"The Child grew and became strong in Spirit, filled with wisdom and grace of God was upon him. Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" Luke 2:40, 52.
St. Luke throws light on very important aspects essential for growth of a child.
After explaining birth of Jesus and wondrous events that followed Luke sums up, verse 40, how Jesus grew up until 12 years of age. Mary and Joseph fulfilled all religious obligations and rituals required at birth of child before settling down in Nazareth, hometown. Infant Jesus grew up physically and spiritually and filled with wisdom and grace of God.
Verse 52 deals with the next phase of growth of Jesus as adolescent to youth after his first temple visit at the age of 12. He grew up in wisdom and age keeping proper relation with God and men. St Luke is stressing the essential criteria for a well-balanced growth.
Second phase of growth is very crucial because children become inquisitive and turbulent as they face new physical and psychological conflicts, challenges, social interactions, etc which forms the future foundation. In this phase it is important that kids establish good relation with God and people around. Jesus grew up in the favor of both God and men.
Grew up in wisdom:
Wisdom has distinct connotation from knowledge. Intellectual growth without wisdom is incomplete. Wisdom is not an outward sensory perception but discerning truth and hence a matter of heart rather than brain.
Wisdom is the talent that develops a superior faculty that enables personality to discern deeper spiritual and moral insight. Wisdom is ability to differentiate between right and wrong, moral and immoral, good and bad and ability to choose, that which is right, good and moral, self-restraint in tantalizing situations and shun evil. It begins with the fear of the Lord, Pro 1:7. Wisdom enables to know God, hence revelation.
Present predicament is that people are too much intelligent but lack wisdom, which is the principal reason for many pitfalls in the society. Parents are expending lion share of their time and money to teach their kids music and dance. They feel complacent when kids exhibit talents in public forums. Not that it is wrong but one cannot overlook the apathy most parents show to teach the kids Sunday school, punctuality, sense of justice, self-reliance, fidelity, moral values and train them up in the Lord's discipline. The result is not far to seek; to the perennial sorrow of parents in their old age such children when they grow up despise God, church, society and traditions.
Knowledge without wisdom of the Lord is undesirable and often dangerous. One immoral individual in influential position could cause thousand times deadlier acts than all world wars combined.
Became strong in Spirit:
God fashioned man carefully from matter, which already existed and breathed into it His spirit by which it acquired life, image and likeness of God.
There are two realms of creation, Spirit and matter, invisible and visible. Animals are created from matter and hence earthbound. Man was created with both, the matter and the spirit of God; hence he is superior to other creations, including angels. For this reason God treated the fall of angels and man differently. When angels rebelled, God cast them out and decided to finally judge them but when man fell out, God was merciful and promised redemption through "Seed of Woman."
St Paul expounded this superiority, "Do you not know that we shall judge the angels," 1 Cor 6:3.
Man has inalienable right to seek and be with God at all times.
Psychiatrist Eugine d'Aquili and Radiologist Andrew Newberg conducted extensive experiments on the link between brain and meditation and found man's brain is genetically wired to seek God, Readers Digest December 2001, page 141-145.
St Augustine perceived this saying, "I am made for thee. My heart will not rest until I rest in thee."
Spirit does not simply mean breath but an agent of life. Spiritual growth is nourishment to soul. It is the state of proximity to Creator. The soul starves in the absence of spiritual growth. Perfect individuality is sum total of balanced growth of body and spirit.
Grace of God was with him:
God's grace dwells upon those who mature in wisdom rather without the grace of God one cannot mature in wisdom. This highlights how inevitable the need for nurturing children in the Lord's discipline. Therefore parents should first be God-fearing. Grace of God makes one wise and successful. Grace is unmerited favor. God favors the one who fears Him and whom He pleases by mere mercy. Grace and favor are mutually complimentary.
Favor with God and men:
Here favor means proper relation. Without first enjoying the favor of God no one can receive the favor of men. People who work hard to gain favor of men without seeking God's favor ultimately fail.
Being Incarnate-Word it was not difficult for Jesus to grow and mature physically, mentally and spiritually and gain favor of both God and men. Certain people interpret that growth and conduct of Jesus was due to good parenting of Mary. Imputing goodness of Jesus as a whole in Mary is an error. Mary was no doubt an exemplary role model, without parallel in the history for all mothers to emulate, which was a contributing factor. Yet Jesus was not mere human but perfect God and human at once right from the time of conception, Holy Spirit being the progenitor. Fact is, our children could also grow and mature physically, mentally and spiritually and gain favor of God and men and prove fruitful to themselves, society and God through good parenting and proper discipline.
Good parenting is key factor in child's growth.
Worldly expertise alone is insufficient for good parenting. Parent should have firm faith and absolute trust in God, follow His statutes and guide his/her child to God. House should be a miniature church where prayer, worship and bible reading, meditation, lovely discussions, etc are regular. Godly principles, good manners and ethics, hospitality, care for poor and sick, respect for customs, traditions and older people, patriotism, social responsibilities, etc are learned from parents. Parents should provide reasonable opportunity for kids to develop interpersonal skills, good manners and moral standards.
A good parent is not the one who gives anything that a child wants but the one who gives what the child needs for a balanced growth. Infants are endowed with special talent to emulate what the parents do and say. What the children do, good or bad or say, curse or bless when they are grown up is natural reflection of what they learned from the parents.
Parents spend lavishly on lifeless toys but spare no time with them, celebrate birthdays but never teach values. Instead, if they limit the extravaganza and give the saved portion to the needy kids will learn to love the less fortunate.
Primary responsibility to bring up children in Lord's discipline is vested with fathers.
"You fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord," Eph 6:4, Col 3:21.
Abraham was the first one God chose with the very purpose to teach the Lord's discipline to his children.
"For I have chosen him that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice," Gen 18:19.
Wherever Abraham went he made altar and offered sacrifices to God. Isaac and Jacob learned the obligation to worship God and the need to keep the ways of the Lord seeing what Abraham did.
Moses, prophets and priests fortified, Jesus fully revealed, Apostles taught and generations followed this practice unto this day.
"And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your hearts and you shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk to them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise," Deut 6:6-7.
"He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God but keep his commandments," Ps 78:5-7.
Mothers are not exempt. They are included in the term 'fathers'. Mother's influence lingers more on kids than father's and is more capable of imparting faith and morality to children.
Timothy learned his faith from his grand mother Lois and mother Eunice, 2 Tim 1:5. This is a call to every parent.
Good parenting models are rare in the Bible.
Righteous need not be good parent-model. Eli was a good priest but he failed to discipline his children and he met violent death. Priesthood was removed from his household forever.
As a child Samuel knew God, was trusted prophet but failed to pass on his trait to his children, ending judge's era with Samuel.
King David was "man after God's own heart" but failed as a parent that resulted in rebellion, incest and strife within.
Solomon was wisest but behaved most foolishly and died in disgrace seeding the destruction of a great empire, the list goes on.
May this Christmas be an eye-opener for parents to assure children a balanced growth of body, mind and spirit so that they are fruitful blessing to themselves, parents, church and society.
Happy Christmas and A Prosperous New Year.