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The moment I knew that I would become a father, I got myself a copy of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care. This bestselling book by pediatrician Benjamin Spock was the most authoritative guide for parenting and childcare in the 1980s.
My scramble for that book was driven in part by a sense of helplessness. I had invested some 16 years of my life in formal education, preparing and equipping myself with skills to function as a professional in the industry. Yet, when it came to parenting and raising a precious new life, I was given a mere nine months to learn it all.
In that moment of angst, I asked myself: “Me, a parent? Really?”
It didn’t seem to make sense.
Thankfully, God didn’t leave us clueless and hapless in our parenting journey: He gave His Word as a roadmap to help us navigate our way.
My wife and I resolved that we would teach God’s Word to our children as early as possible, following the impetus of Proverbs 22:6: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
We wanted to inculcate godly habits of reading the Bible into their daily routines. So, we invested in a couple of children’s Bibles, reading to them Bible stories every night, with the hope that they would read the Bible for themselves soon enough.
As fellow parents, you might be doing the same with your kids today. But, surprisingly, getting our children to read the Bible isn’t the first thing God wants us to do as parents.
There’s a prerequisite—something more fundamental and foundational that God wants us to do first.
First Things First
Our journey of being a good parent begins long before we become one. And it begins with knowing and loving our God for ourselves. In this verse that many of us are familiar with, Deuteronomy 6:5 states:
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
This, Jesus says, “is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:38).
To love God is to love and obey His Word. More than just verbally regurgitating the Bible to children, we are to live out its truth before our kids. I like how The Message Bible translation puts it (emphasis mine): “Get [God’s Word] inside of you and then get them inside your children” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
The biblical way to teach the Bible to our children is to live out the truths of the Bible. It is a way of life. It is lifestyle parenting.
If we don’t know God’s Word ourselves, we won’t be able to teach it. If we don’t love and fear God ourselves, we won’t be able to model that to our children. We simply cannot give what we ourselves do not possess. The biblical way to teach the Bible to our children is to live out the truths of the Bible. It is a way of life. It is lifestyle parenting.
Bucking the Trend
Before we got married, we made the commitment that our family would be Christ-centred and Word-centred.
By the time we had our second daughter, I was already in full-time pastoral ministry; I was also studying in the seminary at the same time. By then, my wife had also been studying Scripture in a Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. The children could thus see that reading and studying the Bible was a priority and regular activity for us—and it became theirs, too, as they joined the BSF’s children’s programme.
And while it was tempting to scale down our ministry involvement when we became parents, we tried to balance the demands of parenting and church work. We continued doing premarital counselling for young couples and mentoring newlyweds, while my wife continued to teach the Bible to domestic workers. We also sought to immerse our young daughters in these ministries.
If we want God to be our children’s God, then He should first be ours. If we want our children to know God’s Word, we need to know the Bible ourselves first. If we want them to serve God, then we must lead by example, by serving Him first.
Don’t Farm Out Your Spiritual Responsibility
Being musically challenged, I was not able to teach my daughters the piano. So, I sent them to music school. Many parents do the same for art or sports lessons, or tuition and enrichment programmes . . . and for Bible study, too.
After all, some of us might think: Why not? Teaching God’s Word is the forte of Sunday school teachers and youth pastors—after all, they’re more qualified to teach the Bible to our kids, not me.
The truth, however, is that God has made the home the place for teaching His truth—not Sunday school. And God has made parents responsible for this teaching task—not Sunday school teachers and pastors.
The primary responsibility to teach our children the Bible remains with us; Sunday school is supplementary.
Teaching God’s Word to children is our spiritual responsibility—and we have endless opportunities to do so at home. Deuteronomy 6:7 (NLT) emphasises repetition and persistence in this: “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”
Yes, my wife and I brought our daughters to Sunday school. And, we are thankful that their Sunday school teachers did a great job. But the primary responsibility to teach them the Bible remains with us; Sunday school is supplementary.
For example, when our girls were younger, we would casually ask them what they learnt from Sunday school, creating opportunities for further conversation on these Bible lessons. This allowed us to reinforce the teaching of God’s Word and to clarify any questions they might have had after church.
Let us not farm out or delegate our sacred duty to Sunday school teachers. Unlike playing the piano, we cannot give the excuse that we do not know the Bible. As Christians, we must know the Bible for ourselves, and teach it to our children.
What God Really Wants From Us
In his worship song in Psalm 78:5–7, the psalmist Asaph reminds us why God gives us His Word:
“[God] commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.”
At the end of the day, God gives us His Word so that we, our children, and our descendants will fear, obey, love, and trust in Him.
Are we leading our children, by word and deed, to believe in Jesus, as is the duty and privilege of every parent?
Are we prepared to talk to our children about God, about how He saved us from our sin, and the relationship we have—and they can have—with Jesus? Are we leading our children, by word and deed, to believe in Jesus, as is the duty and privilege of every parent?
Coming Full Circle
My three daughters are now adults. By God’s grace, they love God, and they love His Word. With much gratitude and thankfulness, I can testify that the faith that first lived in their mother now lives in them also (2 Timothy 1:4–5).
I am now a grandfather. I can see my daughter following the example of her mother, teaching God’s Word to her own daughter. It has come one full circle, with one generation telling the next about God.
This year, will we endeavour to know, love, and obey God and His Word better, and to teach our children to do the same—so that they will come to fear, obey, love, and trust Him?