The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Parenting (1 Samuel 1-3)

Sermon Manuscript . . .

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Parenting

Amazing people to learn from–Eli and Elkanah in 1 Samuel 1-3

Parenting can be a real frustration. Take the dad who asked his son, “Why don’t you get a job?” And the son asked, “Why?” To which he replied, “So you could earn some money,” and received the reply, “Why?” The father said, “To put some money in a bank account and earn interest.” And of course the response, “Why?” The father said, “So that when you’re old you can use the money in your back account and you would never have to work again. But the son said, “I’m not working now.” That’s why.

People say adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17 for example, a child may see his parents age 20 years. But children don’t have to be in their teens for parenting to be difficult. Take the man in the supermarket who was pushing his cart around with a screaming baby in the seat. As he proceeded from aisle to aisle, everyone could hear him repeating softly, “Keep calm, George. Don’t get excited, George. Don’t yell, George.”

A lady watching him with admiration finally said, “You are certainly to be commended for your patience in trying to quiet little George.” And the Dad said, “Lady, I’m George!” Parenting can not only be tough on parents, but also on others and on all of society. Some years back, the Houston police department, after being fed up with the fruit of poor parenting, drew up a list of “12 Rules for Raising Delinquent Children.” If you want to raise a criminal, this is what you do:

1  Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. In this way he will grow up to believe the world owes him a living.

2  When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. This will make him think he’s cute. It will also encourage him to pick up cuter phrases that will blow your mind later.

3  Never give him any spiritual training. Wait till he is 18 or 2l and then let him decide for himself.

4  Avoid use of the word wrong. This will later condition him to believe, when he is arrested for stealing a car, that society is against him and he is being persecuted.

5  Pick up everything he leaves lying around–books, shoes and clothing. Do everything for him so he will be experienced in throwing all responsibility on others.

6  Let him read any printed matter he can get his hands on. Be careful his food is healthy and plates are clean, but let his mind feast on garbage.

7  Quarrel frequently in the presence of your children. This way they’ll not be too shocked when the home is broken up later.

8  Give a child all the spending money he wants. Never let him earn his own. Why should he have things as tough as you had them?

9  Satisfy his every craving for food, drink and comfort. See that every sensual desire is gratified. Denial may lead to harmful frustration.

l0  Take his part against neighbors, teachers and policemen. Defend him when he is wrong–they are all prejudiced against your child.

11  When he gets into real trouble, apologize for yourself by saying, “I never could do anything with him.”

l2  Prepare for a life of grief.  You will have it.

There is a lot we can learn from police about parenting, but we can learn even more from parents themselves–those who’ve raised godly children and those who have not. And in 1 Samuel chapters 1 to 3, you find amazing examples of parenting–the good, the bad and the ugly. Open your Bibles to 1 Samuel 1, and as you do, let me remind you–if you’re finished with your parenting, God has called you to help those who have not. Titus 2:4 calls you older women to encourage the younger women to love their husbands and children.

Parenting is not merely a matter of instruction, but one of imitation. Parenting is not learned merely by methods, but also through mentoring. Parenting is learned through people, not merely principles. If you’re not a parent today, remember God has commanded us all to make disciples of Jesus Christ. And discipleship is intentional relationships for the purpose of the Gospel, and growth in Christ is exactly what parenting is. By hearing about parenting, we’re learning about discipleship.

Today let me introduce you to some parents of old who will help you with your parenting. You’ll find our first parents in verses 1 and 2–Elkanah and his two wives. Look at 1 Samuel 1:2, “He had two wives: the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.” Now this, of course, isn’t God’s design, God’s will, nor a good idea for a man to have two wives. From the beginning it was one husband and one wife. But in spite of less than best circumstances, Elkanah and Hannah are an example of good parenting.

