March 7, 2011 by Stacy McDonald
“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:
- Does my husband/wife know that he/she comes first in my life before anyone or anything else (besides God)?
- 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?
- Do I tend to “drop everything” for ministry or work needs; but, when my family needs me, treat them as if they can “wait”?
- Do I often spend my time off working on “emergency” work or ministry projects, rather than investing in my family?
- 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?
- 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