Shooting Arrows

Preparing our children for their teenage years and beyond

by Brian L Watts

You can also listen to the complete seminar online.

A parental
responsibility to lay
up an inheritance.

Multi-generational Perspective

Multi-generational House

Family Business

The Bible describes God as "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
Our God is the God of generational continuity.

Of course, the idea of understanding time in blocks of three generations is very foreign to our instant society. Three generations remind us of the past, the present, and the future. But we live for the now. We have little respect for our forefathers and little concern for those who will succeed us. Someone has quipped: it is no wonder that babies come into the world crying. They are born as the immediate heirs of thousands of dollars of national debt to worry about long after we have gone! Contrary to our "me generation" mind-set, three-generational thinking is closer to the biblical norm. The God of the generations is the starting point for our understanding of the family. No family exists in a vacuum: it lies between the past (with its heritage) and the future (its heirs). The Bible makes it clear that we are rooted in our heritage. There is no such thing as a self-made man; only God can say "I am who I am"; only He can be self-determinative. We can only say, "I am who I have been made." We are created in dependence, fashioned out of the raw material of our forefathers, moulded by our circumstances - but ultimately dependent on what God, in His providence, has deposited in us.

As well as being heirs, only able to build our lives with that which we have received, we are also clearly instructed in Scripture to leave an inheritance (Prov 13:22). This does not merely mean that we are to leave a healthy bank account to enable our children to pay off their mortgage. It also means we are responsible to lay up treasure in heaven, to leave deposits of spiritual wealth for our children to draw on.

Parental responsibility to lay up an inheritance

In this article, we shall be considering our parental responsibility to lay up an inheritance. Our task is the generational responsibility of preparing our children to build beyond the foundation that we have laid. As David provided his son Solomon with the resources to build the Temple, so we are to ensure that our children continue to have an influence for the Kingdom long after we are dead.

The psalmist considers this in Psalm 127: he speaks of building a house, or better still, a family. We are told that sons are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. It's great to have a full quiver - but God's intent in giving us children is that we should be able to "shoot" them into distant times and places where we would never be able to go personally. There they can make an impact for the Kingdom of God. They are not daggers, which can only go as far as the hand that holds them; they are arrows which can be launched to affect distant lives and situations.

Multi-generational Perspective

When we consider the world in which we live, it is reassuring to take a multi-generational perspective. A victorious eschatology does not necessarily imply that all the world's problems will be solved next week. We know that there are some battles that our generation may not win - but the war will not be lost if we train our children to continue the fight. Families must be built on an awareness of heritage, we must be conscious of our dependence as heirs. The Psalmist tells us that unless the Lord builds the house, we labour in vain. The children we have are a heritage and a reward from Him. All that we can work with is that which has been given.

Some of us enjoy the riches of a biblical foundation of truth that has been deposited from childhood - like Isaac, raised in the promises given to his father. Others have the calling of Abraham - to leave Ur, to come out of the world to make a new beginning. They, like Abraham, may never inherit the promised land personally. They may spend their lives wrestling with breaking the curse of generations of godless welfarism, abuse, or immorality. They struggle with trying to discover what a family really is, and their home never seems to have the same calm as those of some of their Christian friends. But theirs is the privilege of being an Abraham - a patriarch initiating a new beginning.

Multi-generational House

But whatever God has given us, we are responsible as stewards to use it to his glory. We have a mandate to build a house. Usually, we do that with children, though the apostle Paul is an example to those of us who have no biological descendants. There are other ways to produce heirs as we invest our lives into the lives of others. It is with children (biological or spiritual) that we build a multi-generational house. Napoleon may have been a great Emperor, but he was unable to build a dynasty. He was unable to raise up a family to consolidate his conquests. Similarly, the battles that we win will be in vain unless others can take our successes into the future (see Judges 2:10). The success of all that we build depends on those who inherit it. C.H.Spurgeon wrote: "When sons and daughters are arrows, it is well to have a quiver full of them; but if they are only sticks, knotty and useless, the fewer of them the better."

We are to build our house with the expectation that our offspring will take the battle into further spheres. But if we do not fulfill our responsibility as parents, our fight will not be with our enemies, but with our offspring. As Henry Smith wrote, "If they be well bred, they shoot at their parent's enemies (Ps 127:5); and if they be evil bred, they shoot at their parents."

Family Business

We should see our children as arrows in our hands in at least three senses. Firstly, they are an offensive resource. A man of war is grateful for arrows that fly where he cannot go; a father is grateful for children who will further his designs. It is a delight to see my children in their teens, imbibing a Christian worldview that took me decades to arrive at. Their familiarity with material that I have taken years to grasp sets them up to go far beyond anything I can hope to achieve.

Secondly, children are a defensive resource. An old man is vulnerable and needs his children's protection. Psalm 127 recognizes this in the fifth verse. A man's sons will contend with his enemies in the gate. We will all need our children to contend for that which we have sought to build.

Thirdly, our children are a purposeful resource. Why does a man need a wife? The Bible does not speak of marriage as being primarily given to meet a sexual or even a social need in man. Eve was given to Adam as a help-meet to fulfill his calling (Gen 2:18). He had a job to do which he would be far better able to do with a spouse. They were called together to subdue the earth. So why does a man need children? For the same reason! Gen 1:28 speaks of the need for multiplication as part of the mandate given to families, and it is with a view to the same end: A means to subdue the earth. Adam could tend the Garden of Eden, but his descendants would spread out to cultivate more and more areas of wilderness and gradually expand the garden until it filled the whole earth. This is a picture of our dominion mandate - and it is a family business.

Originally published in U-TURN

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