Parents have a very unique position. They get to shape and mold the lives of other human beings. Think about the power of that for a minute. Whatever you put in, you will get out…years down the road. Children are only small for a short season.
The Lord is going to show us from Proverbs the 3 primary spiritual responsibilities that parents have. Yes, there are other responsibilities in the physical realm, but Proverbs focuses on our spiritual responsibilities.
1. Parents need to be spiritually mature.
In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. – Proverbs 14:26
The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him! – Proverbs 20:7
It’s hard to pass down what you don’t possess. Your spiritual maturity as a parent will be seen by your children.
2. Parents need to teach & train their children in the Lord.
Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.” – Proverbs 4:1-5
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
When reading Proverbs it is important to remember that the truths of Proverbs function as general principles of the way things work and not absolute promises of the way things work. Proverbs 22:6 is an excellent example. Generally, when parents train their children in the ways of the Lord, that is the way that they live their adult lives. But this is not always true. If not properly understood, Proverbs 22:6 will become a sledgehammer of guilt and questioning – something it was never intended to be.
3. Parents need to discipline their children.
This would be rather unpopular for us “enlightened” people in the 21st century. Nonetheless, discipline is an important part of parenting. Children are not born in a condition of perfection. They are born sinful and must learn the ways of the Lord. This requires correction when they err. (more on this at end of post)
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:11-12
The parent’s discipline seeks to refine the child. But ultimately, a parent should seek a child that is self-disciplined and under the Lord’s discipline. In a way, the discipline that a parent gives to a child should prepare the child for independence from the parents and dependence on the Lord. That dependence on the Lord means that the child will understand the loving nature of the Lord’s discipline because he/she experienced the loving nature of his/her own parents’ discipline.
What are some practical ways that we live out these 3 spiritual responsibilities? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Nurture your own spiritual life. As stated above, it’s hard to pass down what you don’t have. You need to drink from the fountains and be strong in the Lord for your children. Do your kids ever see your spiritual life in action? For example, do they see dad or mom reading the Bible?
2. Don’t abandon the church! The church is a life-giving place (or should be – another topic). Parents need to communicate the critical importance of the church to their children. It is popular today to like Jesus but not want to have anything to do with the church. But the church is the bride of Christ. You don’t tell a man that you like him and want to hang out with him, but you don’t want to have anything to do with his wife. Communicate to your kids both verbally and thru attendance that the church is important.
3. Make it a whole family thing.
4. Work with everyday life. Everything is spiritual and every moment is teachable if you embrace it. Have fun!
5. When you discipline…
- It should always, always, always be redemptive in nature.
- Never discipline in anger
- All discipline should be fully explained. We make our children tell us why they are being disciplined.
- Don’t leave your kids after you discipline them. Discipline must be individualized to each child, but whatever form it takes…embrace your children after you discipline them. Tell them you love them. Don’t let them be alone. Be with them.