Dedicate Your Children to the Lord
“Sanctify unto Me all the first-born, whatsoever openeth the womb among children of Israel, both of man and of beast: It is Mine.” (Exodus 13:2 KJV)
One of the most important decisions Christian parents should make is to dedicate their children to the Lord at an early age. This does not correspond in any way to infant baptism or christening. Nor does it save the children’s souls. A child must still have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and make a personal decision to believe in and serve Him as their own personal Savior. But the process of dedicating children includes concepts, principles, and practices that, if followed consistently, will virtually guarantee that they will become permanent believers when the Holy Spirit deals with their hearts.
Throughout the Bible we find evidence that shows God intended for the children of His people to serve Him from their early childhood, through their teen years, to adulthood, continuously without a break. In Genesis 18:19, He expected Abraham’s children always to serve Him and never to leave Him: “For I know him [Abraham] that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment…”
In Deuteronomy 6:1-7, Moses gives the Great Commandment: “Now these are the commandments…which I command thee, thou and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life… And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
In Proverbs 22:6, Solomon writes: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Other versions say he will not “leave it” or he will “remain in it.”
In the New Testament, Paul writes, regarding elders’ children, “[These elders should be] men who are of unquestionable integrity and are irreproachable, the husband of [but] one wife, whose children are [well-trained and are] believers…” (Titus 1:6 Amp). Thus, it was assumed that the children of elders would be believers.
So it is clearly God’s expectation that the children of His people would be believers, consistent followers of their parents in the footsteps of the Lord. He expected the torch of godly values and service to God to be passed down to each generation without the backsliding and periods of wayward living that we deem normal in most Christian families today. And it all begins with the dedication of those children to the Lord when they are infants.
Biblical Precedence of Dedicating Children
Biblical precedence for the concept of dedicating children is found in both the Old and New Testaments. In Exodus 13:2, God demanded that the firstborn of every woman or female animal be dedicated to Him. Later, He gave other laws and rituals in regards to children. When Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple at eight days old to dedicate Him (Luke 2:21-40), they were obeying some of those laws.
Also in the Old Testament we find Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, actually giving him to the Lord for the rest of his life. She was especially blessed for this deed: Until then she had been barren, but afterwards God blessed her to have five more children. The child she dedicated, Samuel, had a much different life than his five younger brothers and sisters. We never hear of them again, but Samuel became one of the most influential characters in the history of Israel.
Finally, we have the example of Jesus Himself. Many times mothers brought their “little children” and “infants” to Jesus for Him to “touch” and “pray” for them, but the disciples “rebuked them.” Of course, when Jesus saw it, He was “much displeased” and rebuked the disciples, telling them, “Suffer or allow these little children to come unto Me, and do not forbid them,” for the Kingdom of God is made up of people who receive it with a child-like faith and humility. Then He picked them up, “put His hands upon them, and blessed them.” This incident is recorded in three Gospels: Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; and Luke 18:15-17.
How To Dedicate A Child
The actual manner of dedicating a child can vary according to the parents’ wishes. A typical scenario would include the parents bringing the child to the altar or the front of the church, where the elders (and any others of special significance) can gather around to lay hands on the child. Before the actual laying on of hands, the parents can express their desires, intentions, and consecration to the ministers and to the congregation if it is during a church service. Any of the elders can respond with words of advice or challenges they feel led to give. Finally, while laying on hands, the elders should offer prayers of dedication, invocations of divine protection over the child, and impartations of blessings to the whole family.
When dedicating a child under a covenant of holiness, the parents should have the following attitude, and can even repeat something similar to these words:
God has given us—no, loaned us—this child. First of all, we don’t know what to do or how to do it, but with God’s wisdom and grace, we are willing to dedicate ourselves to learning how to raise this child just as Jesus Himself would do it if He were here. So we are giving this child back to Him. He is now responsible for this child—his earthly and eternal welfare—and we make ourselves merely the willing instruments for Him to use to raise His child His way. God can do whatever He wants to do with His child. If He wants to use this child to build His kingdom, then we will not let our personal ambitions for this child get in the way. If He allows into this child’s life peace and pleasure or pain and suffering, we will not go outside of His plans to prevent it. If He wants to take this child to Himself at any time, then we will not allow our personal love and desires to interfere. The child is His and we are His, forever.
The Blessings of Dedicating Children
The experience of Hannah shows that dedicating a child to the Lord invokes His divine blessings upon the whole family. This blessing is two-fold:
(1) The child is blessed. Dedicating a child to the Lord serves notice to God, the parents, and the devil that this is a special child with a special destiny. It places a divine protection over the child’s present and future life—physically, spiritually, emotionally, and otherwise. As in the case of the child Samuel, whose mother gave him to the Lord as a baby, God takes the children that are dedicated to Him and placed at His disposal, and decides to use them for His purposes. He thus provides divine protection and direction for those children because they are His.
