be a fall. Both the builder and the watchman are operating without a belief that they need God to accomplish their task. The implication is that the house will crumble to the ground and the city will be sacked, despite the labors of the builder and watchmen.

The house of David began as a prideful endeavor that was destined to fall. You probably remember that the once humble David was filled with pride and arrogance as he took over the throne of Israel. David later lusted for the then married Bathsheba, had an affair with her, and subsequently conceived with her a child. Shortly after the affair, David intentionally sent Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to the front lines of battle to die. It was David’s intention to cover up his sin and legitimately take Bathsheba as his own wife.

David, the King of Israel, built his house on pride, lust, deceit, and murder. As a result, his family was destined to fall. Nathen the profit was sent to David to tell him a parable about a stolen and slain lamb. David responded by ruling that such a perpetrator should be put to death and that his victim must be repaid four times the value of the lamb.  David then realized that he was the perpetrator.  He confessed his sin, and the Lord decided to spare his life (2 Samuel 12:13), but take the child he and Bathsheba conceived (2 Samuel 12:14). Nathan also told David that since he used war to establish his family (through Uriah’s death); war would forever plague his family (2 Samuel 12:210). Although David’s kingdom legacy would remain intact, his family was fallen. He would experience the death of another son, the incestual rape of his daughter, and war against yet another son, whose rebellion against David would bring about the killing of over one-hundred-thousand people – including the son with whom David fought.

These consequences, as justified as they may have been, seem extreme to many onlookers. Should David’s choices have caused his family to suffer? There are several different perspectives given in commentary regarding the reasons God took the life of David and Bathsheba’s son. The bottom line is that there are consequences connected to sin. David’s house suffered because it was built according to the desires of David, not according to the Lord’s design. As such, parenting for David was a painful and burdenous endeavor.

In response to these consequences, David asked the Lord for forgiveness and restoration (Psalms 51). In it he shows great humility as he confesses and admits his transgressions and iniquity. As a result, the Lord allows him to again know Bathsheba.  Interestingly, the profit Nathen (who told David his son with Bathsheba would be taken) would also be the one to tell David of God’s grace.  David fasted and prayed that God would return to Bathsheba the blessing of her womb, and that she would bare another son.  She would give him a son who he named Solomon, which means peaceable.  

Not only did the Lord give to David that for which he prayed, He also blessed that son (2 Samuel 12:24). God gave Solomon a new name – He called him Jedidiah, which means Beloved of the LORD (2 Samuel 12:25). However, let us not forget that Solomon did not build his house in the way that David instructed him to in Psalms 127. Solomon duplicated many of the same bad habits of his father. As such, Solomon’s house, like David’s existed in turmoil. Many of the consequences of David’s sin came after his repentance and the birth of Solomon – so Solomon learned according to David’s example.

By looking at 1 Chronicles 3 we can see that David fathered many children by many wives. We also know that Solomon followed his father’s lead and had hundreds of wives and concubines. We like to think that David’s apparent repentance to the Lord regarding his sin, turned things around for his family. As much as we would like to learn that David’s house was restored in such a way that sin would no longer affect it – it was not to be. We know that David was, as described in 1 Samuel 13:14 and in Acts 13:22, a man after God’s own heart; and that is true. David, as flawed as he was, never lost sight of who was really in charge. This is evident by the fact that David tried to hide his affair with Bathsheba – as if God could be fooled like the people of David’s kingdom.   

So, did David fully repent of his ways?  Deuteronomy 17:17 tells of the Lord’s decree that even kings were to keep with Genesis 2:24, which clearly allows only one wife per husband. David did not stop having children by wives other than his first wife. In fact, Michal, daughter of Saul and first wife of David, never bore children (2 Samuel 6:23).  When David was being hunted by Michal’s father (Saul), Michal went with another man. David attempted to reconcile with Michal, but she had a hard heart and would not submit to God. As a result, David’s first son Amnon was born by Ahinoam – another wife. His next son was born of Abigail, and the pattern continues. It is not all that important for this study to identify how many children David had before Solomon, but how many different women gave David sons after Solomon’s birth. Bathsheba gave David four sons, and as we know, Solomon was one of them. In addition to Bathsheba, David appeared to have six more wives who bore him children. 1 Chronicles 3:9 reports that there were additional sons born by concubines. Therefore, it appears David did not limit himself to Bathsheba after his repentance. Therefore, the construction of David’s house, an ongoing process, produced many families, not built in the Psalms 127 way. Consider the possibility that the house that produced Solomon was one repentant and restored, but the rest of David’s houses existed on flawed foundations.

It is apparent that Solomon was raised differently from other children born to David.  This was probably because of his parents’ knowledge that the Lord had a special love for Solomon and since this child was the result of David and Bathsheba’s repentance – an apparent blessed fruit of Bathsheba’s womb. We are able to see what Solomon must have seen; a father who showed all signs of reverence and love for the Lord, but one with many wives and concubines. David obviously put much effort into helping Solomon develop into a great businessman, father, and leader, as it was his intention that Solomon inherit the throne (1 Kings 1:38-40).   

David loved Solomon, and would not have wanted him to suffer as he had. Therefore, David wrote to him a Psalm that was intended to inspire Solomon to build his house – his family – according to God’s plan.  Let me remind you that Solomon was the one who David said would build the temple to house the Arc of the Covenant – and he did exactly that. Solomon loved the Lord (1 Kings 3:3) and the Lord did great things for and through him. We learn in 1 Kings 4:39 & 31 that Solomon received from the Lord, wisdom that exceeded all earthly wisdom.

