Category Archives: Family/Parenting Questions

Questions about Family / Parenting: Is Giving a Child a Christian Education Important?

 

For believers in Jesus Christ, the question of whether or not a Christian education is important seems obvious. The answer would be an emphatic “Yes!” So why ask the question? It’s because the question comes from a myriad of perspectives within the Christian faith. Maybe the question should be “who is responsible for introducing my child to Christianity?” or “should my child’s education be done in a public, private or home-based system?” There is no shortage of opinions on this topic, some very strongly held and endlessly and emotionally debated.

As we begin to search for a biblical perspective, we come to the definitive Old Testament passage on educating children found in Deuteronomy 6:5–8: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” Hebrew history reveals that the father was to be diligent in instructing his children in the ways and words of the Lord for their own spiritual development and well-being. The message in this passage is repeated in the New Testament where Paul exhorts parents to raise children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Proverbs 22:6 also tells us to “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Training includes not only formal education, but also the first instructions parents give to a child, i.e., his early education. This training is designed to plant the child firmly on the foundation upon which his life is based.

As we move to the subject of formal education, however, there are misunderstandings that need to be addressed. First, God is not saying that only parents are to educate children as many would assert, and, second, He is not saying that public education is bad and we are to educate our children only in Christian schools or home schools. The principle found throughout all of Scripture is that of ultimate responsibility. God never directs parents to avoid education outside of the home; in fact, it isn’t even addressed. So, to say that the only “biblical” method of formal education is home schools or Christian schools would be adding to God’s Word, and we want to avoid using the Bible to validate our own opinions. Just the opposite is true: we want to base our opinions on the Bible. We also want to avoid the argument that only “trained” teachers are capable of educating our children. Again, the issue is that of ultimate responsibility, which belongs to parents.

The issue in Scripture is not what type of general education our children receive, but through what paradigm that information is to be filtered. For example, a homeschooler can be given a “Christian” education but fail in life because he or she does not truly know the God of Scripture and does not truly understand scriptural principles. Likewise, a child educated publicly can grow to understand the fallacies of the world’s wisdom by seeing its failure through God’s Word which has been diligently taught to him at home. Information is being sifted through a biblical lens in both cases, but true spiritual understanding only exists in the latter. Similarly, a student can attend a Christian school but never grow to understand God in an intimate, personal relationship. Ultimately, it is the parents who are responsible for shaping and molding the child in a way that will succeed in accomplishing true spiritual education.

In Hebrews 10:25, God gives Christians the command, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The body of Christ is an integral part of the education of children, assisting parents in nurturing and educating children in spiritual matters. Exposure to something outside of the family structure, in this case sound biblical teaching from church and Sunday school, is good and necessary.

So, no matter what type of institution of learning we choose, parents are ultimately responsible for their children’s spiritual education. A Christian school teacher can be wrong, a pastor and Sunday school teacher can be wrong, and parents can be wrong on any particular viewpoint theologically. So, as we teach our children spiritual things, they need to understand that the only source of absolute truth is the Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, perhaps the most important lesson we can teach our children is to follow the example of the Bereans who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11), and to test all things they are taught—from whatever source—against the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: I Want a Baby, but My Spouse Does Not. What Do We Do?

 

The Bible declares children to be a blessing. Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” This is contrary to the way much of the world views children—as a hindrance and a burden. Children should not be viewed as a liability.

The lack of desire to have children often stems from selfish motives. Some people do not want children because they want to focus on themselves, their careers, and their money. They do not want to be “tied down” or give up their expensive cars, homes, or vacations. This kind of attitude is sinful. Others do not want children because of fears about not being able to parent successfully, not being able to afford to raise the child properly, or fears about childbirth itself.

Without knowing the reasons for not wanting to have children, it is difficult to determine whether or not the feelings are “wrong.” Are there health issues? Are there unresolved issues from childhood? These are things that should be discussed between spouses, and if need be, Christian marriage counseling should be sought.