Now read verse 3 and be introduced to our bad parent. First Samuel 1:3, “Now this man [Elkanah] would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests to the Lord there.” Eli parented Hophni and Phinehas and we will discover what God thought about his parenting. Do you remember their story? Starting in verse 4, Elkanah seemed to be an obedient man, as he regularly went to worship and sacrifice with his entire family, as all God-fearing men were to do.

We find Elkanah had a special love for Hannah–and because of that, his other wife, Peninnah tormented Hannah about having no kids. “I have kids and you don’t!” So she went to the Tabernacle to pour her heart out to God. She tells the Lord in verse 11 that if He gives her a son, she’ll give him back to the Lord all the days of his life. Eli was there and saw her speaking in her heart to God–her lips moving, but no sound coming out. So Eli thought she was drunk and confronted her.

In verse 15, she respectfully corrected him, sharing with him that she has been sharing her burden with God. So Eli blesses her and she goes away no longer sad. Verses 19 and following tell us the Lord remembered Hannah and she conceived and gave birth to Samuel–which means “heard of God”. God answered her prayer.

Hannah and Elkanah rightly invest about 3 to 5 years into Samuel until he was weaned, before they brought him to Eli to serve the Lord at the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They dedicate Samuel to the Lord and they all worship God together, Hannah praying a special prayer of dedication in chapter 2, verses 1 to 10. Did they ever see Samuel again? Sure–look at 1 Samuel 2:18 to 19, “Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 And his mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.”

Every year they would see Samuel and Hannah would make him a little coat. Eli must have been thrilled with little Samuel, since in verses 20 to 21 he blessed Elkanah and Hannah and God gave Hannah three more sons and two daughters. And verse 16, “Samuel grew in favor with the Lord and with men,” and 3:19, “the Lord was with him.” Plus he was confirmed as a prophet to all of Israel. Even as a youth, in verses 1 to 14, God spoke directly to Samuel–even letting him know of the judgment He had planned for Eli and his family because of bad parenting.

So what was the matter with Eli’s parenting? Look back at chapter 2:12, “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord.” These two were doing the work of God, but did not know Him. They had no personal, experiential relationship with God. They knew about God, but did not know Him personally. Just like tares in the Church, some students from Christian homes, and those who prayed a prayer once but are not born again, don’t know Christ. The Bible is telling us in verse 12, that Hophni and Phinehas were completely untrustworthy, plotters of evil, with no fear of God.

In verses 13 to 16, God says they stole sacrifices meant for the Lord. Like an ancient mafia, they had a racket going. So verse 17 says, “Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for the men despised the offering of the Lord.” To add to their shame, verse 22 exposes that they were both having sex with women who served at the Tabernacle. The Law is clear, these sins deserve death, so what did Eli do about his sons? Read verse 22 and following, “Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 23And he said to them, ‘Why do you do such things, the evil things that I hear from all these people? 24No, my sons; for the report is not good which I hear the Lord’s people circulating. 25If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?’ But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the Lord desired to put them to death.”

Do you realize what Eli did here? He said to his sons, “Both of you, hold out your hands–I will slap your hands and tell you to stop it. Bad boys, don’t do that anymore.” No consequences, no discipline, no removal, no nothing–a mere slap of the hand. So God sends a man of God to Eli in verse 27 and reminds Eli of God’s gracious choosing of him and then rebukes him by saying this in verse 29, “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?

Eli, too, had eaten of the sacrifices his sons had stolen, so God tells him in verse 31, his sons won’t be priests. Then verse 34, they will both die on the same day. Then look what else in verse 35, “But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul.” Come on, Chris–how do you know for certain it’s because Eli didn’t parent properly? Look at chapter 3, verses 12 to 13, “In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, [why?] because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he [Eli] did not rebuke them.”

So what can we learn from the examples of these parents? What would God want us to know about the good, the bad and the ugly parenting? Two main truths . . .

#1  MAGNIFY the Lord in your lifestyle

You know what it is to magnify. Along with using my magnifying glass to light fires, I also use it to see things more clearly. To magnify the Lord is to make certain your children see Him clearly. How can you do that?

