March 7, 2011 by Stacy McDonald

Are You Losing Your Real Treasure?

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“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19–21

Not too long ago, I received an email from a pastor’s wife whose husband heads up a large ministry. What she shared broke my heart and caused me to ponder how often Satan deceives us into believing we’re doing “great things for God;” when, in fact, we’re doing “great things for self.”

This wife rarely sees her husband, and when she does, she says he isn’t really “there.” His affections are elsewhere. She shared with me how her children gave up a long time ago, and don’t rely on Dad anymore for emotional…or even spiritual support. This family spent years watching Dad drop everything for any “need” in the church, while they couldn’t get him to listen to even a full sentence without being  distracted by “more important” matters. Sadly, these children knew they came last in their Dad’s life, and eventually it became too painful to beg; so, they gave up trying.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3

Before his death, my birth father shared similar heartbreaks in his own life. My grandfather, Michael DeBakey, was a famous heart surgeon whose work was his life. His brilliant mind and tireless efforts brought extended life and physical healing to countless numbers of heart patients.

The day our son, Caleb, was born, Michael DeBakey, nearly 90 years old, caught a plane to Moscow to perform open heart surgery on Boris Yeltsin. At the time of his death in 2008, at nearly 100 years old, my grandfather was still going to work each day. Having received many humanitarian awards, including the Congressional Gold Medal, there is no doubt that he did great things for others.

However, when my birth father was growing up, my grandfather was blazing a trail in medicine that few could keep up with, including his own family. My birth father used to romanticize his mother’s death in 1972 by claiming she “died of a broken heart.” Ironically, in the very hospital where my grandfather, the medical giant of his time, was operating on someone else, my grandmother died of a heart attack. My birth father and his three brothers knew they were not first in their father’s life, and it caused much pain and division in the family.

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10

But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. Malachi 2:15 [Keep in mind, there is more than one way to be faithless.]

Satan will often allow us to think we are saving the whole world… while we lose our own children. Sadly, this happens in ministry just as easily as does in the secular realm. Marriages fall apart because ministers sometimes forget they have a family, as well as a flock to love and nourish.

If God is not behind what we’re doing, if He has not called us to a specific task, then our efforts are in vain because there is something else that He has called us to do that we are neglecting. In addition, if we are setting aside what God has clearly called us to do to focus more on what provides us with personal validation or accolades, then we are not serving God; we are serving ourselves.

I’ve seen women put their precious little ones in daycare, so that they can spend more time focusing on “the ministry.” Missionaries are sometimes required (and sometimes make the choice on their own) to send their children to boarding schools, so Mom and Dad can better focus on ministering to the natives.

I’ve heard from PKs (pastor’s kids) and MKs (missionary kids) who grew up feeling like they were always last on the list of “ministerial duties” – the church and just about everyone else in the world seemed to come first. While this type of negligence can be true in any family, as we’ve seen, it is especially tragic when it happens in a family who ministers the Gospel.

Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord. Proverbs 19:14

Moms, your first and most important God-ordained ministry is your family. Fathers, don’t forsake the wife of your youth, or neglect the training and nurturing of your own children for the illusion of “greater things.”

There is desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it. Proverbs 21:20

Parents, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does my husband/wife know that he/she comes first in my life before anyone or anything else (besides God)?
  2. Do I have the hearts of my children? Do they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that when they need me, I am there for them – even in the small or everyday cares of life?
  3. Do I tend to “drop everything” for ministry or work needs; but, when my family needs me, treat them as if they can “wait”?
  4. Do I often spend my time off working on “emergency” work or ministry projects, rather than investing in my family?
  5. Do I feel like I have to check my email or phone messages constantly when I’m supposed to be on vacation or during my time off?
  6. Have I set boundaries on work that are rarely crossed (letting the phone ring during dinner or family worship, turning off cell phone during vacation etc.)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9



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30 Responses to “Are You Losing Your Real Treasure?”

  1. Andrea Powell says:

    Great! Thank you.

