Who, after praying earnestly for something, turns around and gives it away? This is what Hannah did. In fact, before she even had the desired request, she committed to return her son to the Lord! This was not a metaphorical commitment to give her child to God. Once Samuel was weaned, Hannah took him to the house of the Lord and left him there. He was likely between the ages of three and five when she gave him up. Parents get emotional when their child attends their first day of school; how must Hannah have felt when she brought Samuel to the temple?

There is something even more profound about Hannah’s sacrifice. At the time, there was major corruption in the temple service with Eli’s sons doing the abominable. So Hannah was not delivering her precious child to the best possible environment. Yet, having done her best to train her child, she kept her vow to give back to God the thing she desired most. In a manner of speaking, she sent Samuel as a missionary to the temple, and God honored that gift by calling Samuel to be His prophet.

As a general rule, parents should think of their children as future fellow laborers in evangelism. Children must learn to trust and obey their parents as practice for how to trust and obey God, not because they are little minions. In fact, inasmuch as children must learn obedience, parents ought to treat them with due respect—the Bible counsels, “Do not provoke your children to wrath” (Eph. 6:4). While requiring obedience, parents are not to treat their children in a way that angers them. Your child may one day be your pastor.

Hannah’s experience of giving her firstborn to serve in a corrupt community is reminiscent of God’s gift to us of Jesus Christ. The well-known and well-loved John 3:16 gives us a glimpse into the heart of God. He had only one Son, and He sent Him as a missionary. Such is the love of God for humanity!

The Christian who is called to the same love that God has will recognize that their children are given to them as a trust to be rendered back in service to God. Just like an arrow in the archer’s quiver, children are a means for Christian parents to further their evangelistic mission. The children of Christian parents are not there to provide entertainment for their parents and parents’ friends; they are not meant to serve as workhorses; and they are not a “mini-me” who exists to wear miniature outfits for self-gratifying social media posts. Children from Christian homes are missionaries in training.

In August 1955, prominent American evangelist Billy Graham spoke of how frightening it was for Christian parents to raise their children in a world that had become lawless and wicked. That was in 1955! How much more wicked is the world today. How much greater the need for godly seed (cf. Mal. 2:15)! Indeed, it would make no sense to bring innocent children into this cruel, evil world, but for the advancement of God’s mission to save the world.