Jesus on Parenting Teens: What Are YOU Hungry For, Mom and Dad?


“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

I have always worked really hard to cultivate a hunger and thirst for righteousness in my kids. I want them to run hard after God so they don’t miss out on all He has for them.

So, I served my kids a healthy diet of Christian teaching, activities to help them grow their faith, and plenty of time at church. And, of course, I was always quick to point out when they were lacking in righteousness.

But…Jesus does not say, “Make sure your kids are righteous.” He says, “Make sure YOU have a healthy appetite for righteousness.” It’s about cultivating our desire to grow in holiness above our desire to grow our kids in holiness.

I’m not advocating ignoring a child’s sin or not using discipline, but we would do well to clean up our own messes first.  It’s a bit like losing pressure while on an airplane; you need to get your own mask on first before attempting to get one on your child.  Or, to use another analogy, it’s like that whole plank in the eye thing Jesus talked about (see Matthew 7).

In studying the Beatitudes, I’m realizing how one seems to naturally follow the others.  If I want to be hungry for something, I have to be depleted of it first.  That means I first have to recognize that I am lacking in righteousness (“Blessed are the poor in spirit”), be upset about not having it (“Blessed are those who mourn”), and be humble enough to realize my need for it (“Blessed are the meek”).

In other words, I have to acknowledge how much I lack righteousness, be upset about that, and confess my need for it.  In reality, I am usually more focused on all the things I’m doing right. (“Did you hear what so-and-so did? I would never do anything so terrible and sinful!”)  Yeah, right. Like my pastor says, we are ALL goofy. We’re all broken, sinful, and in need of a Savior.

I might recognize my areas of weakness, but it’s the rare occasion when I really hone in on those things.  I can find all sorts of ways to justify NOT growing in righteousness.  I mean, Jesus died to cover ALL my sins, right?  I’m saved by grace anyway…so it’s no big deal if I don’t clean up this area of sin, right?  Right? ?????

Then I read on in Matthew 5, and Jesus says this:  “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

BAM. That’s a blow to the head, am I right?

I know what you’re thinking. “But my kid! You don’t know my kid and all the terrible things she is doing! If I don’t fix her, it’s hopeless! Her future is at stake, and I, I, I, I…” I know. It’s hard not to focus on your teens’ shortcomings and try to point them in a more “righteous” direction.

Here’s the thing, mom and dad. You’ve fed your child well. In just a few years, she will be out on her own, feeding herself. Though she may gorge on some junk food for awhile, eventually she is going to start craving some good, home cooking.

If you’ve ever been through the experience of teaching a teenager to drive, you know how hard it is at times to resist grabbing the steering wheel.  It is about this same time in life we have to start letting go of the wheel of their spiritual lives as well.  They are going to make mistakes.  They are going to overcorrect or accelerate too quickly sometimes.  They will be at the mercy of other drivers on the road.  But they’ve also been watching you drive for many years, and they’ve learned from you.  When in doubt, they will draw on those memories to guide them.

Those memories will include the nutrition you provided for their souls, and witnessing a mom or dad who had a hunger and thirst for righteousness.




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