“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). For the past three months, I sought to encourage you with the following three aspects of humility in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
1. Only live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. Empty yourself.
3. Be concerned about others’ interests above your own.
These qualities can only be displayed in humble parents. I hope you have been growing in humility as you’ve read and applied God’s word to your parenting and are seeing the fruit of it in your children.
We discover the fourth aspect of humility in verses five through seven in the second chapter of Philippians. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
Aspect #4: Have a servant attitude
If we are to strive together for the sake of the gospel, which is the only way to live, according to the apostle, then we must have the same attitude as the Lord Jesus – that of a servant. The gospel is about Jesus coming to earth to serve, not to be served. He became a bond-servant to His God and Father, on a mission to bear our sin so the wall of separation could be removed and relationship could be restored. In short, He knew He would be used up, consumed by us and our demanding, self-absorption.
What an important aspect of humility for parents! It takes a humble father and mother to accept such a mission. Without this aspect of humility, parents will be offended by the unceasing demands of their children. What parent hasn’t felt that they were being used? We don’t seem to mind serving our children when they are babies. It’s expected. But as they get older, it’s easy to forget the servant’s attitude and expect them to serve us.
Teach your children to serve.
Parents ought to teach their children to serve. Teaching a child to make his bed, clean his room, pick up after himself, help a brother or sister, or do chores that contribute to the efficiency of the household is appropriate and characteristic of a responsible parent. Underlying those duties is a thoughtfulness of others that hopefully will be ingrained for a lifetime and display a servant attitude. As the children get older,you must be cautious that you don’t cross a line where you expect your children to serve to the point of taking on your responsibilities.
There’s a difference between teaching a servant attitude and enslaving
When children are expected to do the responsibilities of parents, problems often arise. “There is a season for everything,” says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:1. Without realizing it, parents may burden their young adults with things they don’t want to do. Many young adults with whom I’ve spoken couldn’t wait to get away from home because their youth was consumed with parental responsibilities and they felt enslaved. They were expected to serve as mothers or fathers before their time. Consequently they didn’t have God’s grace for serving and got burned out and offended. Some react to this expectation from parents and postpone marriage and parenthood. They feel they must finally experience the season of single, young adulthood and career selection and preparation which was displaced by serving their parents.
Parents must be careful not to cross another line in teaching their children to have a servant attitude. Without realizing it parents can develop a habit of giving direction by saying, “I want you to…” If a child hears repeated commands from his or her parents in this fashion, it should not be surprising to find the child feels like a slave to a king or queen. Instead of adding value to their relationships with their children, such parents drive their children away from them. Although there are times to direct your children with a command, a humble way is to pose a question, “Would you be so kind as to…?” You might also say, “It would be thoughtful or helpful if you…” The parent who demonstrates often that they have a servant attitude can speak in this manner and the child will receive it well and respond accordingly. He intuitively knows his parents are teaching him to have a servant attitude.
Parents can take having a servant attitude too far
Parents can err on the other side of the service spectrum by communicating to their children that parents are slaves to their children, who are kings and queens. I remember a young mother and child visiting us. When the mother felt it was time to leave, she asked her five-year-old son, “We’re going to leave in a few minutes, okay?” The child burst out in a display of anger and emotion with his reply, “No!” It wasn’t okay with him to leave. He still wanted to play. The mother acquiesced and continued talking. A few minutes later, she said to him, “It’s time to start picking up the toys, okay?”
It was hard to remain silent. Everything in me wanted to say to her. “Don’t you realize you are spoiling your child and training him to disrespect and disregard you? Quit asking his permission for everything.” She was training her child to expect others to serve him. If it wasn’t okay with him, then he got his way. Everyone else was enslaved to his whims. Many years later I was not surprised to discover that the young man struggled to be responsible and hold down a job. He had not learned from his parents a servant attitude because they had not served him well by teaching and training him correctly and consistently.
Parents with a servant’s attitude powerfully impact their children
A servant does what he’s told without complaint or reluctance because he recognizes his place and the authority of his master. We read in Philippians 2:8 of the obedience of a servant like Jesus. “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Your master, the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded parents to serve their children in the following ways:
- You shall teach them [the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart] diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:7
- Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death. Proverbs 19:18
- Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
- Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him. Proverbs 22:15
- Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. Colossians 3:21
- Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
- So that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, Titus 2:4
- It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? Hebrews 12:7
And He didn’t ask, “Okay?” Teaching, discipling, disciplining, training, and loving children requires a parent to have a servant attitude. A servant parent does these things, not because it’s easy, but because he or she has been commanded by the Master and Savior who did these things for them as His children. Like their Lord, Christian parents must humble themselves and be obedient, which means they may have to lay aside other things they and their children would rather do in order to serve the Lord and their children well. Certainly you can see how such parenting powerfully impacts the children. The blessings to the children are evident in some of the verses above.
Well done, good and faithful servant!
The child of a parent who maintains such a servant attitude will receive many blessings, but more importantly, will enjoy the pleasure of the Lord when He declares, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” The apostle Paul stated Jesus’ reward for having a servant attitude. “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). Parents who humbly maintain a servant attitude may expect God to exalt them in due time. Perhaps that time will be when the children leave home. Maybe it will come later when they become parents and realize the incredible servant’s heart you had as they struggle to serve their children. Itmay not come until you are called home to be with Jesus. Until then, strive to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel by maintaining a servant attitude in life. In so doing, you’ll add value to all of your relationships and give glory to the Lord Jesus.