A Faithful Student Ministry Must Partner With Parents (Part 2)
My Dad owns a landscaping company. For as long as I can remember, I went to work with him and learned the family business. It began with pulling weeds and picking up sticks, then I learned to push mow, then run the weed eater and hedge trimmer, so on and so forth. I also learned how to fertilize grass, adjust ground PH, install sprinkler systems, trim trees appropriately, etc. Now that I own a home, I love caring for my yard! Further, I have some job security. I know how to run a lawn and landscaping business. I learned it from my Dad—through his example, through his teaching, through his making me actually get out there and do it. The Bible prescribes a similar approach to teaching kids how to obey God.
In the first post, I argued that The parent-child relationship is a picture of the God-worshipper relationship (Deuteronomy 5:16). In this second post, I will argue that parents are responsible for teaching obedience to God.
Parents responsible for teaching obedience to God (Deuteronomy 6:1-20).
After the Ten Commandments are given, Moses gives the great Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” Love, worship, and obedience to God are our central duties as believers—whether under the Old Covenant or the New. Notice that in the very next set of verses, Moses commands all parents to teach this same posture to one’s children: “7You 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. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Parents, especially fathers, are to take the lead in passing the faith on to the next generation. For an Israelite, the first mark of being in the faith was belonging to a family. It was the duty of the parents to circumcise their sons into the faith, to consecrate them to God, to retell the Exodus story at the annual family Passover meal, and to teach them to obey God. Parents were given the responsibility to disciple their children. For Israelites, worship of God happened day-by-day in the home. This is why parental authority was and remains so central. It is the responsibility of Christian parents to lead their children in the worship of God and in obedience to his Word.
Deuteronomy 6 is the application of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5. Deuteronomy 6 tells Israel what it looks like to obey the Ten Commandments. Notice that Deuteronomy 6:1-3 links keeping the commandments to long life (Deuteronomy 6:2 — “that your days may be long”) and to general flourishing in life (Deuteronomy 6:3 — “that it may go well with you”). This language is identical to the language in the fifth commandment. Children must honor, and parents must teach. If both happen, the fear of God will pass on to the next generation.
Why is there such an emphasis on parental responsibility in the law of Moses? For Israelites, parents who failed to disciple their children were a threat to the entire covenant community. Rebellious children might teach other members of the covenant community to rebel against God. On the other hand, if Israelite parents raised God-fearing children, they virtually guaranteed generational security in the land via God’s covenant blessings.
There is a need to be careful here when considering how this truth transfers into the age of the church and the Christian home. Jesus Christ is the one who secures God’s covenant blessings—salvation!—for us. For Christian parents, passing on the fear of God does not guarantee a child’s salvation. In fact, the same applied for faithful Israelites. In the end, it is God who must soften hearts. Nevertheless, the responsibility to teach and train children in the fear of the Lord is not diminished. Christian parents must train children in godliness and prepare their hearts to be worshippers of God. See part 3 for my treatment of Ephesians 6:1-4.
The method prescribed for discipling children in Deuteronomy 6 is immersive. Parents are to diligently and intentionally teach their children all the time. They are to take and make every opportunity they can to teach their children to fear, love, and obey Yahweh. This is how the faith is passed on. This is how parents disciple their children. It is their primary responsibility to teach.
Here is an overview post for this summer series—What You Must Do: A Biblical Philosophy of Student Ministry.