By dedicating them to God, the parents have opened up and authorized a channel for God to use those children for His purposes. They are letting God have a chance at their children. In that same act, the parents have used their authority to close any channels or opportunities the devil may have to their children. Of course, parents must maintain this blessing over time, but the ability for them to do so lies within their authority in Christ as godly parents.
(2) The parents are blessed. Actually, they are the ones needing the blessing the most! The discipline required for true godly parenting will transform the parents into truly godly parents. The job of a parent is the most important job in the world. It is a far more significant job than most Christian parents realize. Too many Christian parents feel like their children were born this way or that way, “good” or “bad,” easy to raise or difficult to raise, and there is not much they as parents can do about it. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Parents allow their children to turn out however they turn out; it is never the child’s fault.
The Parents’ Responsibility to Their Dedicated Child
Parents should realize that everything starts with them. The eternal destiny of a little eternal soul has been placed in their hands: whether their child goes to heaven or hell is literally up to them, placed squarely upon their shoulders as parents. If they fail in this responsibility, very few other achievements in life even matter. Their main earthly task is to get their own two souls to heaven and to save the souls of all of their children. That is a monumental task, requiring divine wisdom and miraculous self-control that few parents, Christian or otherwise, possess.
Thus, the prayer and process of dedicating their children to the Lord includes the request for the gifts of divine wisdom, grace, and self-discipline that the parents will need to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The parents will begin to view their children as being only loaned to them by the Lord, and they will view themselves as only managers and caretakers, not owners, of the divine destinies of the Lord’s children. This eliminates the right of the parents to raise their children according to their own human ideas, human shortcomings, fears, prejudices, personal ambitions, and selfish whims and fancies. They must raise them as if God were raising them. This is what it means to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of [or belonging to] the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
The parents must diligently and consistently protect their dedicated children from all of the corruptive influences found in the world that are spread through the media, worldly philosophies, associations with ungodly people (certain school mates, relatives, or even other “church” children), and other means.
Dedicated children should not get to “taste” much of the pleasure of the world before they are able to maturely deal with its deceitfulness. This was the principle behind specially chosen children raised according to the Nazarite law (e.g., Samson, John the Baptist, et. al.): They did not taste wine or partake of addictive worldly pleasures lest they would develop an appetite for it, which would create temptations too great for them to deal with as immature young people.
But true protection consists of more than merely shielding dedicated children from the outside world’s evils. Complete protection requires parents to prepare their children inwardly—mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—to be able to face and cope with the world’s evil. A child that does not have the mental knowledge of God, or that has been allowed to grow up emotionally insecure and craving, or that has not been armed with the necessary spiritual weapons and tools, is extremely vulnerable to the world’s evil, even if he or she has had a sheltered upbringing.
Parents must introduce into their children’s lives anything, pleasant or unpleasant, that helps them develop into strong, mature, noble-spirited adults. This is the parents’ ultimate goal: They must raise the children to have better character and better preparation for life than they themselves possess.
As parents of a dedicated child, they don’t have the right to just pass down their personal opinions and weaknesses. They must pass down the convictions, the attributes, the habits, the behavior, the attitudes, the values, the faith, the strength and confidence, the self-discipline, and the spiritual worldview belonging to the Lord, Who is the actual owner of the child. A child that is dedicated to the Lord should eventually reflect the character of his true Father—God. This is the ultimate goal of godly parenting.
Parents are to actively guide and direct their dedicated child into the knowledge of the Lord. They cannot be passive about this or just wait on the child to seek God when he or she feels like it. Instead, parents should lead their child to the Lord early in life.
Parents should provide their dedicated child with lots of age-appropriate spiritual training, motivation, challenging activities, and opportunities to minister to others. They must fast and pray much for God to show Himself real to the child in a living, loving relationship. They must pass on to the child the high standard that radical involvement and commitment to God is the only way to serve Him. They must cause the child to grow up with the knowledge that he is a “kingdom” child, raised for God’s purposes—not his own nor the parents’.
The child is expected not only to live a saved life, but also to live a committed life. Parents must impart to their dedicated child a deep inner dissatisfaction with being a mediocre, apathetic, thumb-twiddling Christian. Therefore, they must consistently model before their child that there is nothing in this world more important than loving God and dedicating oneself to His cause—no job or career, no financial opportunity, no educational attainment, no romantic endeavor, and no social achievement. “Only one life, ‘Twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Through all of this, the parents must keep the child trusting them, loving them, respecting them, and admiring them so that they can continue to influence the child to keep serving God. It is only as the child begins to show spiritual maturity and the ability to operate from his own internal motivations from God that a parent can begin to take a hands-off approach to the child’s spirituality. Until that point is reached, parents must remain a dominant, though not domineering, influence in their child’s spiritual life.
What Parents Need To Raise A Dedicated Child
It should be obvious that parenting a dedicated child requires five rare attributes—(1) uncommon spiritual balance, (2) emotional stability, (3) keen godly insight and wisdom, (4) great courage to stand by godly convictions, and (5) consistency. All five of these uncommon virtues come from the same Source: The confidence and security that the parents themselves find in God and His love for them. In other words, the parents themselves must be emotionally and spiritually secure people, and this security comes from truly experiencing God’s love and actively trusting Him in every area of life.
