When our son left for college, he was planning to become a profiler with the FBI–maybe not the highest-paying job out there, but certainly one that comes with a measure of status.
After about a month at Liberty University, he told us the Lord had called him to full-time missions. This mama’s heart was so happy that he was following the call of God on his life, yet also anxious at what that might look like in a world that is increasingly intolerant of Christianity.
Seeking the Best for Our Kids
I’ll admit, we had friends who questioned his choice–the work will be dangerous, difficult, and with very little monetary reward.
Part of being good mamas is wanting the best for our kiddos. We want the best schools, teams, and clubs for them. We pray for them, teach them, and do our best to set an example for them of what it means to follow Christ.
But what happens when God calls them to something that isn’t necessarily safe or doesn’t look like success in the world’s eyes? Will we ask the Lord to grant them favor, or will we trust them in His hands?
She is also a woman who allowed her love for her sons to cloud her understanding of Jesus’ kingdom and what it meant for her boys to serve Him.
“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
‘What is it you want?’ he asked.
She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.'”Matthew 20:20-21, NIV 84
What It Means to Follow Jesus
We have to understand that like most of the Jews in her day, Salome probably believed that the Messiah would set up His kingdom on earth and deliver God’s people from the hands of the Roman Empire.
Her request wasn’t as outlandish as it may at first seem. She probably had already noticed that her sons, James and John, were part of Jesus’ inner circle (Matthew 17:1-2, Matthew 26:36-39, Luke 8:50-55), and therefore her request would have been a reasonable one.
Oh, I know her heart! Don’t we so want the best for our children? We want them to be successful and ambitious, perhaps obtaining higher salaries or having greater opportunities than we did.
Salome, however, didn’t consider the ramifications of what following Jesus really meant.
“‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?'”
‘We can,’ they answered.
Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.'”Matthew 20:22-23
We know that Jesus was referring to the cup of suffering. And from history, we also know that James was the first disciple to be martyred. John was eventually exiled to the island of Patmos. Following Jesus wasn’t the easiest or safest path to take in life.
Service and Sacrifice
If we want God’s best for our children, we have to consider that His plan for them may not be as safe and comfy and prosperous as what we really want for them.
And if they go into full-time ministry, we may still desire for them to obtain a good position, be in a safe location, and not be far away from us. I have to admit, I have often prayed for that.
But you know, I think God understands. Jesus didn’t rebuke Salome. He just asked the boys if they realized what they were getting into. He told them they would indeed face suffering if they continued on with Him.
Jesus used their desire to reign with Him as a lesson in what it really means to serve.
“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to give his life as a ransom for many.'”Matthew 20:25-28
We want our kids to become great, to be first in school, on the ball field, and in social clubs. We want the very best in life for our children, just as Salome wanted for her boys.
But if we truly want them to follow Jesus, we have to remember that in God’s Kingdom, that looks like service, not necessarily high salaries. Following Jesus means sacrifice, not necessarily status and success.
Trusting God with Our Kids
Just as Salome had to trust God with James and John, we have to trust Him with our children, understanding that this life isn’t all there is. If we want to raise kids who love God and make a difference in the world, then we have to let go of our idea of what that looks like and trust His plan for them.
The disciples of Jesus were all persecuted, but their influence is still felt today. We have much of the New Testament because of the eyewitness accounts of these men and the writings of some of them, including Salome’s boy John, who wrote the Gospel of John, 1, 2, and 3 John, and the Revelation.
When we encourage our children to follow Jesus, we must accept His plans for them, even if that means letting go of our own ideas about their futures.
But when we give them the freedom and support to follow the call wherever it leads, they flourish in His plans.
Remember, Salome was among those women who stayed with Jesus at the cross and was there at the empty tomb. She may have had to deal with some harsh realities about the cost of following Jesus, but she had also experienced the reality of His death and resurrection.
When we fully grasp the majesty and power of God, we will understand that He is sovereign over all things. Our children are a blessing from God, and we have the opportunity to raise them in His ways (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Proverbs 22:6).
But if we truly believe that God is who He says He is, we can also trust Him with their lives and their futures.
Because when we truly understand who Jesus is, there’s no better way than His way. I think even Salome would agree.