The Bible instructs us to train up our children in the “way they should go.” (Proverbs 22:6) The way they should go is clearly found in God’s Word. No other institute, person, or government holds the power to be “the way” (John 14:6). If we want to be successful in our parenting, we should make the Word our finally authority!
God has given us key verses to help us with the parenting task. One of them is clear in how we should train with God’s Word – His commands. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 6:1-9:
“Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 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.”
God commands – not suggests – that we obey His Word. As children of God, we are to observe them for the purpose of seeing God’s Kingdom advanced through our lives. He desires “godly offspring” through our marriages and families (Malachi 2:15). He also wants to see His blessings and promises fulfilled in our lives. He wants to prosper us in every area, including in our parenting.
The foundational verse for the following points is Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Most of the time, our minds go straight toward the commands – what we should do. However, God is always looking at our hearts, where our motivation lies. When we are motivated by love for God, we will automatically want to follow His instructions on parenting and anything else. We will want to apply His Word with everything we have – heart, soul, and strength. That is what makes God’s way work!
Teach by Example
As parents, our first goal should be to teach our child(ren) by example. It’s hypocritical to teach our child(ren) to do something when we’re not doing it ourselves. They won’t feel inclined to follow us if we are contradicting our words by our actions. It’s confusing at the least, and can result in them choosing their own path, rather than choosing “the way he should go.”
Love by example. To accurately show “the way,” we as parents should love God first before teaching our child(ren) to love Him. This not only sets an example to follow, but also equips us to genuinely love our children. We cannot truly love without knowing Love. Love must first be in our hearts before being available to pass on. Once the love is there, then there will be grace to diligently, consistently, and wisely give it to our children.
Learn by example. If our children are going to find value in putting God’s Word in their hearts, then we should first value it ourselves. This requires hiding, studying, and talking about God’s Word until it is the core of who we are and what we do. Like love, this will enable us to draw from a wealth of wisdom to pass on to our children.
Live by example. As with love and the Word, we should follow God’s commands through holy living. We can’t expect our child(ren) to avoid evil and do good if we aren’t living out God’s Word ourselves. Our children need to see the love of God and the Word of God on display. They cannot see our hearts, but they can see our actions.
Introduce Them to a Relationship with Jesus
We should be the first to lead our child(ren) to Jesus. Someone else may lead them in a sinner’s prayer; but we should be the primary tutor in who God is, how much He loves us, and how they can love Him. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, our children can now have a love relationship with Him, rather than striving to follow the Laws of the Old Covenant. If our child(ren) can understand that their behavior is a result of a love relationship with a Person, then they are far more likely to choose to serve Him.
Teach Them to Keep God’s Commands Their Hearts
There is a huge difference between having God’s Word in our hearts and having it in our heads. Our child(ren) can hear and memorize Scripture until they can quote the whole Bible, yet not have it in their hearts. An accumulation of Scripture in the head is not what changes their lives; it’s acting on it based on a conviction (firm held belief or opinion) that comes from their hearts. We will know when the Word has gone from their heads to their hearts when they begin to change without being forced. Their daily actions become more and more like Jesus, and they consciously consult the Scripture to make decisions. They listen to their conscience (the voice of their Spirit) and let it lead them. They go from “have-to” actions, to “want-to” actions because of the relationship they have with Jesus.
The Word doesn’t get into a child’s heart overnight, however. Though the heart is the final goal, it must first begin in their minds where they can process what they’re learning. God has given us specific ways on how to help the Word make that head-heart move.
Teach God’s Word Diligently. According to the Webster’s dictionary, “diligently” means “characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort.” It’s not lazy or occasional. It’s not based on feelings or convenience. It’s focused on a purpose – the purpose of getting vital information into our child’s mind and heart. This may include daily devotions and church attendance. It may also include Spirit-led discussion while working on a project, or consulting God’s Word when faced with decisions.
Talk about the Word consistently. God’s Word should be the most important topic ever discussed, and it should be done consistently. Consistently means “marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity: free from variation or contradiction.” Talking about God’s Word is not just about the use of time. It’s also about being constant in how it’s applied and interpreted. It doesn’t change with different situations just because it’s convenient, but remains as true as its Author. It should be talked about every day, in every situation – sitting in the house, walking by the way, and as we’re going to bed at night and getting up in the morning. The conversations should be filled with joy because it’s a pleasure and honor to speak of it!
Bind Them and Write Them. The Jews took God’s commands literally when he told them to “bind them as a sign,” make them as “frontlets between your eyes,” and to “write them on the doorposts of your house.” The point of the command is to keep God’s Word before our eyes constantly so we do not forget. In our modern culture, that isn’t hard to do. Christian book stores sell plagues with our favorite Scripture verses. Dozens of Bible translations and commentaries are available for purchase. The internet and radio is full of Bible teaching and music so we can listen to it without missing a word as we come and go from the house. We can even buy jewelry in scripted with Scripture! Whatever method, we can easily find ways to remind ourselves of God’s Word.
Enjoy the Result
In every area of life, we can prosper when we put God first – including in our parenting! God always follows up a command with a promise of a blessing! Deuteronomy 6:3 says, “Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’”
We can experience the prosperity and power of God’s Word in our families as we make it a priority. Yes, it takes diligence, consistency, and work. That work, however, is well worth it when we see the reward of godly seed!
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. (Psalm 119:11)
My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones. Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine. My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:1-2)
Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live. Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. and in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; she will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory she will deliver to you.” Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4)