Every parent wants to raise happy, well-adjusted and successful children. Toward that end, I regularly consulted books full of child-rearing advice during times of parental angst. I also wondered what the Bible had to say on the subject and was surprised to find precious little explicit parenting advice. Having learned a thing or two from what the Bible does not say about self-esteem and marriage, I was not discouraged. Sure enough, what the Bible does NOT say about parenting is instructive.
But first, here’s what the Bible does say to parents.
A paraphrase of one of the more explicit teachings on parenting might read something like this, from Ephesians 6:1-4, “Children, obey your parents. They are doing their best. Even if you don’t agree, obey them anyway because it’s the right thing to do. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—because they have more life experience than you do and can save you a lot of trouble and heartache if you just follow their advice. Fathers, do not exasperate your children by yelling at them on the soccer field or being overly critical, instead, love them like the Lord loves you, gently teaching, always being there for them and modeling a Godly life for them.”
It’s a short passage, but a tall order.
Stories of biblical families teach implicit lessons, mostly through their failures. Jacob was notoriously given to favoritism, which he learned from his parents, Isaac and Rebekah. David, for all his brilliance, had more than his share of family dysfunction. I can’t imagine how Solomon had any impact on his children at all, given that he had 700 or so wives, not to mention his concubines. Who knows what went on in that household?
What I found most instructive for my parenting was an examination of the way our heavenly Father deals with us – his children. He loves us. He provides for us. He is always with us. He is patient with us and never gives us a job we can’t handle with His help. He picks us up when we fall down. He forgives us over and over and over again. Yes, he demands obedience and lets us take our lumps when we fail, but he is always there for us and restores us when we repent.
What I did NOT find in the Bible were commands to develop straight-A students, star athletes, children of great beauty, gifted musicians, talented writers, or otherwise greatly accomplished children. These are the expectations of a competitive world, not those of God. As far as I can tell, God expects us to teach our children His ways. He commands us to love them and discipline them. He wants us to raise children with a right heart before the Lord and an honorable character. That’s it. The rest is up to God.
What a relief.