A wise man once described a mother as a woman who combines the practical and the spiritual into a way of life. “A mother wipes little noses, mends little clothes, washes little faces, and points little eyes to the stars and little souls to eternal things.”
Such a person must have been Eunice, the mother of Timothy. Surely she did the practical things that are so much a part of mothering. And Paul clearly states that she was faithful in her spiritual duty, as she pointed her son’s little eyes to the stars and his soul to eternal things.
Several things about Eunice mark a model mother.
A Model Mother Influences Her Child Toward Christ
Eunice did. In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul referred to Timothy’s upbringing. The “faith” that was now in Timothy was first in his mother Eunice and her mother Lois. Many think it was Paul who led Timothy to faith in Christ, but it was more likely the influence of his mother and grandmother that first influenced Timothy to take Jesus as his own personal Savior.
The strongest influence in any person’s life is their home. Good biographies never begin with their subject, but with the parents and grandparents of the subject. Only God can measure the influence of a mother on the lives of her children. She is a child’s chief example. Under a picture of a kangaroo with a baby in its pouch was the caption: “His mother determines his point of view.” That is true of every child as well. Children mirror their mother’s outlook on life and copy her every habit.
A recently-married groom walked into the kitchen of their small apartment to find his bride of three days sawing away at the end of a ham.
“Why are you cutting off the end of that ham?” he asked her.
“Because my mother always did it this way,” she replied.
A few weeks later, he had a chance to ask his mother-in-law. “Your daughter tells me you always saw off the end of a ham before you bake it, and I want to know why.”
“Frankly,” she said, “I do it because my mother did it. You’d better ask her.”
Thoroughly perplexed, the young husband went home, picked up the phone, and dialed the grandmother, who lived out-of-state. “Grandmom,” he said, “can you tell me why you always cut off the end of a ham before you bake it?”
“Sure,” said she. “I never owned a pan large enough to hold a whole ham!”
What tremendous influence a mother holds over a child! “As is the mother, so is the daughter” (Ezek. 16:44) and so is the son! Children absorb their mother’s ideals and values when it comes to the issues of honesty, patience, kindness, and responsibility. Every mother owes it to her children to use her influence to turn them toward Christ.
A Model Mother Remains Faithful Despite Her Heathen Husband
Eunice did. Acts says Timothy’s father was a Greek (16:1). He was hardly a proselyte to the Jewish faith, for Timothy had not been circumcised before he became a Christian. A.T. Robertson thinks he may have been one of the devout Greeks like Cornelius who attended the synagogue (Types of Preachers in the New Testament, 159). I think it more probable that his father was an unbelieving Greek who may have made things hard in the home.
How they had come to be married is not known. But having come to faith in Christ on her own, Eunice obeyed God’s command through Paul to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation: “A woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away” (1 Cor. 7:12). God promised to care for the children raised in a divided home if the mother is obedient to his will and purpose! Timothy is living proof that God keeps his word.
Many a woman with an unsaved husband, either a husband who assumes no responsibility for raising his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, or a husband who actively opposes her efforts to do so, has grown disheartened and quit! Not Eunice! Her divided family did not discourage her or dampen her desire to lead her children to know Christ.
A Model Mother Teaches Her Child From Their Earliest Years
Eunice did. Paul said Timothy’s mother had instructed him “from a child,” or since he was a child. This word “child” may refer to an infant as well as to an older child. It is not at all farfetched to say that, when Timothy was just a baby, before he was able to understand what she was saying, Eunice began to sing to him of Jesus and tell him how much Christ loved him. As a toddler, just learning to walk and talk, she taught young Timothy such truth as he was able to grasp—to love God, to honor and obey his parents, and to behave himself accordingly. Then according to Jewish custom, at age five he began his formal instruction in the sacred Scripture.
A child is never too little to learn. In fact, children learn even if their parents make no effort to teach them. A child learns what he lives with. Some children grow up to be quarrelsome because that is the atmosphere in their home. Others grow up to be critical, sneaky, and dishonest, and irresponsible for the same reason.
There is a popular notion around that parents should not teach a child religious truth. Instead, so-called experts argue that each child should be left alone to make their own decision when they are old enough to do so. Some even say that to “force” religion on a child is just another form of abuse.
One must ask, however, if these “experts” follow the same philosophy with respect to a child’s diet? Should a baby choose between eating dog food or baby food? What about clothing? Should a parent force a child to wear their raincoat on a rainy day, or let them catch a cold or worse if they choose to go without it? How about hygiene? What responsible parent lets their child choose whether to bathe or to brush their teeth? And what about school? Should a parent let their child sleep in on Monday morning because they do not want to go to school? Or to neglect their homework because they would rather play ball or watch the late, late, late show? Of course not!
Why then would one assert parental responsibility in health, education, and other areas of life, yet back away from exerting influence in the infinitely more important things of the spirit?
A Model Mother Teaches Her Child the Bible
As soon as Timothy was teachable, his mother taught him the Bible. She may have begun by teaching him pieces of verses from the Word and little songs about God. As he grew older, the teaching became more intense. And this was more than mere rote teaching. “Have known” renders a word that means “a knowledge derived from a thorough perception of the truth that is taught.” It suggests that Eunice not only taught Timothy the facts related in the Scriptures but she also led him to appreciate their meaning and to make God’s truth a part of his daily life.
In recent decades, in the United States, a furor has raged over Supreme Court decisions that discourage the reading of the Bible and prayer in the public schools. It is not my purpose at this time to argue the pros and cons of this matter. It is rather my purpose to point out that the primary responsibility for Bible reading and prayer rests not upon the schools, or even on the churches, but on the homes!
Parents cannot relegate their responsibility to teach their children about God to any other institution. Long before there were schools or churches, God said to the heads of the homes, “Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger what is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law; and that thy children, which have not known anything, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God” (Deut. 31:12f). It is common to use this passage to justify Sunday School—and I believe in Sunday School—but this commandment was given to parents!
Teaching children the Scriptures will not save them, but God can use their knowledge of the Bible to guide them to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. And it will do more! Scripture is useful for teaching children what to believe (“for doctrine, for reproof”) and how to behave (“for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2 Tim.3:16). Often when a child asks why they cannot do a thing, the parent replies “Because I said so!” It would be far better for the mother to show them, from the Bible, why it is wrong or not for the best. “Thus saith the Lord” is far stronger than “because I said so.”
Paul’s purpose in writing was not so much to praise Eunice as to challenge Timothy to remember and practice the eternal truth he had learned at his mother’s knee (3:14). The apostle called on Timothy—and his later readers—to “continue in the things which you have learned.”
For one member of this congregation to “continue in the things which you have learned” may mean to place their trust in the Savior their mother loved and served. For another, it may mean to continue to follow their Guide on the rugged road of life. For yet another, it may mean to return to the paths of righteousness in which their mother placed their feet, but from which they have strayed.
In memory return to mother’s knee. Hear again her whispered prayers for her child. Listen once more as she sings, “What a Friend We Have In Jesus!” Feel the pulse beat of her love, love for the Lord and for the child he gave to her. Learn again that our life does not consist in the abundance of the things we possess, but in the simple ways of faith, integrity, and love. Kneel to weep bitter tears of repentance, and rise a better man or a better woman, not because of mother, but because of mother’s God!
A long-time teacher of adult and youth Christian groups, Cecil infuses his video lessons with his personable, thought-provoking style.