Hands Off My Child!

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homcthumbWhen the politically all-powerful pharaoh commanded that all newborn male Hebrews be put to death, he was attempting to do what many political leaders throughout history have sought to accomplish: the control of families. Pharaoh sought to murderously legislate family life. Thank God that Amram and Jochebed told him to get lost. When they ignored the king’s command, they were doing more than saving a life: They were making a statement of faith (Hebrews 11:23). They were declaring their ultimate allegiance.

Because they feared the Lord more than they feared a lord, Moses’ parents were telling the monolithic state, “Hands off my child.” They were making it clear that the state would not interfere with their family life—literally. The result was eventually the fall of that godless empire and the advancement of the kingdom of God. This historical and historic event, recorded in Exodus 2, speaks loudly and relevantly to the day in which we live.

When a human government morphs into a “large cased” The Government we have moved from the rule of law into the rule of the state. Statism is the ideology that believes the government (state) should control the economy as well as the social policies of the nation. Another term might be idolatry. Under statism, all planning for the nation is placed in the hands of a highly centralised government. In effect, the government then usurps ownership of everything from industry to education, and even to ownership of the family. The first known usage of the term was in 1919, not long after the Russian and then Bolshevik Revolution culminated in the founding of the mother of all statism: the USSR. And, contrary to the Beetles hit song, those living “back in the USSR” did not “know how lucky they were.”

This idea of an omni-powerful, omni-benevolent and omni-wise state, is precisely the milieu in which the people of God lived under the pharaoh “who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 2:8). They faced a monolithic government, which had become an idol and, like all idols, its demands were both pervasive and perverse.

Pharaoh believed that he was divinely ordained to rule Egypt; in fact, he was under the delusion that he himself was divine. And so, as a “god,” he sought to exercise his dominion pervasively in all areas of life. He could not and would not tolerate any threat to his rule, and the result was the diabolical law to kill all newborn male Hebrews. Population control was his intent, and infanticide was his perverse means to that end. The edict to kill the baby boys reveals his evil worldview. He thought he was God, and the proof was that he acted like the devil. But Pharaoh’s overreach was thwarted by a simple, yet faithful, Hebrew couple. Amram and Jochebed feared the Sovereign more than they feared the state. Their sons (remember, Moses had an older brother) were therefore safe. They made up their minds when it came to the state: “Hands off my child.” Parents in our day need the same conviction.

I remember the night seventeen years ago like it was yesterday. I was reading a book about the biblical mandate for giving our children a Christian worldview. I said to Jill, who was sitting next to me, “If what this guy says is true, then we have no business sending our children to the local school.” It was a first and large step to our decision to homeschool our children (okay, for Jill to homeschool!).

As I began to seriously think through these issues, the deciding factor was, in a very real sense, in the “flip of a coin.” Let me explain.

One day, Jesus was asked about the legitimacy of paying taxes. He asked for a coin, and as He turned it in His hands He asked whose image it bore. The questioners said, “Caesar’s,” and Jesus then famously responded, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:15–21). It hit me between the eyes and in the depth of my heart: My children are made in the image of God; the state needs to keep its hands off. I want God’s glorious image increasingly impressed upon them, not the image and worldview of the “Caesar” or the state. It was the deciding argument. And we have never regretted our decision.

Now, before your veins begin to pop, the point I am making in this article is not primarily where you send your child to school. That is a very important issue, which calls for serious reflection, discussion and calm and informed debate. I am also not minimising the contribution by Christian teachers in schools. God bless them! But regardless of where our children are educated, we need to all agree on the principle of to whom they ultimately belong. They don’t belong to the state. And, in an important sense, they don’t belong to us either. They are gifts from the Lord, and they owe Him full allegiance. Our children need to be raised with the worldview that they belong to God. And therefore, as parents, we need at times to say, “Hands off!”

For instance, when our children did attend the local public school, we sometimes had to speak up for the welfare of their worldview. If the school had scheduled the showing of a film that violated our values, or if it scheduled an activity that likewise went against our biblical convictions, we would kindly, respectfully, yet unapologetically, let the teacher know that our children would not be participating. We were not obnoxious about it, but at the same time we were intentionally saying, “Hands off. You have overstepped what we have delegated you to do.” Such intentional involvement requires parents to be hands on. Parents need to be aware of that to which their children are being exposed. And if this means “hiding” them, as Moses’ parents did, then so be it.

Can you imagine someone rebuking Jochebed with, “You know, you can’t shelter your son forever.” Perhaps, but they were able to shelter him long enough for God to reveal another plan: to shelter Moses in an ark on the Nile. Because his parents said “hands off,” Moses ended up in a position, both physically and spiritually, in which he could shelter himself. In fact, he reached the stage where he, like his parents, faithfully said, “Hands off; I choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of a dead-end state” (Hebrews 11:25). Alright, I am paraphrasing a bit, but I think you get the point!

Parents, when you delegate others to care for your children, especially in the area of the shaping of their worldview, beware. Be alert. And when those educating and leading (read, “influencing”) your children contradict your devotion to the Lord, be wise and courageous: Tell them, “Hands off!”

I think that, in the near future, we will see more and more government interference in the family. Some of this, by the way, may be motivated by a real concern for the welfare of the disadvantaged. However, we must keep in mind that, when a government moves from its primary calling (and yes, before God it is a “calling” [see Romans 13]) to provide safety and security, it has become guilty of statism. It is showing its legislative lineage with Pharaoh. And when it does, watch out. Parents, pay careful attention. Be “hands on”; you may have to say, “Hands off my child!”

One Reply to “Hands Off My Child!”

  1. Hey Doug,
    Thanks for the post. I think we need to be careful when likening a benign authority like our present government to a tyrannical one such as the USSR or Pharoah’s Egypt where “Population control was his intent, and infanticide was his perverse means to that end.” To argue that those are the conditions in which we live in South Africa is sensationalist.
    Nevertheless, I hear what you are saying, school is teaching a worldview just as movies and books and friends and parents and advertising is doing. We are living in a world that is in rebellion against God but demonising everything around us is not going to help and American fundamentalism is a demonstration of exactly that.
    I don’t think that’s what you’re suggesting though – perhaps I would have liked to see you say more about understanding our own worldview well enough that we can engage with the worldviews around us that we see in Music Videos, on Billboards and that we hear from the people around us.
    The danger is that we never hear those views from the people around us because we’ve isolated to such an extent our paths never meaningfully cross those of unbelievers.

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