In his 17th century work, Building a Godly Home, the English Puritan William Gouge elaborated on the biblical duty of children to requite their parents: “In everything which a parent needs his child’s help, the child according to his ability must grant his best help. Beyond one’s power nothing can be expected.” Gouge understood the incredible amount of time, resources, and money that parents spend on their children. Parents care for children when the children are helpless, providing for their every need. It is only right that when the parents need help, the children stand ready to help.
In a recent letter to the editor I made some comments about the Social Security program. I made a passing comment about how children should provide for their parents in old age. In response to that comment, one observant reader commented that he didn’t want to “live off” of his kids. I understand how my comment may have been misunderstood. My point was not that parents should be lazy and expect their kids to pay all their bills when they reach old age. Due to the brevity of such pieces, I was unable to fully explain what I meant. I’d like to do so now.
My fundamental critique with the government enforced Social Security program is that it forces people to pay a “tax” in order to provide for people into their old age. However, I argue that the responsibility to care for people into retirement falls first on the individual himself (and only after that on the family unit). I should do what I can to save for my future. This can be achieved via private investments rather than government forced taxation, however. In this sense, I agree that I should first seek to fund my own “retirement,” not looking to the state or my children.
However, if an individual needs help in his old age—whether it be financial help or physical care, the responsibility falls first on that person’s children. This is what I meant when I said the biblical ideal is that children provide for their parents (in old age).
In 1 Timothy 5, the Apostle Paul is giving instructions about widows. In verse four he makes the comment that the “children or grandchildren” of the Christian widows ought to “show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.”