It was the beginning of a long week after a particularly emotional, stressful weekend. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to dying to self that day and teaching my children spelling, math or reading. In fact I was feeling a little bit more like, “I deserve a break!”
My son began struggling with a math problem that he didn’t understand, and instead of patiently explaining it to him, I opened the teacher’s guide to the page with the answers and slammed it down on the table in front of him.
Immediately convicted of the way I had acted, I apologized and gave him a hug. Then I softened my tone and walked him through the problem.
But my heart still wasn’t right.
When the kids took their usual snack and play break, I headed to my room to pray. I knew I was operating in the flesh and needed a major overhaul of my attitude.
Afterwards, I found my kiddo in the living room and confessed that I wasn’t acting very much like Jesus. I looked him in the eyes and told him I needed to pray so my heart would be changed.
My simple act demonstrated to my son (and daughter) humility and a brokenness over sin. It also showed that they can’t rely on their own strength to change, nor should they rely on what their feelings tell them.
This one thing was more important than the sum total of what they had already learned that morning in Language Arts, Math and Science. It was me living out my faith in front of them.
The passages we find in Deuteronomy 6 instruct us to do this very thing. These verses basically outline God’s design for families and tell us how to help our children have a lasting faith.
These were among the first commands Moses spoke to a new generation of Israelites in the book that prepared them for holy living. They had wandered in the desert for the last 40 years and were about to enter the promised land.
A divine blueprint for family discipleship
God was equipping Israel with what they needed to prosper as a nation and people. Namely that if they loved the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul, and strength, and also taught this very command to their children, then it would go well with them. Obeying would grant them long life and the setting apart from their pagan neighbors.
Jesus quotes directly from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 when he is asked what is the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:36-38. Here we see Jesus respond to what can rightly be described as a very big question. The scribe is essentially asking which commandment is the most important of all.
Deuteronomy 6:6 goes on to say, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” When I love God with all my heart, and have his Word on my heart, then I am equipped to teach my kids to love God and His Word.
There is a reason verses five and six precede verse seven. Before I can teach my children to love God and His Word, I, the teacher, must love God and His Word.
If I am not well-nourished and communing with God, I can’t pass on to them the life and hope of Jesus. I can’t effectively help them to navigate a world filled with meanness, uncertainty, and tragedy.
Christian parenting is modeling first, instructing second. You have to have God’s law written on your own heart. If you don’t own it, you can’t sell it.
Impressing the greatest commandment on our children
We are to diligently teach the “love of the LORD our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength” to our children, not just some of the time, or when it’s convenient, or when we happen to squeeze it in between other activities. The comprehensive, all encompassing nature of verse 7, specifically where the amount of time covered is concerned (as in: all of it), could not be more plain.
We are told by God that we shall see to it that this is done:
- “When you sit in your house” (when we are in our homes)
- “When you walk by the way” (when we are outside of our homes)
- “When you lie down” (when we bring our day to a close)
- “When you rise” (when we begin the day)
From the beginning of the day to the end of the day, wherever our children may be, we should strive to see to it that all of their intellectual pursuits – including both the planned and the unintended, the “at home” and the “away from home” – are purposefully built upon the explicit, loving command to love the LORD our God.
We tend to dismiss verse 7 though, as if it were not relevant to our Christian lives today. The 24/7/365 discipleship paradigm, centered on the commandments of God, honestly makes most of us uneasy.
But Jesus quotes the 4th and 5th verses of Deuteronomy 6 in response to the scribe and earlier, the 13th and 16th verses in response to two of the three temptations given Him by the devil. Should we assume that all of these verses can be confirmed as authoritative, yet the seventh verse is something less?
Parenting with the education of our children in mind
God has given children to their parents (Genesis 33:5, 1 Samuel 1:27, Psalm 127:3), and has charged them with inalienable rights and responsibilities. They are your children, not wards of the state.
Their minds, bodies, and souls have been entrusted by God to you. He would not have entrusted those children to you if He was not able and willing to equip you to educate them.
As your child’s parent you have the God-given right, responsibility and authority to direct their education. A Christian education in the ways of the Lord is a direct application of Deuteronomy 6:4-7, and it ensures faithful generations to come.
May we discover that we want to love God with everything in us, so that when we teach our children diligently, they will know that this message is from our hearts and is the most important pursuit of our lives!