  2. Stacy McDonald says:

    As a pastor’s wife, I’d like to acknowledge that there will always be some amount of sacrifice on the part of a minister’s family. That is part of the Christian life, specifically for those in full time ministry. As Christians, we are called to view service as part of God’s sovereign plan for us. So, please don’t be tempted to take every needed sacrifice the family must make as a personal offense. That is not the point of this article.

  3. Jennifer M. says:

    This is an important reminder to all of us, whether in ministry, or not. We are not even steeped in ministry, we haven’t even officially joined our new church out here since moving, yet life has a way of keeping one busy and dodging/balancing issues. This has been on my mind for some time now, thanks for putting it out there.

  4. Tiffany says:

    Thank you for this post I love it and have shared on facebook to show love to my friends :)

  5. Tiffany says:

    I also did a blog post linking to this article and your site I hope that was ok :) I want others I blog with to read this too :)
    Blessings,
    Tiffany

  6. Becky says:

    I was never a pastor’s wife, but at one point we were attending a church where I was called on frequently to help with first one thing and then another. For almost a year I spent so much time rushing around trying to accomplish everything they “needed” me to do that I didn’t have very much time to invest in my own family. I was just barely hanging on with all the schooling and everyday chores – running behind more often than not. Truth was, it flattered my pride to be the one people sought out when they needed something.
    To say the least, I was not the most popular person in church when I started telling them all that I was not available to help with (fill in the blank). Or, when I flat out told them that I was scaling back on my involvement with the various church activites because it was taking so much from my family. The pastor’s wife may not have liked me much, but my kids liked me all the much better. I had sat down and apologized to them and to my husband for what I had done. It did us all a world of good.
    We attend a family integrated church now and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the emphasis on making/spending time for/with your children. The difference in the two expierences is like night and day.

  7. JulieBeth says:

    I was doing a Bible study by a very popular woman author. In her video one week she said she didn’t pray for her children because God knew she was busy praying for her ministry and He would take care of her children. The offhanded way she spoke of her children was terrible. Afterward I mentioned it to the other women and they all seemed to think that was acceptable, because she was a famous person. I don’t know if I could ever do one of her Bible studies again. It is so sad.

    Sometimes homeschool moms feel called to a ministry and I tell them that God will show them the right season. Some things can be done while you have a family at home, but those days will pass quickly and then you can step into ministry without taking too much time from your family. I had a calling from God in my life for over 20 years, I just kept watching and praying for the right time, and then He began to open the doors a couple of years ago. He has given me a vision for it to grow when my youngest graduates from our family homeschool in two years.

  8. Leila says:

    Although I know that there are pastors out there who have great family lives and are awesome fathers, I have seen or heard about the above scenario SO MANY times that I am convinced that it is better for the clergy to remain single. This happened in my own family and it tore my parents’ marriage apart.

  9. Alice Tucker says:

    I’ve been a pastor’s wife for more than 40 years, and have seen families hurt by someone too busy with ‘the ministry’. I am so thankful my husband spent time with our children, even including them in visitation and other ministries when possible, teaching them to serve Jesus by example. The children are grown and serving today, and they include their own children as much as possible. I pray for mommies who are too busy for their own children. God calls us to minister to them first… other things can come later. Thank you for your comments and encouragements.

  10. Wade Balsdon says:

    I have always said that police officers, fire fighters and the above people should not get married and have children for this very reason.

  11. Lacey says:

    Thank you Stacy for your comment after posting the article. I caught the point you were making in this.

  12. Ariel Bovat says:

    I know a pastor and his wife and they have been married for 40 plus years. He does ALOT of visitation and church related stuff. Many night you will find her at home by herself while her husband is out visiting the sick and dying in hospitals or nursing homes. She raised 2 rock solid kids that NOW do ministry…and she, the pastor’s wife, herself does and serves the church either by feeding the singles in her home every tuesday night, offering her home up every sunday evening for small group, working in the 2 year old class, leading the ladies Bible study on Wed. nights, singing in the church choir, making food for neighbors who are elderly….etc etc…..and she has done this for years! while raising her kids who are not in their 30’s.

