Genesis 49:1 (NIV)
1 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
Children are a blessing, whether we have many or just one they bless our lives. It is a blessing, and even joyful to pass on our favorite things to those who will, we hope, carry a piece of us on into the world.
It is also the responsibility of parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and others who have influence on children to pass on our faith. This includes those of us in community with other believers, a church. We in church community are helping one another to teach and pass on the values, hopes, and dreams of God to the next generation. We are encouraged in Deuteronomy 6 to never forget the statutes of God, and to continually mention them to our children, so that they would never forget them.
In the life of Abraham’s descendants we see this passing of faith taking place. Isaac continued to worship God. Jacob would remove the false gods of his in-laws so that his family could stay focused upon God. Each of these fathers passed God’s blessing on to their children before death as well. They continued the legacy of faith.
However, we also see a problem passed on from generation to generation as well. The issue of favoritism begins to grow as blessings are passed on. Isaac and Jacob would both show favoritism with their sons. Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, showed preference to the point of lying to her husband to be sure that Jacob received the best blessings from his father. This ultimately meant Jacob had to leave home for nearly two decades before returning home.
Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, would be given fine clothing and responsibility that kept him close to Jacob. However, it created resentment and eventual separation of Joseph from the family. We know that this is a part of God’s plan in the end to protect the family of Jacob, because God uses all situations to complete his plans.
When passing on the legacy of faith I think it is important that we do our best to help children be who they are to be in God. This means we must spend the time with all our children to know them well. This means building deep relationship with all our children, and to try to avoid projecting ourselves into them. Instead we should know them well enough to help them develop as God would see fit.
Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley raised ten children. While in this time era much of the education was left to the mothers what is even more important was her individual focus upon each child. Susanna had a routine of spending at least one full hour alone with each child at least once a week. This not only built a strong bond, but had great influence on the children for the rest of their lives. We must also take time to get to know our own children or anyone we are hoping to pass faith on to.
In Genesis 48 & 49 we see the blessings of Jacob upon all his sons. It is interesting that Jacob’s blessings are specific. He doesn’t bless them due to their birth placement. He blesses them due to the type of people they were becoming. It shows his true intimate knowledge of his children, which would come out in how each would be blessed.
I want to encourage us, whether raising our own children or teaching others to use care in forcing our personal ideas upon children. Instead learn their needs and then teach them where they are about the goodness of God. Let them learn in their style and need so that they can make the journey of faith truly a part of who they are.
This may mean for some of our kids we have to try to tell them, and then let them make mistakes. Other children are going to want us to hold their hands or stay in sight so to speak, as they learn to trust God. Some will memorize things we teach them, while others will act like they ignore it only to live it out latter.
Never give up on passing the legacy of faith on to others. Never cease to help people, children and adults, around you to let faith grow in their own lives. It may not be exactly like they way you live your faith out, but once faith becomes real for someone they will live it out for themselves. The goal is not to make robots, but followers. Help people to learn to follow God for themselves.
Blessings on the journey with Christ,
* Photo Courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Clare Bloomfield