This Sunday is Mother’s Day. I recently read about the lady who came up with the idea of Mother’s Day in the early part of last century, in honour of her own mother who was a peace activist and cared for wounded soldiers in America’s Civil War (her name was Anna Jarvis and you can read about her here). But it didn’t take long before it became a commercial gold mine centred on buying flowers, gifts and cards. This upset her so much she organized boycotts, threatened lawsuits and even attacked First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using Mother’s day to raise charity funds.
You can hardly blame her really. The first reminder I got that Mother’s Day was coming up was a flier in our letterbox telling me I had to go out and buy “something special” for my mother and they had plenty of suggestions in their nice glossy booklet of what that could be. I threw it away. Those things just annoy me.
That doesn’t mean however we should abandon or reject Mother’s Day or perhaps like Jarvis, think about boycotting it. It has a purpose – a good purpose. It is an opportunity for us to affirm mothers in their unique God-given role. Think about it: mothers are given the amazing opportunity of bearing, raising and teaching the next generation. Their nurturing instinct, servant heart, and self-sacrificing love is indispensable in helping to shape our future children. And for this they should be honoured.
I decided this year to preach a message for mothers (actually it’s for their children) at our church. I chose Proverbs 1:8-9:
“Hear, my child, your father’s instruction, and do not reject your mother’s teaching; for they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck.”
It’s a call for all sons and daughters to listen to, take heed to and value their mother’s teaching. Of course Fathers are included in this, in fact it is their God-given responsibility to take the lead. But our focus for Sunday is the Mother. I looked back on my own childhood and thought about all the things my mother taught me. She taught me the value of hard work and instilled in me a strong work ethic. She taught me good manners and how to be polite and always call older people by “Mr” and “Mrs” (what has happened to that today?). She taught me how to be frugal – “waste not, want not” as the saying goes and that not every desire of mine needed to be instantly gratified. She also taught me not to be a sissy. After 5 daughters I think she did pretty well with that. If I came in crying with a scraped knee or a stubbed toe she would take a look at it and if I wasn’t bleeding to death she’d send me outside again. Band-aid’s weren’t cheap back then so you used them sparingly. She also taught me the value of reading and having a good book. I think that is why I’m an avid reader today.
Those were all good things that my mother taught me. But those are not the things the writer of Proverbs had in mind. The context is the believing home. The father and mother are God-fearing. They love God and they love God’s Word. And it is only natural that they pass this onto to their children. The instruction and teaching the children are to heed therefore is instruction about God, the Bible, their sin and their need for the Saviour. It is instruction for their hearts. It is instruction that can save them from a life of misery, ruin and self-destruction. It is instruction that can deliver their souls from hell.
My mother didn’t teach me any of those things since she was not a believer. But my wife is. We are both first generation Christians and we have the wonderful privilege and responsibility of passing on to our children our new heritage of faith with its gospel convictions and patterns of godly living. My wife has been faithful to teach it and model it. Time will tell whether or not our children will be faithful to live it.
And then, Lord willing, to pass it on.