It often perplexes my mind when I hear people discuss their decision to “not” teach spiritual things to their children. For the staunch atheist or pagan I could understand, but this mind I hear from many professing believers. Some of their excuses include, “I want my children to make their own choices,” or “I just don’t think it is right to force Christian teaching on my kids.” If this logic was equivocal on the plain I would accept it, but it isn’t. People make their children learn certain academic subjects that are truly just for the sake of being “well-rounded.” They encourage and reward their children to exercise discipline to learn mathematics, history, sociology etc. with the idea that these things are to be known for their good but yet they feel that spiritual teaching of God’s word is less than important.
Another reason that some believers don’t teach their children scripture is that they feel inadequate to do so but feel as though the “local” program for children can fill the gap in their ignorance. The truth is that children are more influenced by parental teaching than any other. SO, someone else can instruct children in spiritual things but if parents do not reinforce and at the minimum, show an interest in this learning, the child will soon depart from the heart of it. Keep in mind that I am not speaking of salvation, the new birth, justification, or anything else that comes by the work of God alone, but speaking of the foundations of such things: hearing the word of God.
Here are a few things in my mind, and in my experience, that should be considered regarding the teaching of children:
- Children must be TAUGHT EVERYTHING they are to learn. If we think they’ll get their “own” way soon enough, they most certainly will. Whatever we teach them they will learn. Learning is not belief or obedience, but learning brings the power of LIFE as the Spirit brings life through hearing by giving hearing. (Rom 10:17)
- Parental figures are the PRIMARY TEACHERS. Nothing will ever replace the direct and indirect teaching of parental influence. As an adult, I have many habits and practices that I realize I mimic from my father. These are learned behaviors and ideas that were not directly taught. Parents that do not love the word of God will have children that will NOT LOVE the word of God.
- Entertainment is the opposite of learning. So often people think that kids need to incorporate FUN FUN FUN with the learning of God’s word. When is the last time you ever saw a 1st grade teacher play dodgeball while teaching addition? How about a high school calculus class using drama to enforce a mathematical truth? All learning can be enjoyable, but it is a lie that it has to be a certain “level” of attraction for children: They learn more than adults anyway these days.
- Churches are often ill-prepared: Some well-meaning people pull kids out of worship and preaching to accommodate their little weak minds while the scripture teaches that more children flocked around Jesus to listen than did adults at times. Jesus even said, “do not hinder…”. When we separate the children from the teaching of the word, we hinder them against the command of Christ. While children’s programming can be useful, in the long-haul, it divides the body of Christ and destroys the essence of future generations who feel like the church should “give me what I want…”
- Teaching and Living go hand-in-hand. The word of God is replete with examples of teaching and then exhortation to live out a teaching. Surely, as believers, we know that all good works are fulfilled by God, but we know the warning that if God is not transforming His people, then they are not His people because HE DOES and never leaves a child to rot. So, children need to hear and see the word lived out in adults. They need to see forgiveness and repentance. They need to see worship and affection for God’s people.
- Zeal and Love are different beasts. Loving the teaching of God without doing the teaching of God in loving His people at the cost of us is a lie according to John. We lie when we say we love orthodoxy but don’t LIVE according to orthodoxy. My hyper-grace friends can just click off of this now, as some of them may have cut much of the NT from their bibles. Having zeal for teaching our kids the right theology will never save them; living without love is condemnation, because Christ alone through Faith alone by Grace alone produces zealous love for God and His people.
- Love vs. Obey. “If you love me you will obey my commands.” This is a very difficult pill to swallow from the mouth of Jesus. When we teach children we need to teach them that love is obedience. Jesus loves the Father so He went to the cross in obedience. We love Jesus (because we have been born of God), so we follow after Him. Teaching children that one can love with a “feeling” while hating with “actions” is deplorable. Do children see US loving in this way?
- Teaching TRUTH is not revealing ERROR. So many polemics think they are making disciples by showing all the bad stuff. NEWS FLASH: you will never find time for truth and worship if your life is lived for the pointing out of the world’s error. We know error because WE KNOW THE TRUTH; not the other way around. I know so many people who were taught by their parents of all the “bad” things out there. They know everything wrong in the world and yet they still know nothing right – ergo, they do not know Jesus Christ because they have been denied discipleship: teaching them to obey all I have commanded you!!!!!!!
Much more could be said and may well be said in the future. Add your voice and add to these points. My mind leaves me this moment so as for my children I want to show them, teach them, pray for them and trust in the Lord even when I royally destroy everything I employ! So point 9 – The Lord is faithful, even when we are NOT!
Trust in the Lord and His word. Even when we as parents do it all wrong, if we invest in prayer and scripture with our kids, we can trust the Lord to bring the fruit! Glad aren’t you! Because otherwise, we are all miserable failures…. but alas, Jesus Christ came to save sinners.
Soli Deo Gloria.