Last summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual report on what it costs a family to raise a child. It found that “a middle-income” family with a child born in 2010 can expect to spend about $226,920 ($286,860 if projected inflation costs are factored in) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years.”  Can you imagine turning 18 and receiving that bill from your parents?
But, take a minute and think about all the time and money that has been invested in you…from your parents’ expenditures (who provided room and board, clothing, medical care, etc) to the teachers at all levels who sought to impart knowledge and wisdom. What about the volunteer coaches or Sunday school teachers, who gave up many hours to train you in some skill or application of God’s truth? Move into your adult life to think of those mentors from whom you have gained some expertise. Take a moment and write down those names and ways in which you are indebted to these individuals…I’ll wait.
Now, look over that list. Who would you say has made the greatest contribution to your life? That may be a tough question to answer, since some accomplishments in life are achieved only after the multiple influences of others. But, when it comes to here and now, can you point to one individual and say, “I am who I am today because of [insert name]”? If you were able to do that, what do you owe that individual? How could you ever pay back the investment they have made in you? Perhaps a cash payback is out of the question for their influence has been invaluable. Maybe you have already thanked them profusely, but your gratitude seems insufficient. What, then, is the greatest way to honor that debt?
As a parent who spends massive amounts of money on your child(ren), what payback do you really expect? You hope that you will pass on enough life skills so that they aren’t returning home as adults to live with you. You pray that God will give you wisdom to raise them, so that they will follow after Christ and not be alienated from the love of the Father by a faulty representation of Him by their earthly father. So, when that adult child says, in a complimentary fashion, “I’m going to raise my child like I was raised,” there is a sense in which the investment has been paid in full. When one is able to take what you have invested in them and then begins to invest it in others, you gain an invaluable satisfaction!
As we have been examining Romans, we see that we all have a greater obligation [debt]. What we do and what we receive from God has obligated us in serious ways. While Paul has previously spoken of the unbeliever’s sin debt that brings eternal death (Romans 6:23), Paul speaks now of the believer’s obligation to “live” in Romans 8:12-13:
12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live…
In these two verses, Paul clearly states “we have an obligation.” Our obligation is not to the flesh; he implies our obligation is to the Spirit since life in the Spirit is the context of these verses. And with that debt to the Spirit comes the necessity of mortifying, putting to death the deeds of the flesh; that is, all of the selfish, self-directed, anti-God behavior of our sinful nature. As that daily denial of self happens, real living begins to happen. The life that God intended us to have in uninterrupted communion with Him begins to be realized. But, it takes more than will-power to “put to death the misdeeds of the body.” Paul suggests that it is by the Spirit, Who resides within us, with all of the resources of God.
Therefore, our indebtedness to the Lord for the great cost expended on us for salvation is best “paid back” when we live by the Spirit of God, as evidenced by putting to death the deeds of the flesh. We then begin taking on more of the resemblance of Christ in word and deed and “re”-presenting Him through our lives to the world around us.
1 This is the press release of the USDA, June 2011 report “Expenditure on Children by Families.” Complete report can be linked from here: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome contentid=2011/06/0241.xml&contentidonly=true
The Nathaniel Hawthorne short story, The Great Stone Face, is a wonderful tale of one whose focus is so determined on an item that he begins to take on the very character and nature of that desired object. There is great spiritual application in this story. Read it online HERE
Here is a link to a USDA calculator that estimates the cost of raising a child based on region http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/calculatorintro.htm