Six Parenting Lessons Learned from Lot's Failure as a Parent
Before God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, His angel tells Lot to flee to the mountains. But Lot doesn't think the mountains are the best place. He tells the angel he wants to live in the nearby city of Zoar. God graciously grants his wish and sends him there. But soon after this, Lot doesn't trust God to protect him there.
What's going on with Lot?
I came across this explanation from the commentator Gordon Wenham, "Having been reluctant to obey the command in the first place, he now shows that he does not trust the implied divine guarantee that he would be safe in Zoar."
Note Wenham's two observations: Lot was (1) reluctant to obey God's command and (2) unwilling to trust God's guarantee of safety. Those two facts signal why Lot became a failure as a parent.
It's tragic that such things would ever be written about a believer. For a time, Lot trusted and obeyed Yahweh as he followed his uncle Abram to Canaan. God had prospered him along with Abraham in that time. But once he left Abraham in Genesis 13, he developed a pattern of following his own wisdom instead of God's word. In many ways, his daughters followed their father's example. They disregarded God's word even more than their father. As we parent our children, we can learn six lessons from his bad example.
Lesson 1: Surround your children with God's people.
For several years, young Lot had followed his uncle Abram to Canaan, learned from him about Yahweh, and grew spiritually. But Lot's daughters never had that opportunity. In chapter 13, "Lot lifted his eyes and saw the valley of the Jordan was well-watered...so Lot chose for himself the valley of the Jordan and Lot journeyed eastward" (Genesis 13:10-11). This means that when he had the opportunity to live wherever he wanted, Lot chose to move far away from Abraham. He preferred the fertile area of Sodom more than a spiritually edifying location near Abraham in the Negev. Consequently, Lot's children grew up in a godless culture.
The people closest to our children pass on to them their worldview, theology, and morality. Though we live in a secular culture, the church exists as a family within which children can learn about God like Lot in Abraham's family. God uses that spiritual fellowship to enliven their hearts and enlighten their thoughts about Him. Take advantage of God's goodness by getting your children involved in the life of the church.
Lesson 2: Marry a godly spouse.
The people closest to you have the biggest influence on you. Abraham knew this. His wife believed in Yahweh. So when he chose a wife for his son, he took great pains to find a godly woman from a believing family (Genesis 24:45-61). As Paul commands, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Cor 6:14). God wants us to marry believers so that our children will be raised in godly homes (Proverbs 6:20-22; 1 Corinthians 7:39).
But this didn't matter to Lot. He chose to marry an unbelieving woman attached to life in Sodom. Genesis 19:29 mentions only Lot as the last righteous person in Sodom. Jesus himself used her as an example of how to value your own life above God's call (Luke 17:32-33). His daughters were similarly obsessed with their city and gave up on finding a husband after it burned down (Gen. 19:31).
Lesson 3: Protect your children spiritually.
In Abraham and Lot's era, parents were usually responsible for choosing godly spouses for their children. Abraham fulfilled this obligation. Lot didn't. We learn that in Genesis 19:14. He had two prospective sons-in-law; both were godless fools. When Lot shares God's warning with them, they laugh at him as if he were joking. They died in the destruction of the city because they disregarded God as well as their own father-in-law.
Christian parents who read this account should be proactive in their children's relationships. Guard them from spending too much time with a child who is a bad influence. Teach them what to look for in a godly spouse. Encourage them to be discerning about who they invest their time with.
Lesson 4: Protect your children physically.
In addition to his spiritual neglect, Lot didn't even care for the physical well-being of his daughters. In order to protect the two angels from the sexually charged mob surrounding his home, he offered the mob his two daughters (19:8). Clearly, this man had embraced his own wisdom to guide him rather than God's.
The result of his endangerment was that his two daughters learned that God's law regarding sexual boundaries and respect for God's image don't matter in practical decisions. Their behavior at the end of chapter 19 is clear evidence of this.
Lesson 5: Set an example of quick obedience to God.
Parents can't save their children. Jesus' teaching is clear that spiritual rebirth comes by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-8), not human will. Nevertheless, Scripture is clear that parents have an important role in teaching their children about God and exemplifying faithfulness to Him (Gen. 18:19; Deut. 4:10; Prov. 6:20-22).
Lot fails to show faithful obedience to God in chapter 19. When the angels told him, "Get up, take your wife and daughters lest you be swept away..." (19:15), we read that Lot "hesitated" (19:16). Lot's hesitation in response to angels demonstrates to his children that God's word is subject to human evaluation prior to obedience. This elevates the authority of human thoughts above that of divine commands.
Children who see parents obey God learn that God requires and blesses obedience. Children who grow up seeing a pattern of hypocrisy learn to disregard Him as well. Parents who want their children to fear and love God should remember that the eyes of their children are always watching to observe how diligently we respond to God.
Lesson 6: Trust God in times of crisis.
When the angels told Lot, "escape to the mountains", Lot replied, "Oh no, my lords!...behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be preserved" (19:18-20). In a time of crisis, Lot wouldn't trust God to save him.
To say, "Oh no, my lords" is double-talk. If the angels are Lot's superiors, he must obey their command immediately. Lot's duplicitous speech comes from his double-mindedness about God himself. While Lot knows Yahweh is the true God whose law is binding on all humanity, he regularly ignores God's word and does what is convenient for himself. When faced with what's right and what's easy, he chose what was easy.
If Lot were a young man today, he might be missionary-dating an unbeliever, hoping that he could save a girl with his own force of influence rather than waiting for the Lord to bring him a godly woman. If he were alive today, he might not even be an active member of a church. Certainly he wouldn't attend if it conflicted with his schedule. If he were alive today, he may be outraged by our society and yet be unwilling to share the gospel with its people.
Children need parents who are willing to do what's right when times are hard. Our children need us to respond quickly in obedience to God's word. They need to see that we trust God to save us and protect us in this life. When that happens, parents teach their children who God really is through their words and actions. They learn to trust Him by seeing our example.