Not too long ago, I read an article about a new phenomenon called “snowplow parenting.” The term refers to parents who clear every imaginable obstacle out of their child’s path to success. From the earliest age, snowplow parents go to great lengths to make sure everything is just right for their little bundle of joy. The results, however, are not encouraging. The article went on to describe adult snowplow children who couldn’t shovel snow, so to speak. The painful lesson these parents are learning is just good, old-fashioned horse sense: a child who never has to deal with adversity won’t be able to survive for long in the real world.
We Are Family
Believe it or not, snowplow parenting is not limited to the privileged classes of wealthy First World countries. It might surprise you to learn that we see an example of it in the Bible. One of the original snowplow parents was a woman named Salome, the mother of two of Jesus’ Apostles, James and John. Wanting to make sure she cleared away potential hurdles to their success, she approached Jesus with a request: “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom” (Matt. 20:21). Some scholars think that, in all likelihood, Salome was the sister of Jesus’ mother. They speculate that she may have been trying to press her family advantage.
It would be easy to sit and judge her. “What a selfish request,” we mutter to ourselves as we read. But are we so different? A closer look reveals that we are much more like Salome than we are comfortable admitting.
She thought Jesus was just like all the power brokers she had met. She reasoned that, with just the right amount of maneuvering and politicking, she could give her sons the advantages she did not enjoy. In and of itself, this was a noble goal. But she went about achieving it in the wrong way. She tried to use the world’s tactics to gain a prize that was not of this world.
A New Kind of King
Salome’s mistake was her assumption that Jesus was like every other king. But what she began to understand is that because His kingdom is different, the subjects of His kingdom do things differently. Instead of grasping for power, they open their hands in humble service (Matt. 20:26). In the place of a privileged few who had the king’s ear, Jesus welcomed all kinds of sinners to Himself and promised to listen to them always (21:22).
We need to learn the lessons Salome learned. We need to be reminded of the kingdom paradox that power comes only to those who know they are powerless. We need to taste afresh the grace of humility that comes only from being with Jesus. The way to attain true power is only by coming empty handed to the One who emptied Himself so that we might be filled.