Christian education – obeying Deuteronomy 6:4-7
The world tells us to give our children space to discover the world themselves and to come to their own conclusions about things. Let the society and the state socialize them so they are normal, well-adjusted people. Children and teens increasingly find their identity, meaning and purpose outside of the home, while the house becomes just a home base between activities.
But Scripture tells us to teach our children diligently. Literally to carve or cut God’s word into them. Parents are primarily responsible for the Christian nurture of their children. Eph 6:4 directs fathers to raise up children in God’s ways. The goal is more than just mental or academic understanding; it is godly living. We are to engage in this often – many times a day. When you rise up, when you lie down, when you drive down the road. Talk with your children, about Jesus Christ and how to serve him, all the time.
Now, remember always, that our task is to teach, disciple and shepherd the hearts of your children. We do not react to the lack of restraint among children in the world, by focusing on outward restraint. Children, the main thing isn’t that you are orderly and well-behaved, but that you know and love the Lord. Your good behavior is the fruit of that love. Your cheerful obedience is a beautiful testimony to the goodness and saving power of the Lord Jesus. Parents, the obedience of your children is not a merit badge for you to wear, showing others how spiritual you are. It is not the goal, to justify yourself before God or before the world. By faith, God already reckons us righteous, with the obedience of Christ. We don’t have to prove our own righteousness to Him or to others. The parenting solution is not an automatic, external one, but comes from faithful obedience to the Lord.
But we ought to be eager to work out our salvation, and to bear fruit for His kingdom. So do a heart check this morning on your motivation for discipling your children the way you do. Is it out of disgust for the world, or out of love and service to Christ? Is it because you need to prove to God or to yourself that you are a true believer? Or is it because you want to cheerfully obey your Lord in His Word here in Deut 6:6-7?
Once we have clear the goal – shepherding childrens’ hearts – and our motivation – not to attain or keep righteousness before God, but to work out our salvation, we can start talking about how we disciple and educate our children.
Deut 6 does not require that every believer home-school their children. Some argue this, that you can’t teach your children when you rise up and lay down and driving down the road, which basically means “all the time,” if they are in school all day. This has some merit, but isn’t air-tight enough to make us require home-schooling. Others argue that you deprive your children of the varied experiences, backgrounds and expertise of teachers, if they only have parents to teach them. There may be something to this, and one can home-school badly in a variety of ways. We must be willing to be self-critical of home-schooling, if we are going to effectively serve the Lord through it. We shouldn’t assume we are doing well spiritually, just because we are home-schooling. At the same time, when we see home-schoolers, we are prone to celebrate, and not narrow our eyes in suspicion, because it usually means families are taking initiative, and taking seriously their calling to disciple their children. But even as we say that, we may not doubt or even judge the spirituality of parents who put their children in a good Christian school.
We are more sensitive to the dangers of age-segregated schools than to the dangers of home-schooling, but we do not judge day-schoolers as less spiritual or wise for their choice, as long as the school is intentional about keeping the parents’ responsibility for their children primary.
These are tricky waters to navigate. They call for an immense amount of forbearance and grace with one another. But look at the way your Lord Jesus Christ served you, when you had greatly offended Him. Can we not do the same for one another, serving each other in smaller ways, ignoring much smaller offenses and differences?
Whatever you do, remember the main point of Deut 6: parents, teach your children the Bible. Teach them how to think about God, about annual holidays, about their redemption in Christ. When your son asks you time to come, then say to your son: ‘we were slaves of the devil in sin, and the Lord brought us out of that with a mighty hand by the Lord Jesus Christ, he showed signs and wonders before our eyes. Then He brought us out from that sin, to bring us in to the good land He promised to me, and to you, and to all who are far off. If you obey, me, you will possess the land and multiply greatly.’