Am I teaching my kids enough about God? Are they absorbing anything I say? Am I setting the right example for their spiritual growth?
I’m guessing most Christ-following parents wrestle with these thoughts. Josh and I do.
So how do we find the answers? How can we know we’re fulfilling the call to raise up our children in the Lord?
I was reading Deuteronomy 6 a few weeks ago and was struck by the simple instructions God gives here for parenting.
Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:1-9, ESV
God speaks to the parents and grandparents, instructing them to teach their children these principles. What principles? And how do we teach them?
To fear the Lord. We teach our children to revere God because He is just that – God of the universe. He deserves our honor; nothing and no one is higher than Him.
To obey God. We demonstrate fear of God by obeying Him. God specifies that we obey throughout the course of our life. Yes, we will mess up. We will sin. But as parents, we’re called to model obedience over the long haul.
To expect God’s blessing. God doesn’t tell us to obey Him just because He has the right to. As a loving God, He knows that obedience will bring blessing. As Christian parents, we teach our kids that God loves them and desires the best for their lives. We instruct them that obedience is part of a relationship with God, and through that relationship, we can expect His blessings in our lives.
To love the Lord above all else. Jesus named this the greatest commandment. When we love the Lord more than anyone and anything else, ourselves included, obedience and reverence follow. This is the foundation, the crux of our instruction to our kids.
How Can We Teach our Kids these Principles?
All this sounds great, but how?
The words in Deuteronomy point to teaching our children a relationship with God. We don’t simply give them the law, tell them to be good and obey. We know that doesn’t work for us, so why use the same approach with our kids and expect better results?
We teach our children that God loves them, Christ died for them, and they can walk in relationship with Him. Yes, they should respect and obey Him. But they have the privilege of being invited to receive His love and love Him in return.
This should be a lifestyle, something we talk about with our kids all the time, everywhere. Sure, we read the Bible with them, pray before meals and bedtime. But we also weave it into conversations and look for opportunities in everyday life to teach them about the Lord.
When another kid is mean to them on the playground, we talk about forgiveness and God’s unconditional love. When we screw up as parents, we apologize and admit that we still sin and need grace, just like them. When they see someone in need, we encourage them to be generous and selfless.
We can start this lifestyle from each child’s beginning, praying with them and speaking to them of God’s wonders. Encouraging questions. Allowing them to voice their doubts. And most importantly, reminding them how God loves them and desires their love in return.