Don’t turn motherhood into an idol

May 20, 2016

Too many Christian mothers turn motherhood into an idol. Motherhood is one of the highest callings in the world, but it can be corrupted by becoming the core of a woman’s identity. At the Tower of Babel, the workers said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves” (Gen 11:4). It is easy for a mother to begin to think that disciplined, successful, and well-mannered children are how she can make a name for herself.

When motherhood becomes the center of a woman’s life and identity, rather than Christ, a blessing easily turns into a burden. A path of joy turns into a path of despair. The attempt to quantify why your life matters by your performance as a mother will produce frustration and inevitable discontentment. To put it another way, motherhood is a glorious mission but a horrible idol.

When I was younger and interviewing for my first pastorate it was very common for small churches say to me, “Your wife plays the piano and sing solos doesn’t she?” That was an expectation that they had about pastor’s wives because of past experience. They were hoping to hire me and get a pianist and soloist thrown in as well. I always politely told them “No, but even if she did that was not an appropriate expectation for her.” If my wife would’ve felt obligated to meet those arbitrary congregational expectations for a pastor’s wife it would’ve been disastrous because she would have probably been resentful and always wondering if she was measuring up.

The cultural expectations regarding what it means to be regarded a good mother today are mind-boggling. There is pressure on stay-at-home moms to have a job so they will be considered a real woman who is competing in the world. In other contexts, there’s pressure on working mothers to be a stay-at-home moms at-all-cost with little or no consideration of life context. If you pay attention it seems that a good mother should have a house that’s always clean, be an excellent cook, and she also needs to volunteer here-and-there in the community. Moms are told that she should have her kids involved in all kinds of activities and provide many diverse life experiences to be a really good mom. Others suggest that every child should learn to play a musical instrument and sing, learn a foreign language, and also be involved in a variety of sports as well.

A good mom is expected to be up-to-date in style, always fit, and the kids should eat only super healthy foods based on the latest diet advice. I recently heard a mom talking to a group of mothers saying, “I cannot believe there are mothers who let their kids eat at McDonald’s,” (read that sentence with an appropriate snobbish accent). I could not help but to lean over and say this dad of eight kids took his to McDonald’s last week. And, of course, you must have your kids in the right schools or if you homeschool you must have the right homeschool philosophy and curriculum. This list could certainly go on, but you get the point. And no matter how lengthy I make this list there will always be new things that “you just have to do” that will surface.

This never ending treadmill of cultural motherly expectations is all the more difficult in a social media saturated society where moms are capable of seeing what every other mom is doing around the clock with a click of the mouse. Many mothers fall into the trap of evaluating their daily grind and realities against the highlight reel of other people’s lives they see posted in pictures on Facebook. Any or all of the things on the list in the previous two paragraphs are fine, but as a job description to evaluate whether or not you are a good mom, they are a curse, an ungodly burden, and a path toward discontentment and misery. In fact, when embraced as a means of motherly self-justification they are Satanic.

Satan is the accuser (Rev 12:9). One of his primary weapons is guilt, especially false guilt. As the father of lies, he does not care about truth, as long as he can make you feel worthless and hopeless. As a friend of mine once said, “No one is more pro-choice on the drive to the abortion clinic and more pro-life on the drive home than Satan.” He deals in unmitigated, uncompromising, and unceasing accusation. A mother normally possesses a deep and intimate love and concern for her children. If a mom falls into the trap of cultural expectations she will be easy prey for the attacks of the evil one. What mother ever thinks they do enough? The only way out of this temptation for Christian moms is to stop trying to be good moms, whatever that means, and simply commit to being gospel moms.

When a mother is focused on the gospel as the center and goal of her life, she knows that she’s going to fail in mothering her children in many ways. But her failure reminds her of how much she needs Christ and must rest daily in her identity in Christ. A gospel mom has to have the courage not to fear and bow before the culture’s expectations and mothering idols because she believes there is someone more important and those fears—Jesus Christ. Any attempt to keep up with cultural mothering expectations would constitute going AWOL on the gospel mission of motherhood. 

Mothering in the kingdom of Christ is a gospel mission, and the home is the primary field of training. Mothering as gospel mission is not one-size-fits-all and it does not comport to a depersonalized parenting to-do list. Satan delights in self-righteous supermoms, but he trembles at humble gospel-moms who just keep joyfully plodding along, imperfectly but persistently, trying to walk in line with the gospel and call her kids to do the same.

This article was originally published here.

David E. Prince

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24