    She is THE MOST SELFLESS woman i know….She does not do these things for her glory…..but for others to feel the love of Christ…..She prays like a true warrior and reads her Bible everyday without fail. She journals to God regularly. I asked her once if she felt “alone” because her husband gave so much of his time to other, and she looked at me like i was asking her to figure out a calculus problem. I can’t remember what her answer was but i remember it was more a rebuke to ME for asking such a silly “selfish” question.

    She taught her children to be SERVERS!!! she did this by example.

    I know there is fine line between doing things for SELF and doing things out SELFLESSness…this is a def. a heart issue….

    but we should not be afraid or shun ministry work for fear of it “taking over our lives”…..We just need to stay in prayer with God throughout our ministry work so that WE STAY HUMBLE……i know people have a tendency to stop bible reading, and or prayer (our connection and relationship) with God JUST BECAUSE we think serving and ministry takes the place of personal bible reading and prayer. IT DOES NOT and SHOULD NOT EVER!

    if we are doing ministry so people will notice us..that is DEF the wrong reason…..but like you said….”if God is not behind what we are doing” ……

    ..if God has placed a burden on our hearts for a particular ministry….then God will be behind our endeavor….and God will supply the patience, strength, and support needed for that particular ministry…..

    I fear this article gives young Christians mom an excuse to turn their home into a fort…..nothing comes in…nothing goes out……little secluded homes and families that refuse to look outside their door to the neighbor who could use a little Jesus love…….

    im afraid the end result are selfish kids who have no idea what servant-hood means……i have come to realize that the character trait of serving is NOT innately grained in our hearts….it is learned…..Jesus taught it to the disciples…and we are to teach it to our children…..we have to remember that God has given us children to teach and train what being a member of God’s kingdom looks like…..if we are not setting the example for serving…then where are our children going to learn this? def. not from our selfish” me me me” culture!

    Our treasure SHOULD be Jesus…..and our relationship with JESUS equips us to be better servers, parents, wives, friends….

    The scripture says “where our treasure is, there our hearts will be”……i pray the author is NOT taking this scripture out of its context…..the biblical context of this scripture was clearly pointing out that what whatever we spend most of our time, energy and focus on is makes up the contents of our heart…..this scripture DOES not say to turn your children into little treasures…….JESUS should be our only treasure…..and this in turn help us to point our children to Jesus……and having children who treasure Jesus is the BEST reward for mom!!! I know it is for me!

  13. Sarah Mae says:

    Poignant post Stacy, thank you! Sharing it!

  14. Stacy McDonald says:

    Hi Ariel,

    There is no way I can comment on your friend or her situation. And there is no way for us to know all the facts surrounding her family life. So, we won’t go there.

    I’ll go ahead and quote my comment from yesterday, as it seems maybe you missed it:

    “As a pastor’s wife, I’d like to acknowledge that there will always be some amount of sacrifice on the part of a minister’s family. That is part of the Christian life, specifically for those in full time ministry. As Christians, we are called to view service as part of God’s sovereign plan for us. So, please don’t be tempted to take every needed sacrifice the family must make as a personal offense. That is not the point of this article.”

    In addition, I’d like to address a few things you said:

    We should not be afraid or shun ministry work for fear of it “taking over our lives…”

    It depends on what you mean by this. We’re not talking about fear; we’re talking about using wisdom. As a wife and mother, my children and my husband are my primary ministry. So, depending upon what season of life I’m in (if I have 5 little ones under 7 years old, for instance), this may not be my time for much outside ministry, because to do so, I would have to neglect my children, which are clearly given to me from God to train up in the fear and nurture of the Lord.

    Even now, with older children AND younger children, I have to be careful not to set aside my clear duties to train and nurture my children, and to see to my husband’s needs.

