From the Old Testament to the New, the principle has remained the same. It is the job of parents to teach their own children the truths of Scripture. In Ephesians 6:4, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul tells the believers at Ephesus that the job of spiritual leadership falls firmly on the shoulders of every Christian dad. This is not a duty to be neglected or delegated. It is God’s design that every father train his children in the truth of God.
So then, what does this training look like? In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Moses gave the same admonition, and included a few more details to consider. Before ever commanding the Hebrew fathers to train their children, Moses started with “and these words shall be in thine heart.” Before a father could ever instruct his children in the truth of God, he must study and know that truth himself. To be a good teacher of the Bible, the father must first be a good student of the Bible. And while it is absolutely necessary that every father strive to learn and grow in the faith, a lack of knowledge should never serve as a disabling excuse for the abdication of the fatherly role of spiritual instructor. Some of the best teachers are those who are constantly learning and are excited to teach the truths that are fresh and delightful to them. Parents (and especially Christian fathers) must exhaust themselves in the study of God’s word.
After learning and knowing the truth of God, Christian fathers must teach their children those truths. When? The answer to this reflex question is simple: always. “When you sit in your house, when you walk down the road (or drive your car), when you are getting ready for bed in the evening, when you get up in the morning.” After reading the words of Moses here, it almost seems as if there is no space left in a day where Christian fathers are not instructing their children in the truth of God. But there is…after their children go to sleep.
The two most natural responses to this great call of parenting are as follows: 1) I don’t think I could ever do this with my kids. I am exhausted when I get done with work. Or, 2) I spend a lot of time with my kids, we play ball and do a lot of work with our hands and spend quite a bit of time together.
To the first objection, I would argue that there is a grave misunderstanding as to a parental role. In this erroneous view, the “work” that is most important and requires the most energy is the work that is done outside of the house. This is the exact opposite of what God has taught us through the inspired writing of both Moses and Paul. There is no work as important in the life of a Christian parent as instructing and teaching their young people. Ford, and GE and every other corporation’s needs pale in comparison to the eternal needs of children.
To the second objection, being with your children is not the same as instructing them. This is why Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:4 aren’t “Fathers spend a lot of time with your kids.” Rather, he writes specifically, “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” It is the God commanded responsibility to teach the truths of God’s word before teaching how to shoot a free-throw. It is of higher priority to instruct a child in the character of God than for them to learn how to ride a bicycle. It is of much greater importance that a young person learn to read and understand God’s word for themselves than to ever learn the nuance of finance or the tricks to getting a bargain. Everyday life lessons must take back seat to eternal life lessons. This is the duty of a Christian father. And if we recall the purpose of this entire section of Paul’s epistle, this is the evidence of a Spirit-filled life. Whether parenting now, or by God’s grace parenting in the future, the call and duty for all parents will always remain the same – encourage and instruct young minds in the truths of the Lord.
Reflect: What does Godly parenting look like? What are some things that people assume is “good enough” parenting? How do these types fall short of God’s standard?