While playing with my kids on our street a few weeks ago, my neighbor came over and said hi. “Wow you have four kids!” He exclaimed, paused, and then continued, “I guess it’s better for the future.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “You know, when you’re old, they’ll take care of you.”
I went silent for a while after that because I got a bit angry and I didn’t want to say something I’d regret. I kept thinking, “Is this the reason that you think I have children? That thought never entered my mind!”
But then I realized two things. One, although I never thought about my retirement care, I am still a sinful human being. From time to time I did stuff for my children and I secretly wanted them to appreciate me. In pride I wanted a pat on the back from people that I manage my kids well. Although by God’s grace I’ave learned to have fewer and fewer of those selfish thoughts, yet I still need to admit my propensity toward seeking self comfort and self interests.
And for another, I realize I am an Asian. My neighbor knows Asian culture, and he knows lots of us wish their children would take care of them when they get old. It’s a very typical Asian way of thinking. What he doesn’t realize is that although my primary earthly culture is Chinese, I have learned to live as a citizen of the kingdom of God.
I know this is an unusual story to share on this Father’s Day, but somehow I just felt today that I wanted to urge all my fellow father friends, especially those who are brothers in Christ, to stop asking “What’s in it for me?” when it comes to you being a father and a husband.
This “What’s in it for me?” attitude is what leads to broken families, divorces, fathers leaving children, etc. The sense of entitlement in a marriage, the insatiable need for validation in parenting, are all deadly to healthy family life. You don’t even know whether tomorrow you might die or not, so why do you want your children to serve you when you get old? No, today you should do all you can to pass your faith to the next generation.
Indeed, parenting is an exercise of making disciples for Christ out of your children. And this is the model of the virtuous cycle that God intends for fathers to start: “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children…” (Psalm 78:5-6)