Eli served as a priest of Israel. He was the representative of the people to God. He had 2 sons, Hopni and Phinehas, who were also serving as priests. However, they were wicked and treated the sacrifices of the Lord with contempt (1 Samuel 2:12, 22).
We can see in their lives that when we serve God with the externals, all we have is religion. We can be doing things for God, doing ministry in the church, helping the poor, and yet live unholy and wicked lives. The Bible tells us: “they honor me with the lips and yet their hearts are far from me.” and Jesus said to the people claiming to know him and serve him in his parable “I do not know you, away from me you evil doers.”
We can see from Eli’s life that religious leaders are not exempted from family problems and struggles. There are many pastor’s children and children from Christian homes that wander off from the faith and rebel against their parents. 1 Sam 2:24-25 tells us the action the Eli took when he heard the sins his sons were doing. He rebuked them and gave them a lecture. But his children didn’t listen.
Modeling is a strong teacher. There is a great urgency for us to take on the responsibility of training our children and instilling on them godly principles while they are young. For when they reach their teenage years, their values are internalized and they have their own minds. If we don’t have a close relationship with them then our influence on them will be a weak link. Their friends will easily persuade them with their values. Moreover, if they see us as hypocrites – teaching them principles that we do not abide by and we don’t practice, then they are more likely to move away from the values that we want them to adopt and apply. So modeling is of utmost important.
Eli’s children were taking the meat while the fat was still in it. They don’t want the fats to be burned because fat is delicious. but God as our creator knows what is best for us. From my point of view, i think Eli also had part of this because as the bible says he was fat. So if he corrects his son, they’ll say “Hey, you’re eating it too.” Ungodliness slowly crept in to their lives. First, contempt for the sacrifice then no more regard for God’s laws leading to wickedness and immorality just as stated in Romans 1. Instilling God’s word to our children’s hearts is valuable but it can easily become head knowledge or even a plain subject or vocation. What we need to achieve is for them to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We must show them that God is real in our everyday circumstances – praying and trusting in Him. Our faith and trust in God is displayed through our reactions and how we deal with our circumstances. Do we react in anger or in sweet surrender? In thanksgiving or in grumbling and complaining? In prayer or in anxiety and worries?
Amidst our imperfection, it is by God’s grace that our children will thrive. Let us continue to pray for them and for ourselves. Never stop learning and changing for the better. God’s Holy Spirit will help us change from the inside out as He is in the business of transforming people and making things new. He who began a good wok in you will be able to complete it (Phil 1:6)