God's Plan for Parenting
Ever since the obstetrician told us our first child will be born on March 8, my wife and I have been thinking much about the future. What will be the baby’s name? What are the most important items to obtain before his birth? What kind of education will he receive? What will be our approach to parenting?
Having been a Christian educator for approximately nine years, I have been familiar with the topic of Christian parenting since college, and I have also seen the results that different philosophies of parenting have brought about in the lives of several preteens and teens who were my students.
Presently, I am a bi-vocational youth pastor and a full-time direct child care worker. As a child care worker, I have seen the result that bad parenting has had in the lives of the teenagers whom I serve; and as a youth pastor, I see some of the challenges Christian families are facing in our modern age.
Thanks be to God, however, who has revealed in the Bible everything we need to know for salvation and godly living. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that the Bible has much to say about parenting.
God's Goals for Parents
Parenting is God’s design. Having created Adam from dust, and Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, God blessed them and the rest of humanity with the ability to procreate: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:28, KJV).
But what was to become of their offspring? What is God’s plan for their lives? The Bible answers these questions: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, KJV). God’s general plan for them is that they become mature adults who will pursue God’s plan for their lives.
Babies need love, constant care, and protection from their parents in order to survive. God has given parents an instinct to love their babies despite the demands and challenges, and He has design babies to depend on the care of their parents
Sadly, not every parent has understood God’s will on this matter. There have been parents throughout history and all over the world who sacrificed their children to idols (Deuteronomy 12:31). In some countries, parents used to murder their female babies because they were perceived as inferior to male babies. Some parents abuse or neglect their children. Then there are those parents who abort (murder) their babies because they don’t fit their selfish plans. These things are contrary to the will of God, who desires them to grow into adulthood and pursue his will for their lives.
Christian parents, more than any other group of people in the world, should understand that their children are a blessing of God on their lives. “Lo, children an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. / As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath this quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gage.” (Psalm 127:3-5, KJV)
It is not only in their infancy that children should be a blessing to their parents, but also during the children’s adulthood and the parents’ old age. The commandment “Honor they father and thy mother: that thy days may be long on the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12, KJV) has no age restrictions. It is a commandment to be obeyed throughout one’s lifetime.
The fact is that God’s intention is for parents to develop a lifelong and positive relationship with their children, a relationship that will mature over time, and that will result in mutual love, respect, and support. We know this because God does not expect children to depend on their parents’ care throughout all their lives, but that they leave their parents and be joined unto their spouse: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, KJV).
Ultimately, a mature relationship between parents and their children is not one that is defined by authority and obedience, but one that is defined by mutual love. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurtureandadmonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, KJV)
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18, KJV)
But in order for this relationship to reach its apex, parents must realize that God desires them to influence their children so they too will become his lifelong followers. Reflecting on his relationship with Abraham, God said, “For I [God] know him [Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD” (Genesis 18:19a, KJV).
This is one of the main characteristics about Abraham that pleased God: Abraham was one who would teach his children and household to keep the way of the Lord. What a wonderful testimony for the father of many nations! This quality made Abraham very successful in God’s eyes, to the extent that God was willing to make an everlasting covenant with him and with his children after him.
We believers should also strive to have the same testimony before God. We should not be like Eli, who did not reprimand his children for dishonoring the God (for this reason, he and his children died, and Samuel took over the ministry); we should be like Abraham, who through his own personal testimony convicted his own children of his faith and left them an eternal inheritance before the Lord.
Of course, part of the training has to do with the practical matters of life. We see in proverbs how earnestly the father teaches his son how to handle various aspects of life, including the economical aspects: "He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. He that gathereth in the summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.” (Proverbs 10:4-5, KJV)
We see, then, that God has various objectives for parents. He wants them to protect and nurture their children until they become adults who can pursue God’s will on their own. He wants parents to raise their children to be followers of God. He wants parents to develop a relationship of love with their children. And God wants parents to teach their children about life. Thus, parents must realize that their children do not ultimately belong unto them, but unto God.
God's Strategy for Parenting
How are parents to accomplish the spiritual training of their children? How can they help their children become lifelong followers of God, mature individuals who will pursue God’s will, and adults who have a relationship based on love with them? As we shall see, God has given us a strategy in the Bible.
“(4) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: (5) And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (6) And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: (7) And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and thou risest up. (8) And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. (9) And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and of thy gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
“(8) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (9) Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: (10) But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gatees: (11) For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:8-11)
I would like to first discuss the most basic step for parents to train their children to live for the Lord: that is, to teach their children what God has said in the Bible. It is unfortunate that many parents have stopped obeying this commandment, and have left this duty solely to the Sunday school teacher, the children’s pastor, and the youth pastor. While these servants of the Lord may have more expertise, none of them will be as influential as the parent who teaches his own children the word of God. The ministers of God’s word, knowledgeable as they may be, are strangers to the child. The parent, on the other hand, has a close relationship with the child, is an authority figure over him, and is loved and trusted by the child. For this reason, God has placed the burden of teaching his word to the children on the children’s parents. They are the ones who will give the greater account to God for teaching them.
So how will you teach God’s words to your own children? I recently wrote on my Facebook profile about a soft Noah’s Ark toy by FAO Schwarz that I saw at Babies R Us. I thought it would make a great prop for storytelling to my son someday. One of my Facebook friends pointed out, however, that the story of Noah’s Ark is in reality a very gruesome story. Because of humanity’s violence and immorality, God destroyed all animal and human life in the planet, except for those who were in the ark. My response to this individual’s comment was that I obviously did not want to start the story with the gruesome details about immorality, violence, and death.