    That being said, even in a young mother’s season of life, there are ways to minister to others without setting aside her first ministry. She can practice hospitality, bringing another mother into her home for coffee or a Bible study. She can provide a meal for someone who is sick etc. But she should be on guard against those things that cause her to neglect or to fail to perform her first duties.

    Many times the church puts pressure on mothers at home. Church leaders seem to think, “Well, she’s home all day, what else does she have to do?” – forgetting that a woman who is truly training up her children, keeping her house, and being a true helpmeet to her husband is BUSY at home. She shouldn’t be pressured to prepare a a virtual kindergarten for the Sunday school class or to take on secretarial duties for the church office.

    It’s kind of like if I ask my son to mow his grandmother’s yard, and then I walk into the living room to find him reading his Bible instead. While reading his Bible is a “good” thing, it’s become a “bad thing” to him because he has disobeyed my request to serve and minister to his grandmother. He set aside the ministry he was clearly and specifically called to, and chosen to do something that “appeared” more holy.

    You also said:

    I fear this article gives young Christians mom an excuse to turn their home into a fort…..nothing comes in…nothing goes out……little secluded homes and families that refuse to look outside their door to the neighbor who could use a little Jesus love…….

    I’m not sure where you’re coming from on this. Again, we’re talking about pursuing or feeling pressured into performing duties that cause you to neglect or set aside that which you have been clearly called by God to do. This has nothing to do with creating a fort where nobody can come in or out of our lives.

    Which leads me to another comment of yours that I’d like to address:

    I’m afraid the end result are selfish kids who have no idea what servant-hood means…

    Don’t be afraid. :-) The result is actually the opposite. My husband is a pastor, and I know all the pressures and pitfalls that come with ministry life. Yesterday, my daughter took an elderly woman to a dentist appt. and helped her get groceries. Last night, my husband and I went together to minister to a congregant in the hospital. When there are needs within the congregation for meals, house cleaning, home repair etc. we serve together. While there are times when only my husband serves a need, most of the time, at least a few of us will serve together.

    Lastly, you said:

    Scripture DOES not say to turn your children into little treasures…….JESUS should be our only treasure….

    Yes, Jesus is our Great Treasure! But, Jesus treasures my children. And He has called me to be faithful in training them up for His glory (Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4; Deut. 6:7); therefore, I will not set them aside to fool myself into believing that I am doing “more important” things “for God.”

    Nobody is saying families should become reclusive and only serve themselves – quite the opposite. Families should do what it takes to make sure they remain strong, intact, and solid, so that they are better able to minister to others to the glory of God. That is the whole point.

  15. Ariel Bovat says:

    thank you for responding. all your points to clarify my points are actually very “spot on”…..especially the part where you clarified that there are seasons in life……of course having 7 kids under the age of 7 would not be a season to dive into any kind of “ministries” outside the home….and granted one kids vs 7 kids do not a comparison make…..but my son was 15 months and my daughter was 5 when we went our first short term mission trip to another country….i strapped my kid to my back and we went….my kids….because we keep the mission field open to us….either through supporting finanically or prayerfully or even going…..our kids are very very mission minded kids…my son is 5 now and prays “religiously” for India and Bangladesh every single meal and at night…..

    im just trying to say he was trained to be this way…..training our children is indeed our first priority….but for us…its not just training….its Biblical training while stressing Godly character traits and fruits of the spirit….if i were not teaching or training my kids in this…..then my son would def. not have that heart he does for other people groups….

    i do not agree in doing missions or any kind of ministry and leaving children behind….or neglecting our children….

    i guess my feathers got frazzled when in your article you mentioned nothing about serving TOGETHER with your family….

    i am very pro serving the lost, serving the Body, and serving period ALONGSIDE my family….to me that is the BEST kind of training!

    thanks Stacey for the clarification!!!
    In Christ love
    Ariel

  16. Stacy McDonald says:

    Agreed, Ariel! Our children need to be taught to serve sacrificially alongside us! Amen!

