Bible Parenting: Lessons from the Canaanite Woman
Once upon a Bible time, a Canaanite mother determined that, even though her family lived on the wrong side of the tracks, her daughter deserved the best that life had to offer.
This was back in the day when people believed that a spiritual disconnection was at the root of every misfortune; and that the right spiritual connection could result in change. Small wonder then, that the mother set out to find Jesus, the Spiritual Teacher who had the reputation of adding quality to people’s lives.
The woman diagnosed her daughter as being “demon-possessed.” Some modern-day parents have used similar descriptions for children who display a spirit of laziness, of disobedience, of anger, of self-defeat or any of a hundred other negative dispositions.
This mother's search for the remedy to her daughter's plight, and her consequent success (Matthew 15:21-28) provide parenting lessons which all parents can use. It encourages us to:
- make the first petition for ourselves;
- not underestimate the child's potential;
- focus on our perspective (what we're looking for), not the suggestions of anyone else;
- persevere in our child's interest, despite delay;
- trust God's providence for the best outcome;
- listen for and accept His promise of a better life.
What follows is further explanation of these six principles.
“Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!” (22)
It was her daughter who had the problem, but the mother’s first prayer to Jesus was for herself.
It is the ultimate expression of concern and compassion to identify with your child’s dilemma. You cannot take full responsibility for her attitude or conduct; but fact is, she has some of your genes; the environment in your home affects her; your reaction to her situation can make it better or worse. Variable factors like these make it necessary for you to seek spiritual wisdom and guidance for effective parenting.
To help you affect a positive difference in her mental, spiritual or health improvement, pray your first prayer for you.
“My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word (22, 23).
Jesus’ silence motivated the mother to make another effort. Perhaps a different presentation would receive a different response. What if instead of describing what the child was, she described what she wanted her child to become?
Look beyond your children’s deficiencies. Evaluate their strengths and envision their future. Consult with them about their ambitions. Help them set goals. Then, based on what you and your children agree upon, you can pray specifically.
Send her away, for she cries out after us.” (24)
That was what the disciples suggested when they heard the mother’s cry for help. They were tired and needed to rest. They might have said this whether or not the woman was an undeserving Gentile.
Jesus responded to the disciples: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” (24) as if to say, “I shouldn’t even have to deal with this woman.”
Whether or not the woman heard this conversation between Jesus and His disciples, her perspective was different to theirs. She had convinced herself that her child was worth saving. Like her, fathers and mothers everywhere should believe that their children’s godly worth is unaffected by what people think and say.
Practical Lessons For Parents
Never give up on your children. God can remake what He makes.
Before you present your child's faults to God, present your dependence on Him.
Refuse other people's opinions about your child's worth and potential.
You must first own what you want to give to your children.
Delay is only delay; not a negative response. Practice patience.
Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” (25)
Despite the delay, when the mother finally caught Jesus’ attention, she gave Him her ultimate devotion. She believed in His Omnipotence. No parent can improve on her principled steadfastness and unshakable hope.
Jesus responded to her worship, as He does to the worship of every sincere parent who depends on His love and care for the children.
Despite the opinion of the church folk, despite the reminder of family members of the negative conditions which run in the family; despite what neighbors think your child deserves, persevere until you get God's attention. He alone has the answer to your prayer.
But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs." (26)
This was providence, as in divine intervention. The disciples knew that Jesus was referring to the Jews as the children; and to the Gentiles including the woman, as underprivileged, stray dogs. The woman’s response makes us wonder if she understood it that way.
And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” (27)
Did she think that He was referring to her as a little household pet dog, waiting for the morsels which would spill over from the disciples’ plates? She pointed out that His generous nature offered more than enough to whomsoever He served, and there was bound to be leftovers. She perceived that it cost Jesus no extra effort to supply her need.
What would it say about Him if He denied any parent His favor just because the children's names were not Sasha and Malia Obama? He values the children based on the fact that He gave them their worth, which is unaffected by ancestry or neighborhood.
Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (28)
In the parents’ pursuit of God’s best life for their children, they acquire God’s best life for themselves. And living in God's best life is a sure way to offer that life to the children.
© 2011 Dora Isaac Weithers