Can I be honest with you? Ecclesiastes can be a little depressing. For 12 chapters, the teacher goes on and on about how everything under the sun is meaningless.
As I slowly push forward in this Parenting Through the Bible Series, I had to wonder, “How am I going to glean any parenting insights from this book?”
But if we dig a little deeper we will see that the teacher is exactly right. Everything under the sun is meaningless. This earth and everything that the sun shines on has no eternal meaning. Earth is a temporal place and without the true Son, it has no meaning at all. The Hebrew word for meaningless is hevel, which better translates at “vapor or smoke.” So yes, everything we see around us is vapor – here today and gone tomorrow. Life on earth is quite temporary.
This has great implications for Christian parents.
As parents we can easily get caught up in the here and now – sports games, report cards, music lessons, etc. But I think deep down, most Christian parents would say that what they really want is for their kids to know that when they come to the end of their life, all that really matters is Jesus. How well they played on the basketball team won’t matter. The academic awards they received (or didn’t) won’t matter. The jobs they had won’t matter. The author of Ecclesiastes says it well in his closing statments . . . “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (Eccl 12:13).
With that in mind, I think we can find some pretty good parenting advice in the book of Ecclesiastes.
Help your child keep a “big picture” perspective on life.
You don’t want to minimize the struggles your children have, but as Christian parents, we can keep things in perspective. We need to listen, empathize (learn how to perfect your empathizing skills here) and when the time is right, encourage them to step back and see their circumstances from a different vantage point. Keeping eternity real for your kids in their day-to-day lives is one way to do this. You can read more about that here.
Teach your children what it means to “fear God.”
Your kids may have fears of snakes, spiders or the dark but the fear of the Lord is quite different. Sometime, in order to wrap our minds around an infinite, omnipotent God, we personalize Him in an attempt to make Him more “knowable.” There is nothing wrong with doing this. God is, in fact, a personal God who is profoundly interested in every detail of our everyday lives. But when we focus on the personal nature of God, we often miss His massiveness. A true appreciation of this attribute will lead to a healthy fear and awe of the Lord. Here’s a clip from a video of a popular sermon by Louie Giglio entitled “How Great is our God.” I would encourage you to watch it with your children. (You can watch the full sermon here.) We need reminders like this about the greatness of our God.
Talk about “storing up treasure in heaven.”
When you help a neighbor in need or donate to a good cause, talk to your children about this Scripture:
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:19-21
When we serve God, we are storing up eternal treasures. This is because God’s economy is the opposite of ours. If our world values it, He doesn’t. Look at the Beatitudes – the blessed are those who suffer, struggle or go without. When we care for those in need, show kindness to the people around us, or put the needs of others above our own, we store up treasure in heaven – a treasure much better than a “healthy 401K.” If we truly believe this in our hearts, we will act accordingly and our kids will learn by watching us live it out.
Remember that you are significant and you have a purpose
Despite what a cursory read of Ecclesiastes might make us think, our lives with Christ while we are on earth have great meaning. We are here for a purpose – His purpose. Yes, it is fleeting, like a vapor, but it is meaningful. As Christian parents, we have a job to do for Him. If we focus on looking for some “great calling” in our lives, we run the risk of missing the calling that God has for us right in our own backyards . . . or the backseat of our minivans.