  17. Deena says:

    Excellent post and very necessary. My husband is a Pastor and I count it a great blessing to serve beside him with our 6 kids in tote! Our previous church snickered a bit when we mentioned that we wanted to go soul-winning together, and not in the “woman-woman” “man-man” teams so often used. We stood our ground and eventually ended up going as a family, inviting folks to church. I am so thankful for a husband who sees our marriage as a team, both serving the Lord and serving one another as a family.

  18. Jennifer says:

    Ariel, I don’t think your friend had any right to rebuke you for asking such an honest and important question.

    This post is amazing, piercing. Thanks Stacy, I’m saving and reading in conjunction with “Passionate Housewives”.

  19. “I’ve seen women put their precious little ones in daycare, so that they can spend more time focusing on “the ministry.” Missionaries are sometimes required (and sometimes make the choice on their own) to send their children to boarding schools, so Mom and Dad can better focus on ministering to the natives.”

    It’s true and so heart wrenching. Great post and thanks for sharing!

    Many blessings…

  20. Mary R. says:

    Whenever I’m tempted to bemoan the fact that my husband has not been “successful” in ministry (that is, the pastor of a mega-church, or even the pastor of a church of 100 people), I remember and am grateful for the fact that the little country churches he has pastored always left us with ample family time. The people in the churches he has pastored, mostly elderly folk, were very undemanding.

  21. Sherrin Drew says:

    I appreciate your thoughts on this and agree, as this is how I aim to live my life with two tiny children. I look for opportunities to serve in ways that allow me to also be with them and teaching them.

    However, in recent readings of the gospels I keep wondering how to apply Jesus’ command to leave father, mother, lands, children and even wife for the sake of God’s kingdom. I would be very interested in hearing you thoughts on this. How do you understand these passages in terms of the family being our first priority after God?

  22. Stacy McDonald says:

    It is summed up in Matthew 10:34–36: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’

    Consider Believers who break away from Islam to follow Christ. They know painfully well what this verse means.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,402483,00.html

    Obviously Luke 14 is not saying that to follow Christ, one must learn to hate their families. It is a warning for us not to put anything or anyone above Him.

  23. Hi Stacy,

    I am in contact with many missionaries from different agencies and I have never heard such a thing as being required to place their children in boarding school. But maybe I am wrong. What is the source of your information?

    I do know that some missionaries in remote areas homeschool their children all the way to high school and then send them to a christian boarding house because they do not think they can homeschool succesfuly at that level in the place they live, BUT it is their own choice, and not their agency.
    But again, maybe you know something that I don’t. I would be happy to know who requires such a thing, because maybe something can be done to stop it.

    In Christ.

  24. Stacy McDonald says:

    Hi Carolina,

    The first time I ever heard of missionary agencies requiring parents to board their children was from a traveling missionary who shared his own family’s heartbreaking testimony. He shared how, after watching his little son break down in tears, begging to be allowed to stay with his parents, he made the decision to come home to the states, rather than send his child back to school to be be raised by others.

    Over the years, I have heard many similar accounts, some from the grown children who were forced to attend these schools (some very abusive). After your question, I was curious as to how common this practice still is. Thankfully, as more MK’s have spoken up, it seems it is not as common anymore. Praise God!

    “The Beardslee, Shellrude and Darr families left North America for West Africa during the 1950s. They followed what they believed to be “God’s Calling” – to spread Christianity throughout the world. Their children however – starting at the age of 6 – were required to attend the boarding school in Mamou, Guinea, run by the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Cut off from their families for 9 months out of the year and without any reliable means of communication, the children quietly suffered emotional, spiritual, physical and/or sexual abuse at the hands of the all-missionary staff.” – All God’s Children

    “Starting in 2000, parents are not required to send children to boarding schools, and today 75 percent of MKS live with their parents year-round.” – Vice president for International Ministries, Robert Fetherlin

    “It’s a totally new ball game; kids are [boarding] because they want to go rather than because the mission policy forced the parents to do so,” said Wilcox. “We can all rejoice in that.”