Unfortunately, for Solomon, his father’s example would also cause destruction in his life. This great king would ignore the instruction given to the Jews in Deuteronomy 7:3, which told them to not take as wives those they conquered, because they worshiped false gods and would cause them to turn away from the Lord. 1 Kings 11:2 reports that Solomon did indeed ignore that very command and took 700 wives and 300 concubines from various places. Solomon, by the example of his father, multiplied his example by 100 and was lured away from all he knew to be true. In his later years, Solomon would begin worshiping and giving sacrifice to the idols of his wives – violating the first Commandment of God.

Keep in mind, this study is about the house – the family. Just as David built his house on desire, so did Solomon. Solomon’s desire was like David’s desire on steroids. Both of these men were great leaders among God’s chosen people, but neither allowed the Lord to build their house. Fortunately, the kingdom would, by God’s will, stand as its path leads to Jesus Christ.

The Blessing Identified

By this time the burden of parenthood must be looking mighty scary to many of you. You were promised a look at the benefits of Genesis 1:28 through the eyes of David’s 127th Psalm. Well here we go!

So now, let us turn to the other side of the coin and assume our house is built by the authority and design of our loving Lord. The result of allowing the Lord the authority to build your family leads to the reward spoken of in Psalms 127:3. Children are given as a reward or inheritance according to the original blessing of God.  God will decide whether to give or withhold children according to His design, but the blessing spoken of in Psalms 127 is something different.

Psalms 127:5 identifies that a man who has many children is blessed. This indicates that children are a blessing and the more you are given, the larger the blessing. This seems to remove the idea that the labor of parenting is a burden, even when the labor includes the raising of many children. Notice that in Psalms 127:4, David explains that children, while they are young, are at the disposal of the father; they are useful in doing as they are directed. Also notice in Psalms 127:5 that these same children are no longer in the father’s hand, but are in His quiver. Psalms 127:4-5 shows the progressive growth of the children as they become adults and no longer under the direct control of the father – burden released.

The blessing is that these now adult children are ready and willing to continue being useful to the father. As many as have been in his hand, they are also as adults loyal and connected to their family (the house). They are willing and able to stand up and defend the family, and are of the character to be both worthy according to the standards of the family, and capable because of the training given by (and for) the family – even as it’s adversaries attack it.

One might think that this is even possible for a family not built by the Lord. That loyalty and family understanding can exist even without the Lord. While this may be true, it is not likely. Remember, that if the Lord does not build it, it will fall apart and keep falling apart, generation after generation, as we saw by example through David’s family. Children are likely to follow in the footsteps of their parents, but that does not mean that their actions will not be self-serving and destructive to the name of the family. Remember that Solomon was blessed by the Lord, trained up by his father David, and given the seat of the throne of the Jewish empire, but he still brings shame on David each time we read of his lifestyle. It would not be until someone in that line would make an intentional effort to follow the commands of God that the family name would truly be restored. That credit goes to Joseph and Mary. As difficult as it was to understand, they did as they were told by God, and God blessed them and all who acknowledge and follow their Son.

The blessing Realized

Parents are called by the Lord to do according to His will and not their own desire. It is important to understand that establishing a family is not something we do just because that is what society expects us to do. Families established for expediency are doomed to fail. Such families are generally established to satisfy, in one way or another, the desires of one or both parties. The lust for conquest, a position of authority, access to wealth, the worldly esteem of one’s social group, simple security, or possessions one can rein over, are lusts of the world and will not be blessed by the Lord (1 John 2:16). On these things, a successful house will not be built.

Before one can expect the Lord to design a family for them, they must first join His family and seek a relationship with Him. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:32-33 that He knows what we need and if we will first seek Him and not the things we think we need, He will provide what He knows we need. Returning to Psalms 127, we can see that it is the Lord who will provide the plans and the material for the building of a successful family. If we are patient and prepare by seeking Him, He will provide the plans and the process needed to build a stable family.

Now, having a house built to stand, the Lord can give us the fruit of the womb and we will know how to mold and prepare that fruit to be valued members of the family and the Kingdom of God. Through training them (children) up according to the plans provided by the Lord, they will first seek Him (Proverbs 22:6), and will be ongoing blessings to the family just as the LORD promised. As such, any burden experienced through the rearing process if rewarded with a full and loyal quill.

Application

If you have already begun building your house according to your own plans, it is not too late. All along, the Lord has had a plan for your family. If you began the construction without Him, you surely made a few mistakes along the way.  Not to worry, Jesus has carpentry experience and wants to lead the project and make necessary adjustments that will strengthen your home. If it is a cycle of failure that you need to break, you need to seek the right cycle which is provided through the grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who broke the cycle of destruction in David’s house, and today He is ready and able to do the same for your house.

With the family concept developed, and the Lord properly established as the head of your family, each member (including the parents) will be blessed with joy, and hope for the future of the family. Through your teaching of God’s word to your children, your children will remain in the Lord and will provide you more blessings of joy to fill your quill. What an inheritance! So, if the question is whether parenting is a burden or a blessing of labor, the answer must be yes. There are elements of responsibility (burdens), and overwhelming gracefully given blessings as God shares with parents His inheritance. With the promise of such a share of this incredible inheritance, the labor of parenting becomes an inspired work of love.