By James Beinke
Tuesday, May 01, 1990
One day four ministers stood talking and, as so often happens, the conversation soon drifted to shop talk. "I prefer the King James Version of Scripture," said one, "for its eloquent use of the English language." A second minister gave forth that no Bible could match the New American Standard for its faithfulness to the original Greek and Hebrew text. "That may well be," said the third, "but I prefer the New International Version for its contemporary language and easy readability." There was a thoughtful period of silence, and then the fourth minister said, "I like my mother's translation best." It was with some surprise that the others said: "We didn't know that your mother had translated the Bible." "Yes, she did," he replied. "She translated it into her daily life, and it was through her translation that I came to faith."
I thought it fitting, on this Mother's Day, that we remember two mothers: Lois, who was grandmother of Timothy, and Eunice, Timothy's mother. In particular, I want to honor the heritage given Timothy because a mother and a grandmother loved him enough to give him their most precious possession: the gift of faith.
Paul mentions Timothy as co-sender of six of his letters. He also spoke highly of Timothy in his letter to the Philippians. So confident was Paul of Timothy's faith that, in his first letter to Timothy, he called Timothy "my true son in the faith." Timothy became for Paul what Barnabas could not be -- the inheritor of Paul's mission. In Paul's final letter to Timothy, written near the end of his life, he speaks without reserve, calling Timothy "my beloved child," for Timothy was truly part of Paul's lineage, wealth and crown.
We know Timothy's real father was a Greek and his mother a Jewish Christian, but Paul, who seems never to have married, found in Timothy a "descendant," someone who would carry on the "family name" -- as it were -- someone so identical in faith that the force of his work for Christ would always complement that of his mentor, teacher and surrogate father: Paul.
In essence Paul said: "Timothy, I know your grandmother, and her faith is authentic. It is the same faith I have observed in your mother, and after having watched you all this time I am convinced of your faith also." To describe that faith, Paul used a word which means literally, "without hypocrisy." Lois and Eunice showed Timothy by word and example what it means to live an authentic faith; a faith from which hypocrisy is totally absent, the real thing, genuine, sincere. What higher accolade or greater tribute could be given any mother or grandmother on this Mother's Day than to say: You gave me authentic faith!
Those who are parents will understand when I say that each day I become more aware that our true wealth is in our children. Parents soon learn that it is not possible to convey the depth of joy or pain they experience through their children's lives. In the same way, children learn that it is not possible to adequately express the depth of love one has for a parent. But this ongoing dialogue of joy, love, pain, hope and dreams is especially true of the relationship existing between a mother and her offspring. It is mothers and grandmothers who transmit hope and faith from generation to generation.
Washington Irving, writing about mothers, said: "A father may turn his back on his child; brothers and sisters may become inveterate enemies; husbands may desert their wives and wives their husbands. But a mother's love endures through all; in good repute, in bad repute, in the face of the world's condemnation, a mother still loves on, and still hopes that her child may turn from his evil ways, and repent; still she remembers the infant smiles that once filled her bosom with rapture, the merry laugh, the joyful shout of ... childhood, the opening promise of youth; and she can never he brought to think (her child) all unworthy."
Men like to think that they run the world. They don't. Mothers do. Mothers are the molders and makers of each day. We remember the ways that Mother helped us prepare for the new day: counseling, advising and shaping our attitudes each morning. We instantly recognize the truth of these words spoken by another wise wife and mother: "The wife and mother usually hoists the sails of the family ship every day. We determine whether those sails shall catch the breezes of God's love and understanding, or the winds of bickering and discord." That same woman adds, "When a man succeeds, he does so by climbing a ladder steadied by a woman who believes in him" (E. Stanley Jones).
Timothy's every day was molded by his grandmother and mother. Paul reminds Timothy that he has been given a steady ladder which will guarantee his success -- the sincere faith transmitted to him by his mother and grandmother. Paul also reminds Timothy that he has within him a gift -- a spirit of power, love and self-control. Where do children learn of the Spirit's power, or the power of love, or the power of self-control if not from their mothers? Think for a moment what we learned from our own mothers. Was it not they who taught what it means to be a loving person, or what it means to be loved?
Here is an interesting bit of trivia: William Frederick Dunkle Jr. has pointed out "that of the 69 kings of France only three were really loved by their subjects and that these were the only ones reared by their mothers instead of by tutors or guardians. Whatever ability most of us have to make others love us is largely due to the love our mothers put in and around our lives."
How did Eunice and Lois prepare Timothy to exercise self-control, to have the kind of self-confidence that allows one to put to use the power of the Spirit, and to love and be loved? Paul reminds Timothy that they did it by making known to him the holy scriptures from the time of his infancy (
How powerful is the teaching of scripture in the lives of our children and grandchildren? Note again what Paul said to Timothy:
"Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (We tend to believe the values our parents give us, don't we?), and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (
How important to the lives of our children and grandchildren is the learning of scripture? Listen to these familiar words from Scripture, hearing them placed within the context of parents teaching children and grandchildren. Paul is saying: This is why it is important that our children and our grandchildren learn scripture from their parents and grandparents.
"All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (
Mothers, do you want your sons and daughters to survive out there in that jungle of drugs, moral decay, and selfish living? Then teach your children the sacred writings! Don't leave it to the Sunday School teacher to do your job for you!
Grandmothers, are you concerned about the perils placed in the face of your grandchildren as they grow up in a world whose value system increasingly mocks the teaching of scripture? Then help your grandchildren learn the sacred writings! Reinforce what they are learning from their parents and in Sunday School.
Mothers, grandmothers, all of you .... when you impart faith, be plain in your use of Scripture. Use it to teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness (notice that training for righteousness is emphasized). To be trained in righteousness means to be taught how to maintain a right relationship with God. Training for righteousness is not imparted by guesswork, a lick and a prayer. Training for righteousness takes place when mothers and grandmothers consistently and conscientiously impart scriptural knowledge. It takes place when young people continually hear from their mothers and grandmothers that the most important thing in life is to keep a right relationship with God.
Our eldest grandson, Eric, doesn't stand a chance. His mother and father are training him in the ways of righteousness, but Eric doesn't always succeed. Even though his grandmother lives 800 miles away, she hears about it. Poor Eric! It must feel mighty uncomfortable to receive a letter from Grandmother which points out in no uncertain terms just what is expected of her grandson -- and why. Poor Eric. No! Lucky Eric! He is receiving the faith that first dwelt in his grandmother and now in his mother. He will turn out okay.
If you are a grandparent, here is what you can do that will make a difference in the life of your children and grandchildren:
1. Sit down and write each of your grandchildren a letter.
2. Tell them in great detail why you have put your trust in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ.
3. Tell them why it is important for them to have a right relationship with the Lord.
4. Tell them the expectations you have of them.
5. Tell them the passage of scripture which has been most meaningful for your life -- and tell them why.
If you are a son or daughter and your mother still lives, go beyond sending a Mother's Day card or flowers. Write a letter -- handwritten -- a long one, telling your mother about your faith and the part she played in bringing you to that faith. Tell her how you thank God for her having given you the gift of faith.
If your mother has already joined the saints who have gone before us, go to God in prayer, thanking Him for all the good that was in your mother. Commend her spirit to His continual care. Thank God for all that has been done on her behalf.
Paul recognized Timothy, from a young age, had been grounded in upright living by his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois. The word "grandmother" is found in the Bible only in this one place. Eunice is mentioned only here, in the fifth verse of Paul's letter. Everything we know about these two women is contained in one verse, but that one verse is a living memorial to mothers and grandmothers. It will endure until the Lord returns.