“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

If you love the Lord with all your heart, soul and strength, He’ll have the highest place in your affections, the highest claim on your life and the highest priority over your check book.  If I love Christ like this, how will it impact my family?  Will it hurt my children?

This is a very real question.  You love the Lord and want to serve Him.  You want your life to count for Him, but you also have a family.  You love your children and you want to be a good mother, a good father.  What does it look like to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and strength when you’re married and when you have children?

Calculating the risk

“The little ones that you said would be taken captive; your children… will enter the land.” Deuteronomy 1:39

Forty years earlier God called their parents to enter the land, but when the spies returned they reported that there were giants there.  So, the parents turned back and for the next 40 years they wandered in the desert.  Why did they make this decision? 

We get a fascinating insight into their thinking here.  When the spies came back and said, “There are giants in the land,” the parents said, “This is far too great a risk.  We have little children.  What’s best for them?  Our children could be taken captive...” 

If they’d put the Lord before their children, they’d have grown up in the land of milk and honey.  Instead they put the children before the Lord, and spent their lives in the desert.  If they’d gone in, some families would have lost sons and daughters—obedience always has a cost.  But putting the children first was a great miscalculation.

Alignment, not priority or balance

“Oh, that [they would] keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever.” Deuteronomy 5:29

Align your life around one consuming passion for the Lord.  This is not the same as prioritizing.  People sometimes say, “God first, family second and ministry third,” but you can’t separate loving from serving God.  Christ claims all of your life, not part of it.

Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “Keep a balance—have time for ministry and time for your family.”  Balance sounds good, but it’s surprisingly unhelpful.  If God and your family have to be kept in balance, it means they’re on opposite sides of the scale.  I don’t want my family to weigh against the Lord; I want them to weigh for Him.  

Moses tells us how to achieve alignment...

a. Your own heart “These commandments… are to be on your heart.” (6:6)

Love the Lord with all your heart.  Begin with your own heart.

b. Your family conversation “Talk about them when you sit at home…” (6:7)

Don’t let your love for the Lord, your work for the Lord or your giving to the Lord be a private thing.  Open your heart and let your family see the passion that drives you.  Why you love the Lord and what it means to live for Him is to pervade everything.

c. Your example “Tie them as symbols on your hands.” (6:8)

Let this love for the Lord that is in your heart, and in your family conversation, be put into practice.  If you want to align a family around a single passion for the Lord, you have to step out and lead by example yourself.  Don’t just talk about it.  You have to do it. 

d. Your family life “Write them on the door frames of your houses...” (Deuteronomy 6:9)

Bring your children into this great consuming passion; help them feel part of it.  My father worked two jobs, served on the church board, taught Sunday school and edited and produced a church magazine—a family production line—typed by my mother and duplicated, collated and stapled by our whole family on Friday nights. 

People sometimes ask me, “How do you protect your children from the pressures of ministry?”  They have received immeasurable benefits from their exposure to ministry—people they’ve met, experiences they’ve enjoyed and life lessons they’ve learned.

The parents who said, “We can’t enter the land because of the children,” led their children into the desert.  But the parents who said, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord,” pointed their children to the Promised Land. 

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This LifeKey is based on the message “Tell Your Children Why,” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, delivered October 3, 2010, from the series “Take Two: The Power of a Fresh Start.” Colin currently serves as Senior Pastor of the The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He is committed to preaching the Bible in a way that nourishes the soul by directing attention to Jesus Christ.