First  By showing God alone is SUFFICIENT

Like Elkanah who, by His faithful worship and by his willingness to give Samuel away to God’s service, showed he believed only God can meet our needs. And unlike Eli, whose boys showed that they didn’t believe God was sufficient through their lifestyle of immorality and racketeering. In order for children to walk with God, parents must demonstrate no one can meet all their children’s needs.

What kind of needs am I talking about? The need for love and acceptance, the need for purpose and hope. Now should a parent try to meet those needs? Yes. Can a parent meet those needs? No–you can’t. Open your Bibles to Colossians 3:16 and see why a parent cannot fully meet those needs. In Colossians 3:16 Paul says to, “Let the Word of Christ richly dwell in you,” which is parallel to being filled with the spirit/controlled, as stated in Ephesians 5:18.

Paul goes on to challenge every person to obedience to Christ in the most difficult and basic area of their life. He says, “Wives submit to your husbands . . .  husbands love your wives continually . . . and children obey your parents.” And then he adds a command in verse 21, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart.”

What does that mean? Do not allow your children to become bitter. Do not cause your children deep disappointment. When kids grow up, they learn to expect that mom and dad are going to meet all their needs. When they are wet, we change them. When they are hungry, we feed them. When they need to go somewhere, we drive them. But then your children grow up and begin to sense a deep need for acceptance, love, purpose and hope.

Then when he becomes an adolescent, he discovers two shocking truths—1) mom and dad are not perfect, and 2) they can’t completely meet their needs. And as a result, we have a lot of angry, disappointed, bitter children running around. What is the solution? If those basic needs can’t be met by parents completely, we have parents who say to themselves, “Since I am a Christian, I’ll love and unconditionally accept my child, I’ll plan his whole life so he’ll have purpose, I’ll give him a hope for the future by providing the right education, generous gifts and lavish vacations.”

But parents, you cannot transform your children’s fallen hearts–and just because you are a Christian does not guarantee you will have spiritual kids. So what’s the answer? From the very beginning, the only way to meet their greatest need is to point them to the only one who can meet those needs. Only Christ is sufficient. You must look to other resources in your own life. You will have to pray for your children. You will have to study the scriptures to find out what God expects of you. You must demonstrate that those essential needs in your own life are met by Jesus Christ alone.

Your children must see, not merely hear, that Jesus is your source of love and acceptance. Discouraged–do you look to Jesus, that Jesus is the one that gives you purpose? Who do they see you living for? Mission–that Christ alone is your hope? When things are bad, do you look forward to Heaven? God’s design for parents is to magnify Christ with their lives, so their children see Christ is sufficient as the only one who can meet their greatest needs. How else do we magnify God?

Second  BY living under the Bible as the AUTHORITY

Do you live like the Word of God is the final and absolute authority for everything? Not you, not them, not someone else . . . not an expert, not a preacher, or radio psychologist . . . not an opinion–but the Word of God is the boss, the final word. One of the secrets to raising children is to transfer parental authority to the Word of God. If the Word becomes the practical authority, then do you have anything to worry about when they leave the home? No.

Elkanah warned his wife to obey God’s Word and give Samuel to the Lord’s service. Yet Eli did not obey the Word of God over the sin of his sons. I believe the parental ideal is to have your kids respond to you as the absolute authority between the ages of 1 to 5. Very powerful reminders must occur. Then between the ages of 6 to 12, they need to learn that obedience and disobedience to you affects the intimacy of their relationship with you as their parents. Reminders occur–but relationship issues and freedoms also.

Then by the time they are 13, they should see their obedience or disobedience affects their relationship with God alone (with coaching and training from parents). They should become independently dependent upon God. When our children see the Bible as our boss–that the Word directs our decisions, guides our daily lives, and gives us our answers in crisis, we will see our children be more like Samuel and less like Hophni or Phinehas. We also magnify God by . . .