That is, it is not enough for parents just to be Christians; they must find this spiritual security. Otherwise, the parents themselves will be too tossed about by their own various circumstances of life to maintain a healthy and consistent spiritual, emotional, social, and physical environment for their children.
We will quickly describe what each of the above five attributes means and how the spiritual and emotional security of the parent figures into the child-raising equation:
(1) Uncommon spiritual balance. Parents must be secure enough in God’s love to find a spiritual balance no matter what kinds of winds of doctrines are blowing in their spiritual world. Otherwise, the children will be spiritually unstable. Children should not be raised in an atmosphere of religious fanaticism or legalism where they are forced to live by strict and sometimes illogical religious rules and regulations. They must be taught plainly the biblical reasons why the rules exist. They must see a living relationship with the God of love modeled before them as the definition of true religion. Otherwise, legalism will usually cause children eventually to rebel against their parents, against the church, and against God. They will often be forced to live lives of rebellion and turmoil, none of which is helpful to their spiritual and emotional health or the salvation of their souls.
Nor should children be raised in a spiritually permissive environment where anything goes. Not enough rules is just as bad as too many rules, and sometimes worse. The emphasis should always be for the child to experience a living and loving relationship with God as the source and reason for all training. Spiritual balance is absolutely essential to raising spiritually healthy, dedicated children.
(2) Emotional stability. Parents must find a degree of security in God’s love that makes them emotionally stable enough to make decisions and to do what is best for the child no matter what the parents’ personal circumstances happen to be at the time. A parent who is fearful, hurting, or emotionally insecure or immature cannot possibly raise his or her children to have emotional stability. Only emotionally secure, confident, and stable parents can create and maintain a loving home environment.
(3) Keen godly insight and wisdom (which is even more than common sense). Parents must have a security in God that gives them confidence and wisdom to see things from God’s perspective rather than their own. They must have an openness to God and the courage and willingness to follow God’s direction even when it is not according to the beaten path. The Holy Spirit must be alive and working daily in their individual lives. They need great flexibility that is neither instability nor inconsistency.
(4) Great courage to stand by often-unpopular convictions of right and wrong, propriety and impropriety. Parents must have a security and confidence from God that does not depend on the acceptance and understanding of their children or of anybody else, so that they will have the courage to stand for their convictions when the whole world seems to be going the opposite (and usually wrong) way. A parent can never depend on the acceptance or approval of children for his or her security; it must come from God alone. A parent dependent on their children’s approval will be much too fearful. Parents must realize that their children’s true happiness does not depend on getting to do what they like to do but on what they ought to do. It is the parents’ job to courageously hold that line no matter what.
(5) The rare ability to consistently do what is best for the child regardless of what is happening all around and even in the life of the parents themselves. Parents must find a security in God’s love that enables them to be uncommonly consistent in their dealings with their children, no matter how difficult that might become at times nor how tempting it might be to “skip it this time.” Inconsistency in parents confuses the child and causes the parents’ word to lose effectiveness (e.g., constantly threatening the child with chastisement but seldom following through). Uncommon consistency in their parents is what produces mature character in children.
These are the great spiritual demands and conditions parents agree to when they dedicate their children to the Lord. As stated above, all of these uncommon attributes can be obtained from the same Source: The confidence and security that the parents themselves find in God and His love for them. A properly-trained, self-disciplined, spiritually-productive child is the fruit of parents who have allowed themselves to be properly trained and disciplined by God.
A Couple of Practical Examples
To make this a little more practical, let’s use a couple of real life examples to show how the parents’ spiritual security and maturity affect their children. Take something as simple as food—the diet a mother feeds her family. Children should be fed what is best for them—not just what they like to eat nor even just what the mother likes to eat. Just because Mom doesn’t like broccoli and cabbage or other good vegetables doesn’t mean that the children should grow up not eating them. She should be mature and self-disciplined enough to plan a proper diet regardless of her own personal tastes.
Another example concerns family attitudes. Just because Dad cannot forgive the neighbor or harbors a grudge toward a certain person doesn’t mean that the children should be trained to dislike that person. Dad should be secure and mature enough not to pass down his old wounds and hurts to his children. He must protect his children’s spirits, nurturing friendliness and preventing bitterness from springing up within them. Remember, they really are not his children, but God’s. Dad is just their manager.
So everything the father and mother do concerning the children must be what Jesus would do or decide if He were there in the house Himself.
Thus, raising the Lord’s children requires parents who themselves have made Him their Lord and Master in every detail of life. By dedicating their children to the Lord, Christian parents are actually dedicating themselves to the Lord and to the great task of raising God-pleasing, spiritually-enlightened, emotionally-mature, divinely-blessed young people who will serve the Lord all of their days. May God bless all parents in this noble endeavor.
© 2008 Philip & Segatha Matthews