Moses famously wrote,
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”(Deuteronomy 6:6–7).
Whose job is spiritual training, anyhow?
This passage was part of the theocracy of Israel—God was recognized and trusted as the actual Head of State. Yet even in Israel, parents had the primary responsibility of spiritual training.
The church does not have primary responsibility, it’s intended by God to play a complementary role. We cannot abdicate our responsibilities. God designed the home and the family expressly for training children in the ways of the Lord. It’s a high priority to God!
Can we expect the church to help? Of course. Should we hold the church accountable if it doesn’t provide support and guidance? Yes! But spiritual training and character building begin with those who have the most influence—parents, siblings, extended family. If our values are Bible–based and truth–driven, children will inherit a great deal of that.
How are we to train those in our purview?
Deuteronomy makes the method clear: “These commands…are to be upon your hearts”—that is, internal, not just external; a way of thinking–and–living, of being, not just a way of talking. God’s principles from Scripture are to be constantly taught and modeled through earnest effort and sincere application. When was the last time you talked to your child or grandchild (or your brother or sister) about the Bible or about Jesus? What are you waiting for? The world will never do it!
These verses say, “Talk about the principles of God when you hang out at home with your family, go to their activities, or wherever you see life happening. Have spiritual conversations when you’re putting them to bed and getting them up for the day. Put the teachings of God in front of your family members (yes, even when they are adults).
Teach by spoken word, literature, music, images and by personal example, the things God will one day hold us responsible for teaching to our families. Godly older siblings can have a hand in the spiritual maturing of their brothers and sisters too.
In an Our Daily BreadTM devotional, Martin DeHaan wrote about his uncle who had grown a cucumber inside a clear glass bottle. The ’cuke was almost as big as the bottle, and could never be removed without damaging the vegetable, or the bottle.
His uncle would never tell him how he got that ‘cuke in there and as a young lad he was puzzled. One day his mother explained to him that when the cucumber was tiny and still connected to the life–giving vine, it was maneuvered carefully inside the bottle. As it grew, it filled the bottle more and more until it wouldn’t come out. Then the vine was cut and, voila, it looked like a miracle had occurred.
Start when the cucumber is small, and great things are possible. Start when the child is young and you can have a miraculous godly influence on that precious little one.
What priority is the spiritual training of others?
If we made it up the ladder to CEO or only to manager or just laborer, will God punish us for not being a “success”?
What if we had the nicest house in the neighborhood, or could only afford a modest home? God will not care, unless it keeps us from being generous and joyful in giving to His Kingdom work.
Will we be accountable if we earned all the educational degrees possible in our field (not something I discourage), though it meant giving up family time or ministry opportunities?
If our chosen lifestyle is so expensive that we cannot support what God is doing at home and abroad, what questions will we have to answer on Judgment Day?
If we saw every movie that came out (regardless the moral or ethical values they espouse), will we have to answer for what we spent our time doing?
If the resources we would otherwise use to support missions and reaching people with the Good News were spent on the classic car under the cover in the garage—ouch! What could I say to God?
This exercise is all about the priorities by which we live and make our daily choices. In 2021 will we choose the road to family blessing even over such good things as career, relaxation or education?
NEXT Time: make a biblical, specific and intentional plan for Service to God . . .