The First and Greatest

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your mind and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandments.”
— Matthew 22:37-38

When we think of sinning, we most often think of the things we do or don’t do to other people. We think of sinning as stealing, gossiping, lying, etc. We think about the actions that have direct, visible consequences--the things we regret right after we do them.

But, the Bible says that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with everything we have! This was God’s first law to the Israelites! Yet, this is the commandment that is the most difficult to practice in our day to day lives, especially when we get swept into the trap of comparison.

For parents, this can manifest in the way we compare ourselves to other parents. We can look at the moms on Instagram who seem to have it all together, or we can look at our friends whose children always seem to be more attentive than our own.

But, it can also manifest in the way we compare our kids to other kids. We look to see if they are the most recognized dancer on the team, if they earn a top spot on their athletic team, and even if they are at the top of their class academically.

This can be tricky because we don’t just compare our child’s negative behavior; we compare their positive behavior. But, when we compare ourselves with other parents, comparing our kids with other kids takes our focus off God. It keeps us from finding joy in what our child can do and makes us either magnify the things they can’t do or minimize the good they are doing.

Instead of following the first and greatest commandment, we risk making our child first and greatest in our life.

Even the school system provides an atmosphere for this attitude. For example, at graduation ceremonies, proud graduates walk with medals and sashes, with even prouder parents sitting in the stands. From the time some children are in elementary school, parents can train their eyes on the accolades their children can achieve. As our eyes are fixed on our child and their accomplishments, we risk putting our children ahead of God.

Additionally, we have the potential to inadvertently train our children that success is what gives them worth in our eyes. Kids are always looking to their parents for approval-- whether they are three years old or going into college. They desire it and they thrive on it! But it can cause them to have a false perception of what causes us to love and be proud of them.

Of course, no parent would do this consciously, but when we put an emphasis on what our child accomplishes, we teach them that their worth is in their accomplishments--or that their worth is in what we think of them--instead of their identity as a child of God.

So, does training our child to find their identity in God mean never expressing that we are proud of them or encouraging them to press on toward some end goal? Absolutely not! It does mean training them that everything they do is for the kingdom of God. It means showing them that from their grades to their athletic performance to their hobbies--everything they do with excellence gives glory to the one who made them.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24

There’s nothing wrong with desiring to succeed or desiring for our children to succeed! The problem comes when we make their accomplishments our identity. Our desire for identity leads to idolatry.

We can guard our hearts against idolizing our children by watching our motives and the desires of our heart. Is our heart’s desire to see our son succeed, or is it to see him recognized above his peers? Is our heart’s desire to see our daughter graduate high school having done the best she can do, or is it to see her highly decorated?

By guarding your heart against idolizing your children, you set both yourself and your child up for success. Children who have parents who have been at the center of their decision making process struggle to make their own decisions after high school and college for fear of disappointing their parents and losing all the worth they worked so hard to create.

But, by training your child that their worth is from the Lord and treating them that way, we help them prioritize the voice of the Lord and follow the first and greatest commandment. We show them that everything they do is for the Lord and not for people, and He is the one we look to.

This week, talk to your child about what it means to work for the Lord and not for people. Explain to them that God wants us to do our very best and that He is the one who gives us the strength to do everything we need to do. Encourage your child that your desire is for them to please God and to support them every step of the way. Take time to thank God for the gives he has given your child and ask Him to continue to develop them in Jesus name!