Updated: Aug 16
The late Rabbi Jonathan Sachs wrote about the consequence of not teaching our children. He says, “What we do and how we live [as parents] does have an impact on the future to the third and fourth generations [referring to Exodus 34:7] . . . At a certain point, in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s a whole series of institutions and moral codes began to dissolve. Marriage was devalued. Families began to fracture. More and more children grew up without stable association with their biological parents.”[i] Added to these changes, the responsibility of teaching moved from the home to institutions. The results of these cultural changes are still unfolding in today’s societies. And for many parents, the God-designed identity of being a teacher to their children has been lost.
According to Scripture, our Heavenly Father’s design has always been for parents to teach their children—especially in the areas of faith and morality. In the book of Genesis, God called Abraham because he would “command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Gen 18:19). Later in time, God commissioned both fathers and mothers to be absorbed in His word and to be very intentional about teaching and training their children. They were not to allow the values of the surrounding cultures to influence future generations (see Deut 6:1–25).
The intentionality of keeping and teaching our Father’s instruction was reinforced in Paul’s command for parents to nurture their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:1–4). Likewise, those parents who were committed to teach their children were selected as the shepherds of the early church (1 Tim 3:2–4). They were fathers and mothers who paid attention to learn, who taught their own families, and were able to teach others also.
According to the later writings of the early church, parents were considered the only true teachers of their children. Through parents imparting the teaching of Scripture, their children would keep their faith intact even as they learned within the Roman school system. They held that the “school is at best an adjunct to the home. It is the parent who is responsible for bringing the child into the world: and it is the parent who is responsible for bringing the child to God.”[ii]
Unfortunately, in later centuries, biblical literacy became more and more the domain of priests and clergy rather than the inheritance of all God’s children. And in modern times, the responsibility of teaching children in the home shifted to church and school, leaving many new parents without an example of how to teach their children and what to teach them. The following observation was written twenty years ago.
On the matter of educating children, people today are as aware as ever of the pain and joy that comes with having children. Yet they appear to be much less confident. . . as parents to determine the character or future of their children. Faced by the inrush of mass communication and the breakup of extended and primary families, parents look to others to do for their children what they feel increasingly inept and uncertain about doing themselves.[iii]
Tony Evans made the statement, “Because parents have neglected their responsibilities to their children, there is chaos in the kingdom.” He goes on to talk about the many reasons why: from distractions with careers and the world to poverty and broken families. “Either through neglect, abuse, or simple absence, we are witnessing a generation of parentless people who are becoming parents themselves.”[iv]
The value of parents teaching their children cannot be overestimated. Secular research shows the great value of parents’ love and involvement with their children. In addition, a Barna research project (Households of Faith) highlighted on the impact of family on the faith of children.
Historically, in Bible times, the one who taught a child or young adult was considered as their father. And throughout history, and in our modern day, there are many who wish to influence children. They seek to “father” them through media, social pressure, in books, and (in some cases) in the classroom. However, the teaching by godly parents can cause their children to become strong in their faith and resilient in navigating the various influences they will encounter throughout life.
God is bringing a renewal to parents—a renewed desire to teach their children. Why is this significant? When children see their parents value God’s ways and when they receive their instruction in love, they will also attach great value to the teaching of Scripture in their own lives. They will pay attention to the teaching of their father and mother, they will learn the way in which they should walk, and they will have an example to follow in teaching their own children.
[i] Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, Essays on Ethics: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible (New Milford, CT: Maggid Books, 2016), 309. [ii] William Barclay, Train Up a Child: Educational Ideals in the Ancient World (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1959), 261–262. [iii] John W. Miller, Proverbs, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2004), 162. [iv] Tony Evans, Raising Kingdom Kids (Carrol Streams, IL: Tyndale House, 2014), 8, 10.