God's Word says, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). God wanted His people to have a "heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!" (Deuteronomy 5:29).
Right after that passage in Deuteronomy 5, Moses records one of the most important passages in the whole book of Deuteronomy — in fact, one of the key passages in all the Bible. In this passage, Deuteronomy 6:19, God gives us principles and practical strategies for raising families honoring to Him.
The Future for the Family
Moses teaches us that God promises a future for the family: Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that you might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: that thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. (Deuteronomy 6:12).
In this passage, God promises a future for three generations of the family. The promise begins with the parents and continues with the children and grandchildren. Don't children usually act according to the principles of life they learn from their parents?
Plato said, "the life of the nation is the life of the family written large" (paraphrased). A juvenile delinquent is often just a child trying to act like his or her parents. And godly children usually learn their godliness by watching godly parents.
The Foundation for the Family
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 says, "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD: and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." The foundation for the family is a love for God. That may sound simplistic, but it's true. And profound. Love God with a sincere love — that means with all your heart.
Many kids are turned off to God because they see that their parents who profess religion don't really love God with all their hearts. Take the example of Karl Marx. Karl was born into a German Jewish family that attended synagogue faithfully. When Karl was a boy, his father moved the family to another city and another faith. From that day forth, the Marx family went to the Lutheran church.
Why did the family suddenly switch faiths? Because his father said it would be easier to make business contacts in the Lutheran church than among the Jews. Karl was so disillusioned by his father's act of hypocrisy that something died within the boy.
When Karl grew up, he moved to England, where he eventually wrote "The Communist Manifesto," the founding document of Communism. In his writings, he called religion "the opiate of the people."
Kids know hypocrisy when they see it. They want parents who love God so sincerely that nothing is marked as private from God.
The Formula for the Family
Parents, you have a responsibility to transmit your faith to your children. It's not the preacher's job, the Sunday school teacher’s job, the college professor's job, it's your job. Here's how God's Word says to do it:
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sitteth in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
Spiritual training is the family's responsibility. And nobody else can take the family's place. Unfortunately, many families in our day are abandoning that responsibility. God made children to depend on their parents. Regular character education — based on the Bible and the wisdom of parental experience — needs to start when children are young.
Francis Xavier, the Catholic educator, said, "You give me the children until they're seven, and anyone can have them after that." Starting spiritual training early is a very important aspect of fulfilling parental responsibilities.
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