As Christians, our devotion should first be to God, who says that children are a blessing. After that, the most important relationship is with our spouse. If it is very important to a spouse to have children, it should definitely be considered, with an attitude of respect and submission (see Ephesians 5:21–33). Practically speaking, this is a topic that should be thoroughly discussed before marriage.

If we devote ourselves to prayer, Bible reading, and meditation, God will reveal His will if we put Him first. Romans 12:2 declares, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: I Am a Parent; How Can I Let Go of My Adult Children?

 

Letting go of adult children is a struggle for all parents, both Christian and non-Christian. When we consider that nearly twenty years of our lives are invested in raising, nurturing, and caring for a child, it’s easy to see why letting go of that role is a daunting task. For most parents, child-rearing consumes our time, energy, love, and concern for two decades. We invest our hearts, minds and spirits into their physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being, and it can be very difficult when that part of our lives comes to an end. Parents who find themselves in the “empty nest” often struggle to find an appropriate balance of love and concern for their adult children while resisting the impulse to continue to control.

Biblically, we know that God takes the role of the parent very seriously. Admonitions to good parenting abound in Scripture. Parents are to raise children in the “training and instruction of the Lord,” not frustrating or exasperating them (Ephesians 6:4). We are to “train a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6), giving him good gifts (Matthew 7:11), loving and disciplining him for his sake (Proverbs 13:24), and providing for his needs (1 Timothy 5:8). Ironically, it’s often the parents who take their parenting roles most seriously and who do a great job at it who struggle most to let go. More mothers than fathers seem to experience difficulty, probably due to the strong maternal urge to nurture and care for children and the amount of time spent with them as they grow.

At the heart of the difficulty of letting go of our children is a certain amount of fear. The world is a scary place, and the numerous stories of terrible things happening increase our fears. When our children are young, we can monitor their every moment, control their environment, and guard their safety. But as they grow and mature, they begin to move out into the world on their own. We are no longer in control of their every move, who they see, where they go, and what they do. For the Christian parent, this is where faith enters the picture. Perhaps nothing on earth is more testing of our faith than the time when our children begin to sever the bonds that have held them close to us. Letting go of children doesn’t mean simply turning them loose in the world to fend for themselves. It means turning them over to our heavenly Father who loves them more than we ever could, and who guides and guards them according to His perfect will. The reality is that they are His children; they belong to Him, not to us. He has loaned them to us for a while and given us instruction on how to care for them. But eventually, we have to give them back to Him and trust that He will love them and nurture their spirits in the same way we have nurtured them physically. The more faith we have in Him, the less fearful we are and the more we are willing to turn our children over to Him.

As with so many things in the Christian life, the ability to do this depends on how well we know our God and how much time we spend in His Word. We cannot trust someone we don’t know, and we can’t know God except through Scripture. When God promises not to test us beyond our ability to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13), how can we believe that unless we know in our hearts that He is faithful? Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” Deuteronomy 32:4 concurs: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” If we belong to Him, He will be faithful to us and to our children, and the more we know and trust Him, the more we are able to put our children in His capable hands. Lack of faith in Him and His purposes for our children will result in an inability or an unwillingness to let our children go.

So what is the parents’ role as children become adults? Certainly we never ‘let go’ of them in the sense of abandoning them. We are still their parents and always will be. But while we no longer nurture and guard them physically, we are still concerned for their welfare. For the Christian family, they are no longer just our children; they are now our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we relate to them as we do our other friends in the Lord. Most importantly, we pray for them. We encourage them in their walk with God, offering advice when it is asked for. We offer help if it is needed and accept their decision to receive it or reject it. Finally, we respect their privacy just as we would any other adult’s. When parents finally do let go of adult children, they often find a stronger, deeper, and more fulfilling relationship than they ever could have imagined.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Should Christians Discipline Their Children? What Does the Bible Say?

