I often wondered about my place and role in my child’s life. How much influence do I have? How much are they really listening to me? Are their surroundings going to overtake me and their Mother in terms of influence and importance? These are common questions for parents. And they are fair questions. After all, as the spiritual battlefield becomes more and more cluttered with children who have left the church and their faith, it’s natural to wonder when their parents lost the ability to influence, lead and direct their children. And so I am left to fear for the future of my young children.
There is hope. In fact, there is a great deal of hope for those of us who are walking through the daily challenges of raising healthy and faithful God-fearing children. In a recent survey, teens were asked to list the greatest religious influences in their life. Here are the results.
- Sunday School/Bible class
- Youth Group
- Bible camp
- Miscellaneous church event
This list is screaming out to parents. The real question is whether or not Mom and Dad are listening. This list is really nothing more than practical confirmation or proof of what God has been saying for thousands of years.
A great example of this found in the book of Deuteronomy; which is essentially akin to a parents’ last speech to their child who is about to leave home for college. The text in 6:4-9 records Moses’ last words of exhortation, encouragement and direction for his spiritual children before they leave his presence to go on to the land flowing with milk and honey—the promised land. It says,
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 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. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
God, through Moses, is laying the responsibility of training children in righteousness (Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 22:6) at the feet of the parents. At this point (in the history of Israel) it seems that Moses primary concern was ensuring that the nation would thrive and prosper as they entered a new chapter in their collective lives. It is evident that Moses believed that this would happen only if the nation remained faithful to, and walked with, God. For this to happen, each generation of parents needed to teach their children that the Lord is God and that they should love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and strength. This task was not given to the Elders or even the Priests. It was given to the parents, to be done in the context of the family and the home.
Referring back to the list of influences, it is for both inherent and practical reasons that parents hold the top spot—it is not coincidental or incidental. For Moses, this was the most important direction that he could give. These were his last words to his spiritual children. Teaching a child to honor the Lord as the only God of their life and to love the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul and strength was among the last and most important directions that Moses gave.
Just as God calls and equips those that He calls today, we should expect nothing less as parents. We are equipped with the natural and inherent influence to teach and lead our children. They are our legacy. Their souls are at stake. And it is Mom and Dad’s responsibility.