Parenting did not come with a promise that it would be easy. I have traveled to the Middle East, served in a third world country, led a junior high boys youth retreat, completed a triathlon, and endured two root canals. But nothing compares to the challenge and hard work of being a parent. Faithfulness always comes at a cost.
As you know, parenting also comes with great joy. The Christian parent understands that God rules over all people, but He also uniquely rules through His people, to accomplish His purposes in the world. God is a sovereign King over all of creation, but in love, He works through us as a means to accomplish His purposes. Though God is the One who gives faith, we have been given the privilege of helping to pass on faith to our children.
We first read this command for parents to pass on their faith in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Through Moses, God was instructing parents to be teachers. As Moses stood before the Israelite community, he spoke these words:
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Today, if you were to go into a Jewish home, you would notice a small wooden box (a mezuzah) hanging at a slight angle in each doorframe. Inside each mezuzah you would find a rolled piece of paper with this passage handwritten on it. It serves as a constant reminder for parents that they are to faithfully teach God’s Word to their children. In this short passage, we see both the command and the context for teaching.
The command, in verse 7, is to “impress” God’s commandments on our children. In Hebrew, this is a word that means to sharpen. It is used most frequently to describe someone who is sharpening a sword or arrow. The idea here is that just as someone consistently whets or sharpens an object to make it useful, parents are to faithfully instruct their children in God’s words and ways. As parents we are “sharpening arrows” (Psalm 127) of love, truth, and light, to be released in the world.
Teaching isn’t just transferring information. Our children don’t just need new information. Ultimately our children need a new birth. The goal of all teaching is to lead our children to faith in Jesus. Verse 7 not only records the command to teach, but also the context for teaching. To put it simply, God desires for parents to teach in the context of loving relationships with our children in the classroom of life. This context provides the opportunity for our children to not only learn God’s Word, but also grow to love God’s Word and God’s ways.
In the New Testament book of 2 Timothy 3, we read how Timothy had a parent who faithfully taught him the scriptures from a young age. Notice verses 14-15:
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
We cannot give our children faith, but we can give them faithfulness in teaching.