 

How to best discipline children can be a difficult task to learn, but it is crucially important. Some claim that physical discipline (corporal punishment) such as spanking is the only method the Bible supports. Others insist that “time-outs” and other punishments that do not involve physical discipline are far more effective. What does the Bible say? The Bible teaches that physical discipline is appropriate, beneficial, and necessary.

Do not misunderstand—we are by no means advocating child abuse. A child should never be disciplined physically to the extent that it causes actual physical damage. According to the Bible, though, the appropriate and restrained physical discipline of children is a good thing and contributes to the well-being and correct upbringing of the child.

Many Scriptures do in fact promote physical discipline. “Don’t fail to correct your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death” (Proverbs 23:13–14; see also 13:24; 22:15; 20:30). The Bible strongly stresses the importance of discipline; it is something we must all have in order to be productive people, and it is much more easily learned when we are young. Children who are not disciplined often grow up rebellious, have no respect for authority, and as a result find it difficult to willingly obey and follow God. God Himself uses discipline to correct us and lead us down the right path and to encourage repentance for our wrong actions (Psalm 94:12; Proverbs 1:7; 6:23; 12:1; 13:1; 15:5; Isaiah 38:16; Hebrews 12:9).

In order to apply discipline correctly and according to biblical principles, parents must be familiar with the scriptural advice regarding discipline. The book of Proverbs contains plentiful wisdom regarding the rearing of children, such as, “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). This verse outlines the consequences of not disciplining a child—the parents are disgraced. Of course, discipline must have as its goal the good of the child and must never be used to justify the abuse and mistreatment of children. Never should it be used to vent anger or frustration.

Discipline is used to correct and train people to go in the right way. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). God’s discipline is loving, as should it be between parent and child. Physical discipline should never be used to cause lasting physical harm or pain. Physical punishment should always be followed immediately by comforting the child with assurance that he/she is loved. These moments are the perfect time to teach a child that God disciplines us because He loves us and that, as parents, we do the same for our children.

Can other forms of discipline, such as “time-outs,” be used instead of physical discipline? Some parents find that their children do not respond well to physical discipline. Some parents find that “time-outs,” grounding, and/or taking something away from the children is more effective in encouraging behavioral change. If that is indeed the case, by all means, a parent should employ the methods that best produce the needed behavioral change. While the Bible undeniably advocates physical discipline, the Bible is more concerned with the goal of building godly character than it is in the precise method used to produce that goal.

Making this issue even more difficult is the fact that governments are beginning to classify all manner of physical discipline as child abuse. Many parents do not spank their children for fear of being reported to the government and risk having their children taken away. What should parents do if a government has made physical discipline of children illegal? According to Romans 13:1–7, parents should submit to the government. A government should never contradict God’s Word, and physical discipline is, biblically speaking, in the best interest of children. However, keeping children in families in which they will at least receive some discipline is far better than losing children to the “care” of the government.

In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are told not to exasperate their children. Instead, they are to bring them up in God’s ways. Raising a child in the “training and instruction of the Lord” includes restrained, corrective, and, yes, loving physical discipline.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Should Christian Parents Respond If a Child Has a Learning Disability?

 

It seems that today more and more parents in the western world are saying “My child has a learning disability!” In western society more and more children are being identified as having ADD, ADHD or being diagnosed as afflicted with autism or some sort of mental condition that makes them unable to relate to others or develop “normally.” This is a scary reality and believers are not exempt from these things. How should believers respond when faced with these issues?

The only lasting formula for responding to the issues of living in our fallen world is to choose to walk by faith. That sounds very trite and over-simplified for parents who are desperately searching for answers, but for the believer, it is the only answer. In fact, for the believer the hope of God’s grace through faith is the one true foundation we can stand on when our child is in crisis and we cannot fix things with a kiss and a band aid.

