Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. (2 Corinthians 12:14, ESV)
Modern parents can learn much about their role by learning how the apostles led the early church. They considered their role a parental one, for they were spiritual fathers caring for a new generation of baby Christians, raising them to full maturity. Paul felt that fatherly role toward the church in Corinth. The feeling he had for the Roman church was his feeling for all the churches—“I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you” (Romans 1:11).
In the verse before us, Paul told the Corinthian church he was ready to visit them for a “third time.” On that trip, his longing was not to be a burden to them. He was not seeking what they had, but them. His reason for this giving (rather than taking) attitude? “For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.” In the apostle’s mind, parents gave to their children, while children receive from their parents. It was, to him, only natural and, well, obvious.
Many parents of children, or even adult children, do not understand this concept. The weight they put on their adult children is often immense. It is unfortunate when a parent puts unspoken expectations on their adult children.
The word for it is simple: pressure. Parents should see themselves as a life-giving tree producing fruit for the next generations to partake of, especially their own offspring. They should not see their children as the ones who will provide that fruit. Recently, my dad gave me a washer and dryer set. I am forty years old, and that gift was awesome. We were greatly helped. I rejoiced partaking of his fruit.
We should get our identity from Christ, not from our children. We should get our joy from Jesus, not our children. Rather than pressure our children, we ought to cast a vision for continually lightening the load for our children. When they are ten years old, it is easy to see how much they still need to grow up. But when they are thirty, they are still growing, for life at that age is brand new. They are loaded up with pressures and pains of their own. Life is full, and they are scrapping to make it. Parents can help decrease the load during those seasons of life, not through pressure, intimidation, or manipulation, but through deference, generosity, and help.
All relationships have a two-way nature to them in one degree or another, and children of all ages must honor their parents, but parents of all ages would do well to think of it as a one-way street. Traffic flows one way only. In Paul’s mind, the obligation was from the parent to the child, not the other way around. If a parent can keep that perspective, they will not look for their children to provide supports they are not made to give them, and instead look to Christ.