WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TELL US ABOUT TEACHING CHILDREN
As Christians, we study the Bible as our guide to life. It has several things to teach us about spiritual things, but also about what is practical. What does the Bible say about children?
1. CHILDREN ARE PART OF THE CREATIVE PLAN OF GOD.
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it:” — Genesis 1:28
After Adam and Eve had been created, God commanded them to be fruitful or to have children. The original design included families with children. Children were not an afterthought. Everything about creation was declared good, including his design for children.
2. CHILDREN ARE GIFTS FROM GOD TO FAMILIES.
“Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”—Psalm 127:3
The term “heritage” comes from the root meaning “to get or to inherit.” It is a privilege and responsibility to be entrusted with a little one of God. God works through us to foster their growth and development, advocate for them, and meet all their needs while in our care.
3. CHILDREN NEED TO BE NURTURED AND GUIDED.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”—Proverbs 22:6
When planting vines and some bushes, gardeners may tie them to a frame, such as a pole or a trellis, to prevent them from growing out of reach. Kids need a solid structure to keep their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual development on track. This means that we are present in their lives, that we help their growth and development, and that we lead by our godly example.
4. CHILDREN NEED DISCIPLINE.
“Correct thy son and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”—Proverbs 29:17
There’s no doubt that disciplining children is hard work. It takes the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control spoken of in Galatians 5:22-23. Parents who sincerely love their children will discipline them, just as God does with us (Hebrews 12:7). Not aggressively, but kindly, to lead them in the ways of the Lord. Done this way, they will become people who will be all that the Creator intends for them to become.
5. CHILDREN NEED PROTECTION.
“But we ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel until we have brought them unto their place: and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land.”—Numbers 32:17
We live in a world tainted by darkness. Child labor, physical violence, sexual violence, child neglect, and child marriage are just some of the problems that children can face today, not to mention opioid and alcohol addiction, intimidation, or gang involvement. God is our deliverer from trouble and threats, and we should protect children from those who want their harm as an extension of our love for him. Many of us are often called by God to serve as advocates to become experts in child protection services and organizations. Whether it’s a specialist or not, we should all be mindful of it and help protect the children.
6. GOD BLESSES CHILDREN.
“And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”—Mark 10:16
In blessing the children while here on earth as God incarnate, Jesus shows his devotion to the little ones. In verse 13 of this chapter, the disciples rebuked the people for bringing their children to Christ, possibly because they were talking to influential religious leaders. His response was outrage at the ignorance and pettiness of his followers. Their acts were unkind and disrespectful to these children. Children are not too unimportant to have the undivided attention of God. In every way, he wants to bless them.
Several people wonder what the Bible has to say about teaching children. The Bible instructs God’s people to teach children the laws of Christ. When parents take the time to train their children in the ways of God, they will not turn away from that path later in life. Jesus loved children. Paul offered further encouragement for teaching children about Christ in his writings in the New Testament.
The Bible contains several things about child discipline, particularly in the Book of Proverbs. As early as Deuteronomy 5:16, the will of God that children should obey their parents is made explicit. “Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
As good parents, we know that our children are a gift from God – a gift that comes with responsibility. Our responsibility is to raise them with moral standards (Psalm 127:3, Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Child discipline, then, is not about punishing wrong conduct as much as it is about setting courses. It is essential to lay a firm foundation for raising loving, moral, well-disciplined children.
Just like the Bible gives you and I guidelines for living our own lives, so it is rich with advice on child discipline. We also need to refer to the Bible for child training.
It’s no small thing to be a parent. It’s even more difficult to do well. How’s a parent supposed to know how to be a parent? Does the Bible offer direction on how to do this?
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” —Proverbs 29:17
In this reading, the Bible instructs the parent to “train” their child, but what exactly does that mean, and how is it done?
IN OTHER WORDS
In other translations, the widely cited verse reads differently.
“Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (HCS)
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (NIV)
“Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life.” (GN)
“Give instruction to a youth about his way, even when he is old he turneth not from it.” (YLT)
“Teach your children right from wrong, and when they are grown they will still do right.” (CEV)
“Bring up a child by teaching him the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from it.” (NLV)
“Train a child in the way appropriate for him, and when he becomes older, he will not turn from it. “(ISV)
Training the child is to educate, lead, correct, and instruct them. Those are to be done: in the way they should go, the way they should live, distinguishingright from wrong, onto the right path, and the way He approves of. Those are many different words — so, what does it all mean?
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
It is helpful to elaborate on the use of certain words, but let’s look at the original text in Hebrew for even greater comprehension. The word used for “train the child” is chanak, which means to dedicate or inaugurate. The term used for the “path” is derek, which means the road, the course of life, the mode of action, the journey, the route. The word “he should go” is peh, which means mouth. Interestingly, this word is applied/translated in different ways.
The clunky way to put it is: a parent trains or teaches a child by how they dedicate themselves to their child’s pathway in life using their mouth. In a simpler form— how a parent normally speaks to a child about life and tells them how to act is what the child should believe and practice. Every parent teaches their child in some way, and it can work either positively and negatively. The verbal abuse of a child can yield negative effects. The Bible provides further guidance on how to do so in a meaningful way.
HOW IT IS DONE
The Bible talks several times about the mouth; on what to say, where our words come from, the importance of what we say, etc.
In Deuteronomy 6:7, God instructs the children of Israel to raise their families. See how the mouth (or speech) is done.
“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (KJV)
“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (NIV)
“Do your best to teach them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (NLV)
We could see a pattern in this verse, thinking that simply talking a lot about God and the commandments is what is intended. There are many stories of children born in Christian homes where God’s commands were talked about diligently; still, they walked away from God. Talking to our children about God is just one piece of a puzzle.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE
The most critical part of any puzzle of our lives is what the Bible refers to as a “more excellent way.” This “more excellent way” is known as the way of love. It’s more excellent because it embodies God, who is love. Let’s look at Ephesians 6:4 for applying this piece to parenting.
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (KJV)
“And you, fathers, do not irritate your children, but bring them up tenderly with true Christian training and advice.” (WN)
“ And the fathers! provoke not your children, but nourish them in the instruction and admonition of the Lord.” (YLT)
The words I have emphasized are from the translation of the words bring up, which means bringing maturity, nourishment, and nurture. Love nourishes, nurtures, and devotes itself for the good of others.
FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF GOD
Jesus came to earth and showed how devoted true love is. Both in showing us the Father’s love for us, and His love for us, too.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16).
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” (John 15:9).
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smellingsavor.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Walking in love is the highest calling in which we can walk. We may fall into the words we say and the acts we show, however, true love will triumph over them. This is for two reasons.
One is 1 Peter 4:8, which says, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (KJV)
The second is that love never fails.
As parents who love our children, it is our parental responsibility to raise our precious children properly. If we neglect our duty to teach them, we ourselves are disobedient children, dishonoring our Heavenly Father. He loves us, as we love our children, and he has entrusted us with their care. As a parent, child discipline is the most important purpose.