If a child breaks a leg or an arm, a trip to the hospital corrects the break. It is not left to heal on its own and be a lifelong issue that the child must deal with. It is our calling as parents to nurture our children in the Lord in every aspect of their lives, not for our convenience, but for their spiritual good. So if a child has a learning disability or has trouble maintaining attention or behaving appropriately due to being autistic or to having some mental disability, we do not leave that child to flounder. Rather, we do as much as we can with as much love as we can for as long as we can without regard to the cost. There are resources available through organizations dedicated to research and support for each disability. A great deal more is known about how children learn than ever before, and much more help is available now than ever before. For some there is only the help and comfort of church and family to come alongside with resources and practical help. That means we reach out and do not isolate ourselves from God’s people. The “one another” commands are a great resource in time of need (1 Corinthians 12:25; Galatians 6:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Peter 3:8).

Conditions such as autism are not a reflection on us as parents or the result of something we did or did not do, nor are they something we somehow deserve. Just as no one “deserves” cancer, no child or parent deserves autism or mental retardation. The child with a disability is just as precious to the Lord as any other child (Matthew 19:14). In this world, there is no rhyme or reason why one child is afflicted and another is not. We live in a fallen world and the infirmity of the flesh can manifest itself in devastating ways. It is God’s amazing grace alone that overcomes the sad realities of a world tainted by sin. Indeed, one wonders how those who are not believers cope with these issues without the grace of God in their lives.

So the believer responds to their child’s learning disability with faith and puts that faith into action, bathing that child with love and acceptance at every opportunity. We enlist family, the church family, and every other resource available to help. We ask others to pray for us and help us through this time, all the while understanding that none of this is out of God’s control.

We can ask, “Why my child, Lord?” and “Why would a loving God allow this?” That is normal and natural and the answer is that God uses the details of this earthly life to demonstrate His provisions and grace and, ultimately, to glorify Himself. As believers, we are given a higher calling and a greater resource (1 Corinthians 1:26–30). The Apostle Paul declares that God displays His might and power through men and there is no unrighteousness in His purpose (Romans 9:14–23). We may not understand, but He will use the details of our lives to build in us His good and His glory. Therefore, when undeserved suffering comes to our children, the correct response of believing parents is to use God’s resources to stand by faith and leave the rest in His hands.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Should Christian Parents Respond If One of Their Children Comes out as Gay?

 

If a child reveals his or her homosexuality, the first thing for Christian parents to do is let their child know that, no matter what, love and grace will win the day. Mom and dad’s love will continue, regardless. First John 4:8 says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

All parents need to remember that our children (like ourselves) have heart issues. We’re not trying to put good fruit on bad trees; we are passionately praying for our wayward children that God would change the roots of the tree—that He might remove their heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh (see Ezekiel 36:26).

Parents should also encourage a child who has “come out” not to define himself as a “homosexual.” It’s important to ask questions: Are you in a relationship? Is the relationship sexual or platonic? Have you acted out your feelings of same-sex attraction, or are they just thoughts you have? Parents can come alongside a struggling child and help him see that he is not “gay” simply because he has homosexual thoughts. Rather, he is struggling with homosexual desires or same-sex attraction.

The difference between struggling with homosexuality and identifying oneself as gay may seem subtle, but it is a huge distinction, and here’s why. God never created us to be homosexual. In Christ that is not who we are. In Christ we are a new creation. Christians may struggle with impatience, idolatry, lust, or pride. Christians may struggle with same-sex attraction, but that does not make them homosexuals. We are new creations in Christ.

So, Christian parents can approach their child as broken people and offer to struggle together through their imperfections. It is important that we never communicate to those who have same-sex tendencies that their sin is the worst of all sins. Yes, homosexuality is sinful, but not to a level above that of heterosexual lust or lying or pride. The truth is we are all broken, and we all need help to remain pure.