Third  BY displaying the Lord as a PERSON

Do we make it clear in our homes that God is present and a person. Elkanah and Hannah listened to the Lord and so did Samuel, but Eli didn’t obey God’s warnings and God tells us that Hophni and Phinehas, who were priests, didn’t even know God personally. We must constantly strive to get our religion out of the routine into a relationship. We must stop the jargon and love Jesus. Do you know Christ? Have you been born again? Have you admitted your sin, trusted Christ, and are following Him as Lord?

How do you know the difference? Well how do you know someone has a healthy marriage? There is joy, forgiveness, teachability, affection, respect, mutual trust, fun, service, sacrifice, the fruit of the Spirit–they enjoy each other! They talk of the Scripture as if it was the only way to understand life. Is the Word alive? Is prayer real? Is Heaven on your heart? Are spiritual things real? When Daniel, my son, was small–he asked about Heaven and I said, “Would it be okay if I went to Heaven?” He started to cry—which was his way of saying, “Yes, but not now.”

Do you magnify the Lord in your home by showing only Jesus is sufficient, living under the authority of the Word and showing Jesus is a person and present. The good, the bad and the ugly in parenting–what else must we learn from these examples?

#2  MODEL the Lord in your lifestyle

Children are asking parents one basic question—”Does it make any difference whether I believe God or not? Does it make any difference whether I follow Christ or not? Does it make any difference whether I follow the Bible or not?” The answer most demonstrated in our day is, “No.” And that’s why in our culture there is only a 10% difference between the saved and unsaved young person. That’s why typically in America, 60% of teens in the church, in Christian schools and from Christian homes, leave the Church after high school.

The only way that a young person will answer, “Yes,” to the question of whether it matters to follow Jesus is when they see it lived out in a real person. Remember, you can’t model a principle, only a person. One of my pastoral heroes, JC Ryle, wrote these words, “To give children good instruction and a bad example, is but beckoning them with the head to show them the way to Heaven, while we take them by the hand and lead them the way of Hell.”

This is what we witnessed in the parenting of Eli. Eli’s personal lifestyle example was sadly lacking. The Bible says in chapter 4:18 that Eli was heavy—overweight. And when you look at Hophni and Phinehas, you can see why their flesh (eating the sacrifice and illicit sex with women) was out of control. Yet with Elkanah and Hannah, you see a dedication to God in worship and sacrifice. So when they brought Samuel to the Tabernacle between the ages of 3 and 5, the Bible tells us in 1:28 when Samuel arrived, “He [Samuel] worshiped the Lord there.” Wow–a 5-year-old.

Eli did not model the consequences of sin via his discipline, therefore they did not fear doing wickedness. Yet with Elkanah and Hannah, there was a great fear to make sure they honored their commitment to the Lord in giving Samuel to a life of service at the Tabernacle. Matthew 28:19 commands us to make disciples. The word disciple means follower, learner, a mimic. Matthew 10 tells us a disciple is one who becomes like his teacher.

A disciple is to behave just like you. That is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” And parent, the only way you or I will impart to a child that following Christ does matter is when we disciple our children by example. Dad and mom live life as if Christ matters. That is not merely going to church, praying at meals, having Scripture up on walls, telling your kids to read, or telling them to stay pure. It is as they see Christ through your life, changing you, transforming you, making you different.

The only way Christ will matter to them is when they see you pray, read the Word, and watch you apply it in everyday life. You remain physically and mentally pure. You stop your tongue from gossip. You are not controlled by food or drink or drugs. You keep your house orderly. You sacrificially give to the Church. You share your faith. You are selfless in the little things. You apologize when you are wrong. You refuse to keep a list of past wrongs. You grieve over your own sin. You work hard with joy.

All that you want to see in them, must be first seen in you if you are going to make a disciple, if you are not going to lose your child. If you want to see more Samuel and less Hophni and Phinehas, then magnify and model the Lord to your children and your disciples.

TAKE HOME  More good, less bad and no ugly–how?

