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Bitter (Sweet) Rivals

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2, esv).

I’m not advocating violence here, just posing a question. What would you be tempted to do to someone who was hurting one of your kids? What if someone else’s actions—whether intentional or otherwise—was creating a pattern of ongoing hardship and heartache for your daughter or for your son? How would you handle that? (How have you handled that?)

A love which places anything above God is a love that destroys.

Now with that in mind, let me ask the same question another way. What if the person hurting your child the most was you? What if the greatest risk facing him or her today didn’t come from radicalized gunmen, or cyber-stalkers, or school bullies, or teenage temptations? What if you were the one who was unintentionally harming them, endangering them, threatening them, misleading them—all in the name of loving them?

How fast would you move to correct that problem?

I believe this line of questioning is a good way of coming to grips with one of the most perplexing chapters and events in all the Bible—and with one of the most common, hidden dangers in Christian homes and families, perhaps in yours.

When Isaac was finally born in Genesis 21, his father Abraham was famously old and quite wealthy. And after having waited for this child of promise as long as he did, you can imagine he spent a lot of time enjoying and investing in his son. So by the time of Genesis 22, Abraham had apparently become so consumed with his love for Isaac that God took drastic steps to rescue them both from becoming the source of each others’ happiness.

You’ll remember the test—God telling Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. And you’ll remember the rescue—“a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns” (Genesis 22:13), presented as the last-second substitute.

But make sure you remember also this key takeaway: God allows no rivals. Not even our children. Whenever we place our kids above God, we put them at risk . . . because a love which places anything above God is a love that destroys. Without Him at the very center, love becomes twisted, controlling, self-serving, and destructive. We do our kids no favors by putting them first. In fact, we put them in a dangerous place.

Children are to be loved dearly, but not to become a fixation. They are to be swept up in your joyous affection, but not idolized as your supreme affection. They are to be treated with high priority, but not confused as being your property. They are God’s, not yours. And good parenting, especially as children grow toward maturity and independence, involves teaching them to fear the Lord and to look to Him for His approval, more than yours.

That’s how you’re to love your children, not so that they become everything you dreamed, or everything they dream, but everything God has purposed for them in their lives. To parent any differently is to do them more harm than good.

And what would you do to stop anyone else from doing that?


  • Where have you seen any of these kid-first tendencies in yourself and others?
  • Given the lengths to which you’d go to try to keep someone else from hurting your child, what measures can you take to realign the priorities of your own heart?


Holy God, You are first and last and always and forever. Prevent me, Lord, from viewing anyone or anything as a rival to You for my supreme devotion. Forgive me for any place where I’ve lost perspective, allowing even such a precious gift as the children You’ve given me to become what drives and identifies me. Lead my children to You—they are Yours. Together with them, may we worship and serve You, our only Lord, in Jesus’ name, amen.


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