Also, Christian parents should make clear their biblical convictions, but only after they have established a basis of love and grace and empathy and compassion. Your children need to know that the Bible is the supreme authority on all matters of faith and conduct. Not mom, not dad, not peers, not the church. And the Bible says that homosexuality is counter to God’s intended purpose for human beings. Sexuality must be heterosexual in nature and within the boundary of marriage.

If a child says, “I am homosexual. That’s the way it is, and I don’t care what God thinks,” then clearly the parents are back at step one. This child needs a serious heart change, and only God can change the heart. Sin is a heart problem, and until God changes the heart and the child is gripped by the grace of God, nothing will matter. A parent’s convictions will not matter. The letter of the law will not matter. Love is key. It is what drove the prodigal son back to the arms of his father (Luke 15:11–32), and it is, according to the apostle Paul, the greatest of gifts (1 Corinthians 13:13).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: What Does the Bible Say about Obeying Parents?

 

Obeying one’s parents is a direct command from God. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). The word obey in this verse cannot be separated from the idea of “honoring” them. Ephesians 6:2–3 continues: “ ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first command with a promise—‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth.’ ” Honor has more to do with one’s attitude of respect toward one’s parents, and it’s understood that the obedience is to be done with an attitude of honor toward one’s parents. Grudging obedience does not conform to the command.

It may be challenging for children to learn to obey and honor their parents—for some children, it’s harder than others! But there is a very good reason for this command. Proverbs teaches that those who listen to their parents gain wisdom: “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes” (Proverbs 13:1). God’s design is for children to learn to honor and obey their parents as they grow up so that they can live wisely. As they learn respect at home, they will respect others appropriately when they leave the home. Even young Jesus, though he was the Son of God, obeyed His earthly parents and as a result grew in wisdom (Luke 2:51–52). The Bible says that children who are not disciplined or who fail to obey to their parents are much worse off in life (see Proverbs 22:15; 19:18; and 29:15).

As children have a responsibility to obey their parents, parents have a responsibility to instruct their children in the ways of God. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). But even if one’s parents are not following the command directed toward them, children still have the command to obey and respect their parents.

Our ultimate responsibility is to love and obey God, above all else. He has commanded children to obey their parents. The only appropriate reason for disobedience of one’s parents would be if the parents were instructing a child to do something that clearly goes against one of God’s commands. In that case, the child must obey God instead (see Acts 5:29)[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Can a Believer Find Comfort after the Death of a Parent?

 

The death of a parent (or any family member) can be truly taxing on a Christian. Even when the one we have lost is a believer, it is never easy to say goodbye, especially if the bereavement was sudden. Grieving for our loved ones is appropriate and expected; Christ Himself wept at the gravesite of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35). The Bible provides consolation, and we as Christians can find comfort even in the loss of someone so dear to us.

In the loss of a Christian parent, the greatest comfort a believer has is the hope and confidence that our relationship with our parents does not end at death. A Christian who has lost a Christian parent can rest in the promise that there will be a reunion in heaven. At the time of the resurrection, all who have accepted Christ will be glorified and given incorruptible bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42–44; John 11:25). For the Christian, Christ has conquered death! As Paul gladly writes in 1 Corinthians 15:54–57, “ ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory!’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

For many unbelievers, death brings nothing but despair. For those whose faith is weak or non-existent, the loss of a parent can mean a total end of the relationship. There is no hope of resurrection, no new heaven, and no new earth. But believers in Christ have the promises of God to cling to. While we miss our loved ones, we look happily forward to the time when all things shall be made new.

Even beyond this, the God of the Bible delights in comforting the afflicted and healing the heartbroken (Jeremiah 17:14; 2 Corinthians 1:3–4; 7:6). When we are grieved by the loss of our loved ones, God is quick to offer us His peace. In the midst of our mourning, we can feel the presence of God with us; even in our sorrow, we can draw near to Him in prayer and worship.

