In this third part of The Power of Humility in Parenting, I continue explaining what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).
Paul’s admonition has tremendous implications for parenting. As we study seven aspects of humility in his letter to the Philippians, I hope you’ll see how to put God’s word into action in your parenting. In the previous two Chariot of Fire articles, we considered the two aspects of humility.
1. Only live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. Empty yourself.
I hope you have made some headway emptying yourself this past month. Have you seen any response from your children?
The third aspect of humility revealed in Paul’s letter to the Philippians which powerfully impacts parenting is found in Chapter Two, verse four. “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Without realizing it, parents can communicate to their children that the only thing that matters is their own interests and wants. I remember how difficult it was for us to break the habit of saying to our children, “I want you to…take out the trash, make your bed, do your homework, listen to me,” ad infinitum. Perhaps you’ve fallen into the same ditch. If we aren’t careful our children will get the idea that life in your home is all about you. How can you change that perception?
Aspect #3: Be concerned about others’ interests above your own.
You can see how the first two aspects of humility are foundational to the third. If you intentionally are lowering self, what should take self’s place? Jesus and others! If we wish our children to be drawn to the Lord Jesus, they need to see His selfless concern for their greatest good. Experiencing the blessing of Jesus’ humility on a daily basis will make an impact, especially if you teach them these Scriptures. Had they lived with Jesus, they would have experienced and learned this aspect of humility as did the disciples. Wait a minute! They are living with Jesus because He lives in you.
Of course, you won’t live perfectly as Jesus did, but certainly if you are a believer, you know Jesus lives in you. The disciples saw Jesus respond day after day to the needs of others who pressed upon Him with their concerns from sunup to sundown. Certainly they were amazed at His selfless attitude and thoughtfulness of others. As Paul looked at the humility of Christ and what it means to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, he told the Philippians what an empty self looks like: thinking of others’ interests above one’s own because you regard them as more important than yourself.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others
If Jesus lives in you, then your children should recognize the humility of Christ in the way you think about their interests and concerns. When you humble yourself and respond to their needs above you own, you walk in a manner worthy of Him. Here are some ways you can place their interests and needs above your own.
Demonstrate this aspect of humility with your spouse.
Children are like sponges, soaking up whatever they see and hear from their environment. They are extremely impressionable, as you know. Daily, they watch you and your spouse interact with each other. What are they seeing? Do they see you demanding your way or laying down your rights and preferences? They will notice how you listen to each other as well as when you ignore one another. Think of the impact on their lives as you provide a powerful demonstration of the gospel and the life of Christ. Not only will your teaching and training them to think of others be bolstered, but the spirit in your home and the relationships in your home will be sweeter.
Attend to your spiritual growth for the sake of your children.
Another way parents powerfully advertise the humility of Christ by thinking of the interests of others instead of their own personal interests is by placing a high priority on their spiritual growth out of love for Christ and the children. For instance, your taking the time to read this article and do something with it to grow in your relationship with Jesus reflects your concern for your children. You are putting their interests above your own
as you trade off watching TV or scanning through Facebook for doing something that will help you grow spiritually and be a better husband and father.
As I look back over almost 40 years of parenting, I wish I had made the fight against selfishness and fleshliness an intentional, daily priority. Children need to see their parents deal self a death blow everyday. Paul told of the reward of putting sin and self to death when he wrote to the Romans. “If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). Living less and less by the flesh and serving your own self interests less, reveals spiritual maturity, and the members of your family are the primary benefactors.
Think about their interests and develop your spiritual life. I recommend you share with them often that when they see you read your Bible, books, articles, and blogs, pray, listen to audio messages, and attend church, you are thinking about them and how you can bless them.
Listen to your children for the purpose of learning their interests.
How attentive are you to the interests of your spouse and children? Meals together are great times to gather intelligence as well as at bedtime. These are times when the concerns and delights of their hearts surface. One-on-one in the car can be very enlightening when you ask the right questions, probing their hearts and minds for what they deem important and meaningful. Once you discover an interest or dream, ask the Lord what you can do to touch them by showing them you are being thoughtful of them. On a daily basis, parents can show their children they are more concerned about them than themselves by giving them freedom to choose what to wear, how to schedule their day, and make personal decisions and selections without feeling they have to do exactly as their parents wish. This freedom obviously must have boundaries, but giving them great freedom within boundaries shows thoughtfulness and selflessness.
Consistent discipline demonstrates a commitment to your child’s best interests.
Quite often parents are tempted to ignore what they see or hear because they selfishly don’t want the inconvenience of disciplining their children. A parent’s own personal interest might be to watch a ballgame, but when a child misbehaves and needs reproof or punishment, a humble, loving, caring parent will regard what the child needs above his own desires. A commitment to the child’s best interests reveals this aspect of humility.
Discipline isn’t always reproof and punishment. Instruction and training takes time and energy, especially if you have a stubborn child or one with disabilities. If you care more about what your child’s best interests are, you’ll probably have to trade off something you would rather be doing to best serve your child. It’s not easy to teach and train your child to take responsibility when they would rather loaf or play. A selfish parent might also rather loaf or play than make the necessary effort to raise a responsible adult. Humbling yourself and regarding his or her needs above your own desires and convenience powerfully demonstrates the humility of Christ.
The power of humility draws your children to Jesus.
If you want your children to learn humility, they must see and experience humility in you. Parents who deal with their own selfishness and fleshliness show their children what humility looks like. As you demonstrate this third aspect of humility, you have a platform for calling your children out of their selfishness to see their need for Jesus. The humility of Christ can’t be put on in the power of the flesh. You don’t want your children to regard others as more important than themselves so people will think well of them or because they want others to return the favor.
They will learn best by watching you pray and look to Jesus for the power to regard others as more important than yourselves. Leading a daughter to pray and express her need for grace to think of a sister’s interests above her own is best received when she knows you have done the same. If a son knows you have regarded him above yourself and spent time with him, he is more likely to listen to your teaching about the beautiful humility of Jesus who wants to spend time with him.
Before you move on to other things, I encourage you to make a list of the interests of your spouse and children. Then purpose today to apply Philippians 2:3-4. Look for the opportunity to exemplify and teach this third aspect of humility: showing concern for other’s interests above your own. May God excite your heart with each opportunity to express the humility of Christ. Pray for the Holy Spirit to develop His humility in your life and powerfully draw your children to Him.