    “Other factors have influenced the trend toward less boarding, including better resources for homeschooling…”

    “I was recently horrified to discover that one mission parent I know had been “honored” with a big “lifelong service to humankind award”. (From a university no less) In the long description of all the “wonderful” things this person had done, there was never even a mention that this person had children. You could easily have assumed they were childless. Three forgotten children, abandoned and abused 9-10 months out of the year, 1st grade through 12th, while this person was glorified performing service to humankind.” – Jean Folmsbee

    “I had to go to boarding school. It was wrenching. I cried myself to sleep every night. I counted the days until we could go home to our parents…” – Leila Bolster

    Here are a few links that show the reality of what some children went through:

    Boarding School Required

    A Badly Broken Boarding School

    Boarding Bust

    All God’s Children Documentary

  25. Those are good news.
    I think this has been a problem in many realms of life, where people in those years did not understand how important it is to keep our children close to us.
    Billy Graham was always gone in the 50´s. Many celebrities had their children in the hands of nannies (they still do it but not as much as before).
    I guess people have learned the hard way. I went to a catholic school in the city we lived. some girls from small towns dormed there and went home only at weekends. they hated it. I think shools are better now in those towns and they do not need to those those things.
    thanks for answering.

  26. Thank you for this reminder. I think it is very easy for women who are confident in their choice to be a homemaker or stay-at-home-mom to still neglect their families for godly ministry. It is such a difficult balance to be a useful part of the body of Christ (outside the home) and keep your first priorities first. I love this quote by J.R. Miller:

    “But a wife’s ministry of mercy reaches outside her own doors. Every true home is an influence of blessing in the community where it stands. Its lights shine out. Its songs ring out. Its spirit breathes out. The neighbors know whether it is hospitable or inhospitable, warm or cold, inviting or repelling. Some homes bless no lives outside their own circle; others are perpetually pouring out sweetness and fragrance. The ideal Christian home is a far-reaching benediction. It sets its lamps in the windows, and while they give no less light and cheer to those within, they pour a little beam upon the gloom without, which may brighten some dark path and put a little cheer into the heart of some belated passer-by. Its doors stand ever open with a welcome to every one who comes seeking shelter from the storm, or sympathy in sorrow, or help in trial. It is a hospice, like those blessed refuges on the Alps, where the weary or the chilled or the fainting are sure always of refreshment, of warmth, of kindly friendship, of gently ministry, of mercy. It is a place where one who is in trouble may go confident ever of sympathy and comfort. It is a place where the young people love to go, because they know they are welcome and because they find inspiration and help there.”

    The home should naturally overflow with service to the world. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice our families to serve. Thanks for the encouragement!

  27. […] Are You Losing Your Real Treasure? @ Your Sacred Calling […]

  28. Mrs. Zwieg says:

    Thank you for posting this. I was one of those moms…

    “I’ve seen women put their precious little ones in daycare, so that they can spend more time focusing on “the ministry.”

    I literally did not know any different. I was even taught in the churches we attended growing up that other people’s souls were more precious than our familes. It has only been within the last year that God grabbed my heart and we have been making significant lifestyle changes. My family comes first. There are over six billion people on the planet and God is miraculous in the fact that if people are truly searching, God has six billion ways to get the Gospel to them…He knows every heart that is there. But, my focus right now is the heart and hearts of my family, Praise God!

    Someday I will write a post on the realness of church ministry…especially for a single mother, it is an ugly field to be in, the pressure is unbelievable…especially when you are in a church that is very focused on it’s numbers (church attendance) and its budget (building projects, marketing, etc.), and how it relates to being a real woman of God. It was a very tough lesson to learn, however, God in His mercy has given my family grace for this wonderful transition!

    Thank you again, you are a blessing!

  29. Amira Soderquist says:

    A big thank you for your blog article.Thanks Again. Really Cool.

  30. Hey there it was a pleasure visting your site.

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