The loss of our parents can be deeply painful, particularly since they play such a key role in shaping our lives. Indeed, our parents are often the ones who comfort us when we are hurting, and to lose them can feel like we are losing our emotional support. But Christians can take heart in that we find comfort in more than our families; the very God of Creation, who knows us better than we know ourselves, understands our pain and is eager to grow us and heal us and give us His peace.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: What Is Focus on the Family?

 

Focus on the Family is an evangelical Christian ministry headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that provides a wide variety of resources to help families function and thrive as God designed. Focus on the Family is well known in America for their involvement in cultural matters and their strong stand on pro-life and other moral issues.

The ministry was founded by Dr. James Dobson in 1977 and began as a radio broadcast featuring advice for families and interviews of interest to a Christian audience. Since then, Focus on the Family has expanded to use many other media. Along with their original radio program, they produce a children’s radio show and a radio news digest. They also publish several websites, host conferences and interactive forums, publish magazines and books, provide counseling services, and offer college-level classes. Focus on the Family’s reach extends beyond the United States into many other countries around the world.

The mission statement of Focus on the Family, available on their website, is “to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible by nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide.” Focus on the Family’s worldview is founded on biblical commands and principles concerning the value of families (see Matthew 19:4–6; Malachi 2:15) and the individual’s social responsibility (see Ephesians 1:22–23a; Romans 13:1).

Focus on the Family has a broad range of resources available for people in any stage of life, from kids to young adults to the elderly. Dating, marriage, parenting issues, and engaging the culture are all emphasized.

Beyond helping families, Focus on the Family also does a great deal for educating people and promoting Christian values in the societal and political realms. They are a resource for people wanting to stay current on social issues of the day and how to get involved and make a difference. All of this is done from a biblical worldview. For more information on Focus on the Family, their partner ministries, and the many resources they offer, you can visit the Focus on the Family website.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Does the Bible Define a Good Christian Family?

 

A good Christian family is one which lines up with biblical principles and one in which each member understands and fulfills his or her God-given role. The family is not an institution designed by man. It was created by God, and man has been given the responsibility of stewardship over it. The basic biblical family unit is comprised of one man, one woman—his spouse—and their offspring or adopted children. The extended family can include relatives by blood or marriage such as grandparents, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles. One of the primary principles of the family unit is that it involves a commitment ordained by God for the lifetime of the members. The husband and wife are responsible for holding it together, the current attitude of our culture notwithstanding. Although divorce is sought and granted much too easily in our society, the Bible tells us that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).

Ephesians 5:22–26 provide the guidelines for husbands and wives in a good Christian family. The husband is required to love his wife as Christ loved the church, and a wife should respect her husband and willingly submit to his leadership in the family. The husband’s leadership role should start with spiritual matters and then flow to instructing and teaching both his wife and their offspring scriptural values, leading the family into biblical truth. Of course, the first requirement for the members of a good Christian family is that they all be Christians, having a true relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Fathers are instructed to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). A father is also to provide for his family. If he does not, he “denies the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). So a man who makes no effort to provide for his family cannot rightly call himself a Christian. This does not mean that the wife cannot assist in supporting the family—Proverbs 31 demonstrates that a godly wife may surely do so—but providing for the family is not primarily her responsibility; it is her husband’s.

Woman was given to man for the purpose of being her husband’s helper (Genesis 2:18–20) and to bear children. Husband and wife are to remain faithful to one another for a lifetime. This eliminates the cultural view that divorce, living together without being married, and same-sex marriage are acceptable in God’s eyes. Sexuality expressed according to biblical standards is a beautiful expression of love and commitment. Outside of marriage, it is sin. God declares equality of worth in that all people, men and women, are created in God’s image and likeness, and are therefore equally valuable in His eyes. This does not mean, however, that men and women have identical roles in life. Women are more adept at nurturing and caring for the young, while men are better equipped to provide for and protect the family. Thus, they are equal in status, but each has a different role to play.

