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  • Writer's pictureCaleb Nel


I am not a parent. But I am someone’s child. And as a youth pastor I have spoken to hundreds of parents, all of which are trying to provide the very best life for their kids.

In fact, we live in a culture that promotes the selfless act of providing the very best opportunities for our kids. From single mothers who work two jobs just to send their kids to school, all the way to parents who gift jaw-dropping estates for their children when they turn 21. Every parent wants the best for their children.

But the question is – what is the greatest gift you can give your child? Of course, there are many good gifts you can give – education, opportunities, travel, life experiences, and even a secure financial future. Many of these gifts can change your child’s future forever, but is there something even greater than these? I believe there is.

I am privileged enough to say that I was given many of these gifts listed above in my childhood. Yet, as I reflect on my childhood and teenage years, these are not the gifts I am most grateful for, and neither are they the one’s which had the greatest impact on my life.

Instead, the greatest gift my parents gave me was the example of their own faith and love for Jesus. Yes – you heard me – the greatest gift my parents gave me was not tangible or physical – instead it was who they were as people in their own right. This has changed my life forever.

As we think of providing the best for our kids, I am reminded of Jesus’s warning in Mark 8: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”. In other words, Jesus is reminding us that the soul of a person is ultimately most important in life.

  • Giving your kids the best education is important but ultimately, it’s not most important.

  • Giving your kids opportunities is important but ultimately, it’s not most important.

  • Giving your kids travel and life experience is important but ultimately, it’s not most important.

  • Giving your kids a secure financial future is important but ultimately, it’s not most important.

The greatest gift we can give our kids is the gift that is ultimately most important – faith in Jesus. Over the years I have met many parents whose faith was nominal, disengaged and even sometimes lazy. These parents have even sometimes brought their kids to youth meetings week after week, believing that’s the best they can do for them. I am not convinced this is the best gift they could give their kids.

I have also seen parents continue to be engaged in their faith and in church up until their last child leaves the nest – after that they disappear as if to take a deep breath that their days of being the example are over. And then I have spoken to teenagers who have wept for their parents’ lack of faith and poor example. Worst of all, I have seen youth become just like their parents – nominal Christians who have no real faith of their own but come to church once a month because that’s their understanding of what "faith" in Jesus looks like.

For as long as I can remember, my parents actively lived out their faith in Jesus and their love for the local church. When my sister and I were younger, they remained engaged in the church despite the pressures of parenting. Throughout my middle school and high school years I remember coming downstairs for breakfast and finding my mom asleep on the couch with her Bible open next to her – praying through the night.

Even when my sister and I weren’t interested in church as mid and late teenagers often are, they remained personally devoted in their faith. And even now, as empty nesters, I often find my mother in tears as she speaks to me about what God is doing in her life. Both my parents have continually served the local church and are in love with Jesus and His Kingdom. Their example has spoken volumes to me and has stirred me in my own faith journey.

My own faith has carried me through the lowest moments of my life – more than a secure financial future could. My faith in Jesus has provided a purpose and peace that is out of this world (literally) – much more than a good career could. My faith has changed who I would have become – much more than a good education could. Even now, it is my parents’ faith that gives me courage and spurs me on in my own faith journey as I serve a church and follow Jesus on another continent. I would even go as far as saying that without this greatest gift from my parents, all the other gifts my parents gave me would have fallen short of what I truly needed.

In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul describes one of the most incredible legacies every parent should hope for. Paul writes to Timothy and says, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

Without Lois, we may not have had Timothy. If you are looking for a parent role model – look no further! What a legacy Lois. Parents - give your kids the greatest gift - a mom or a dad in love with Jesus until the day you die. They will thank you for it one day.


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