Parenting. What a challenge this can be. Parents desire the best for their children but are so hindered by their own sinfulness and negative experiences. In spite of these hindrances, there exists a clear mandate for parents to instruct their children in God’s ways.
God actually gives parents his authority to carry out his wishes. Parents have authority over their children. This authority is God-given and God-sanctioned. It is not embarrassing, coercive, or abusive. This authority exists for parents to implement God to their children. Recognizing this is so critical to raising a child. Naturally this authority can be freely used to glorify God but cannot be used to advance selfishness or abuse upon children.
A parent might say, “OK, so I have authority but I’m not sure how to use it.” We begin with a child’s heart. Mom and Dad always seek the welfare of a child’s heart because this is the seat of emotions, actions, and words. As our Lord said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” In shepherding our children, we seek to understand why they do what they do. Only when we take time to fully investigate the passions in their hearts are we best positioned to apply the gospel to them. Rather than focus on curtailing external behavior, a mistake we all make so quickly, we focus on the heart. Perhaps we are short on time. Perhaps we don’t want to take the time. Perhaps we don’t know how. We must begin with understanding the heart of a child.
Here is an example. Johnny strikes Suzy. The parent seeks to understand what it was in Johnny’s heart that prompted him to strike his sister. Most likely, he couldn’t have what he wanted so he lashed out and struck in order to satisfy his wants. At that moment, he has hurt his sister, disobeyed his parents, and ultimately disobeyed God, in whose image Suzy is made, all because his wishes were thwarted. The believing parent now understands where the problem is. It isn’t with the striking, it is with Johnny’s high view of his own passions. He will do anything, including hurting other people, to satisfy his own urges. The parent can reference our Lord who accepted hardship and entrusted himself to God who took care of him. Here is the gospel applied to everyday life for this child. Additionally, Johnny is brought up close to the sinfulness of his own heart. He desperately needs grace.
The text we read this morning speaks to the instruction that parents give to their children. This instruction takes place at the dinner table, while you are driving to school, on your way to church, on your way home, while you do life. We can note too, the one who is instructing is living this out himself. Sadly, this lack of personal devotion to the gospel compromises the reliability of the one teaching. The day will come when your son or daughter questions the faith, questions you. Then you explain your faith story just like the Israelites explain their faith story.
We come now to the area of discipline. Dr. Phil and many others have taught openly that spanking is wrong. According to Scripture, Dr. Phil is wrong. God very clearly says that the parent who denies his son the rod, hates him (Proverbs 13:24). Discipline, spanking, or any other method that the parent chooses must be appropriate to the consequence. It must be communicated ahead of time. And, it must be delivered lovingly, consistently, and in line with the gospel. Otherwise, we are teaching hypocrisy and mere adherence to external forms. If we do not correct our children, according to God, we then hate our children. We set them up to fail, how cruel this is.
We are blessed as parents with a high calling. We have the privilege of applying the gospel to ourselves and then to our children. May we make it our mission to introduce our children to Christ.
The text referenced above is Deut. 6:4-9, 20-25. Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.