A  Bad BACKGROUNDS or bad beginnings do not cancel the grace of God

Be encouraged–Samuel came from a home with two mothers, one who was cruel, the other was the husband’s favorite. Not exactly a great background or good beginning–but God can plow into the worst home and turn that soil into a place which will grow a godly man/woman. And He did. Samuel was the greatest man in the Bible since Moses.

He was the last of the judges and the first of the prophets and was known as the prophet of prayer. Samuel said to the people of Israel in 12:23, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, but I will instruct you in the good and right way.” Be encouraged; as tough as your situation is, if your heart is right before the Lord, God’s grace can do great things.

B  Parents are not responsible for their children’s sin, just their children’s RESPONSE to sin

Be encouraged by the fact that God did not judge Eli because of His sons’ sins, but because Eli failed to discipline and to teach his sons the consequences of sin. God tells us in Psalm 139:13, our “children are a gift from the Lord.” They are not ours, but His. We are stewards of the children the Lord has given us.

Therefore, like every other steward, we are responsible for them. Like Proverbs 22:6 says, to train them up “in the way they should go.” But be encouraged–God is not holding you responsible for their sins, but for the way they deal with sin. Not for whether they worship God or not, but for the kind of picture they received from you, as to who God is and what He is like.

C  Religion is not the answer, RELATIONSHIP is

Be encouraged–you don’t have to be carting your children off to every school, every program, and every event in order for them to turn out like Samuel. But you do have to demonstrate a genuine relationship with God in your home and in your church for them to really see God as real. Hophni and Phinehas were full of religion, but had no relationship with God.

Don’t be foolish to think that by sending them to a Christian school, children’s program, student ministry or college group can somehow undo a bad testimony at home. Why? Parents will always be the primary influencer of their children. Religion is not the answer–your relationship with God and with your children is.


Growing up, I sought to model Christ by following 10 key principles

1.  love God with all your heart

2.  serve and love other people

3.  pray and read your Bible everyday

4.  please and obey God, no matter what

5.  always tell the truth

6.  always keep your word

7.  finish what you start

8.  use your time wisely

9.  always look your best

10.  give it all you’ve got–work hard!

To model Christ, I sought to do the following . . .

1.  Show that the Lord matters the most to me in every way

2.  Enjoy life and ministry

3.  Plan family time and days off

4.  Talk with clarity

     a.  Say what I mean once only

     b.  Set time limits

     c.  No threatening or raised voice

     d.  Correct so as to build up

5.  Listen to everything–important and seemingly unimportant

Tone of voice, silence, crying, heartbreak, rebellion, pained looks, slumping posture, defeat, discouragements—especially at bedtime, sickness, success, failure, vacation

6.  Answer all questions

7.  Give affection and attention

8.  Be a companion

9.  Answer all calls

10.  Allow grace to overrule discipline when it was an accident

To model Christ, I sought to not do the following . . .

1.  Allow a media/computer mindset

2.  Give work more attention than the home

3.  Allow friends to be more important than family

4.  Give a busy signal

5.  Threaten, explode, or be silent

So allow me to give you this week’s 1 Samuel LOCKDOWN CHALLENGES for FBC FAMILIES


Magnify the Lord with one quality

Pick one way each member of the family can put Christ on display, proving He is sufficient–the Word is your authority, proving Christ is alive in and through you. Just one characteristic. Tell it to each person in the family, write it down and hold each other accountable every day this week to live it out by the power of the Spirit.


Correct one behavior which does not display Christ

Each family member has one area, more than any other, which needs Christ to conquer. So what should you do? Identify and openly confess that one area. Memorize at least one Scripture that addresses that sin. Pray, asking the Lord to help you overcome the sin daily. And quote that verse out loud each day of this week.



Every week, contact one person you don’t normally call via phone . . .

not text, not email, phone call and encourage them. Every week, pray for three people you don’t normally pray for, and bring them before the Lord. Call one person, and pray for three people. Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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