by Jason Braaten
Nebraska senator Ben Sasse has been making waves in the media lately with his prescription for raising children. This prescription appeared in the Wall Street Journal article on May 5, 2017, “How to Raise an American Adult.” And in anticipation of his new book The Vanishing American Adult (St. Martin’s Press), NPR interviewed him in “No More Neverland: A Senator’s Guide to Raising American Adults.”
Sasse has some good advice on how to raise children into adults. He encourages teaching children to resist consumption, embrace the pain of work, connect across generations, travel meaningfully and become truly literate.
But there is one thing lacking in these interviews and opinion pieces: Why? Or rather, to what end? What is the purpose of doing this? What is the goal?
Here the Bible is the only place to give us the answer: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). In other words, the goal of every parent in teaching their children, in instilling in them character and virtue, is to be ordered toward the creation of their own household, becoming one flesh as husband and wife in the procreation of children.
Every parent wants their children to be successful, to work hard, to learn and to grow in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6). And that way is ordered to a particular end. Success as it is defined biblically is not how many zeros before the decimal one’s salary is. Success is not how big of a house one has or how nice the car is. Success in work and in life in the Bible is ordered to making not money, or a house, but rather to building a home, a family and passing that desire on to one’s offspring.
This is why we work diligently—to provide for a family, for those we love. This is why we read and learn—to pass knowledge on to a family, to those we love. This is why we resist consumption—to give to a family, to those we love. The goal is not just to raise adults, but to raise up husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. And in so doing, hear their joyful exclamation, as Adam once exclaimed, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23), for “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).
The Rev. Jason M. Braaten is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Tuscola, Ill.