At first, the story of Noah’s ark can revolve around the fact that God told Noah to build an ark because there was a great storm approaching, and that Noah and those that were with him did not have to worry about their safety because God was with them all the time. Details can be added to explain that the waters rose very high, but Noah’s ark did not sink because God was protecting everyone in it. As time goes one, the child will eventually ask more details about the story, and the parent can then supply those details to give the child a better picture of what is was going on. The important thing, then, is that the child will learn God’s word slowly, and that he will remember that God is a shelter to them that love Him and obey Him.
So then, parents have a responsibility to teach God’s word to their children, and it is advisable that they do so in a way that the children can understand it, being mindful always of what truth about God is being communicated.
The second step that I would like to bring to our attention is that parents should have meaningful conversations with their children about life and faith. God has instructed parents to talk about God’s word with their children at all times, including the morning, the afternoon, and the evening; the times when the family wakes up, when they work, and when they return to bed. The idea here is that the Bible has to be applied to life, to every situation that the child and the family are facing.
Parents of preteens and teens can use formal family devotions for this purpose also. All they have to do is to learn to ask questions to their children about what is going on in their lives, and to learn to discretely share with their children some issues they themselves are facing. Both the children and the parents can then brainstorm or research what the Bible says about these matters. Then they can pray together for God’s help in the issues that they are facing. Moreover, the family can also learn to sing to God together.
Family devotions can become the central activity that brings the whole family together. The parents and the children can learn to enjoy sharing with each other the challenges they are facing, what God is doing in their lives, and how God is answering their prayers. In an age when families spend most of their time apart from each other because of school activities, work, and technology, the Christian family must learn to push against the current and make the most of its time together.
God instructed the people of ancient Israel to take a day of physical rest and worship every week. That was supposed to be a sacred day for the family and the rest of society, and no one was supposed to do anything else other than to rest, spend time together, and worship the Lord. As we read the books of Moses, we also learn that there were several special holidays that God’s people were supposed to keep. These holidays were times of great social interaction, worship, and quality time with the family. Therefore, we must understand that parents should also use family activities to teach their children about God, and that the most important of these family activities is weekly church attendance.
The children should understand that worshipping God with other believers is an indispensable part of the Christian life. Going to church should be the norm, and they should grow up knowing that it is expected of them. If they are sick, it is fine to skip church and rest. But church take precedence over their friendships, recreation, and even their studies. God wants us to set apart one day a week to rest and to worship Him.
I disagree with parents who allow their children to decide whether they will attend church or not. These parents have failed to understand that they are to be life coaches to their children, training them to serve the Lord for the rest of their lives. And why do the children need the training? It is because they do not know yet to make the wise choice. In this matter, the parents ought to be the leaders and set the expectation for the children. Then as church becomes more complex, having multiple activities throughout the week, the family ought organize itself and decide through prayer and the instruction of their pastor what church activities are most necessary for the family to attend.
The fourth step in regards to God’s plan for parenting has to do with manipulating the environment. He expects the home to reflect the family’s love for Him. For this reason, He commanded his people to write his words on the door posts and the walls of their homes. Everything in the family life ought to point back to a deep devotion and great love for God, our Lord.
I remember growing up that a friend from Korea gave me a little key chain with an image of the Buddha attached to it. As I matured in my faith, I realized God did not want me to have an idol in my possession. Eventually, I gave up the key chain and disposed of it. I understood, even as a child, that idols are displeasing to the Lord, and that I was not supposed to keep any of them at home.
Today, however, there are different kinds of idols in our homes. Chief among them is pornography. But then there are also posters of rock bands, movies about witchcraft, and books with different philosophies of life than the Christian worldview presented to us in the Scriptures. What would Jesus say if He were to enter our homes? Would He feel that He is being honored, and that those things that we have at home show reverence to Him? Or would He be offended by the many idols the world keeps in their homes today?
God’s word ought to be accessible to us in our own homes. Those things that we keep at home should also remind us of who He is and what He has done for us. Nothing that offends Him should be allowed to remain in our homes and be an influence over our children.
Even our children’s clothes should reflect our high regard for God’s holiness. What we wear, how we dress, also indicates how much we love and revere God. Neither the parents nor the children should wear anything that is indecent or inappropriate, or anything that promotes anti biblical values, and much less anything that has to do with the strange philosophies and religions of this world.
God means to bless parents through their children. They are there so that parents can enjoy a loving relationship with them throughout their lives. Nevertheless, God has also placed a great burden on the parents: He wants the parents to train their children for life, particularly to become lifelong followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, parents need to search the Scriptures diligently and discern the instructions God has given them on how to do this.
As we have seen, parents are supposed to train their children for the Lord by (1) explicitly teaching them the Scriptures, (2) conversing with them about life from the point of view of faith, (3) making sure that the families activities are honoring to God, and (4) making sure that the children grow up in a godly environment that communicates a deep regard for God’s person and word.
The last step that we could mention is actually the very first thing we find in Deuteronomy 6:4. Parents themselves ought to love the Lord with all their hearts, strength, and souls. Training children for the Lord often involves parents having to surrender to the Lord areas that they have not yet surrendered. It involves learning to choose family appropriate music, TV shows, and activities on the computer. It involves learning to resolve conflict without yelling and cursing, but in a respectful and intelligent manner. It involves modeling how to live for God.
Please, take time to participate in the poll and to respond to the questions on the comments section.
What did you think?
Please choose your response to this message.
Questions for Reflection
1. According to the article, what does God want me to accomplish as a parent?
2. According to the article, what steps does God want me to follow as a parent?
3. How do I rate my performance as a parent before the Lord? Why?
4. What changes do I need to make in order to conform my parenting style to God's vision for parenting?