Children are given two primary responsibilities in the family: to obey their parents and to honor them (Ephesians 6:1–3). Obeying parents is the duty of children until they reach adulthood, but we are to honor our parents for a lifetime. God promises His blessings on those who honor their parents.

When a husband, wife and children all fulfill their God-appointed roles in the family, when they have all committed their lives to Christ and to His service, then peace and harmony will reign in the home. But if we try to have a good Christian family without Christ as Head, or without adhering to the biblical principles the Lord has lovingly provided for us, we will fail.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Do You Balance Leave and Cleave with Honoring Your Parents?

 

Both Christian parents and their married children can have difficulty with the balance between the concept of “leave and cleave” and honoring parents. Some pertinent Bible passages:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined (cleave) to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1).

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

There are three aspects to the statement of Genesis 2:24: 1. Leave—This indicates that in a family there are two types of relationships. The parent-child relationship is the temporary one and there will be a “leaving.” The husband-wife relationship is the permanent one—“what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6). Problems occur in family life when these two roles are reversed and the parent-child relationship is treated as the primary relationship. When an adult child has married and this parent-child relationship remains primary, the newly formed union is threatened.

2. Cleave—the Hebrew word translated “cleave” refers to (1) the pursuing hard after someone else and (2) being glued or stuck to something/someone. So a man is to pursue hard after his wife after the marriage has occurred (the courtship should not end with the wedding vows) and is to be “stuck to her like glue.” This cleaving indicates such closeness that there should be no closer relationship than that between the two spouses, not with any former friend or with any parent.

3. And they shall become one flesh—Marriage takes two individuals and creates a new single entity. There is to be such sharing and oneness in every aspect (physical, emotional, intellectual, financial, social) that the resulting unity can be best described as “one flesh.” Again, when there is greater sharing and emotional support gained from a continuing parent-child relationship than from the husband-wife relationship, the oneness within the marriage is being threatened, resulting in an unbiblical imbalance.

With these three aspects of Genesis 2:24 in mind, there are also the scriptural admonitions to honor one’s parents. This includes treating them with a respectful attitude (Proverbs 30:11, 17), obeying them when their commands are in keeping with God’s laws (“in the Lord” Ephesians 6:1), and taking care of them as they get older (Mark 7:10–12; 1 Timothy 5:4–8).

The line between these two commands is drawn where one is being asked to comply with one principle in such a way that it will violate the other principle or command. When the meddling of a parent violates the “leaving” because it is treating the parent-child relationship as primary (demanding obedience, dependence, or emotional oneness over the desires of, dependence upon, or oneness with the spouse), it should be respectfully rejected and the spouse’s desires honored. However, when there are genuine needs of an aging parent (either physical or emotional, assuming the emotional “need” does not supersede the “leaving” principle), that need is to be met, even if one’s spouse does not “like” the parent-in-law. Biblical love toward the aging parent is given based on choosing to do the loving thing, even when one does not feel like doing it.

The balance between these scriptural mandates is similar to the command to obey those in authority (Romans 13) and the example of the apostles violating that principle when the authority figures ask them to act contrary to God’s mandates. In Acts 4:5–20, the apostles rejected the Jewish authorities’ demand to stop preaching the gospel because their command violated God’s, but the apostles did so in a respectful manner. Similarly, Jesus says we are to honor our parents but that the parent-child relationship is secondary to our relationship with Christ (Luke 14:26). In like manner, when parents violate Genesis 2:24 principles, the parents should be respectfully disobeyed. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, a spouse’s desires should be overlooked if he/she is unwilling to expend the time, energy, and finances required to meet the needs of an aging parent; keeping in mind that one must distinguish true physical and emotional needs from the “felt needs” of an overbearing, demanding parent.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: What Does the Bible Say about Parents Leaving an Inheritance for Their Children?

 

Inheritance was the gift of honor and support given by a patriarch to his sons (and sometimes daughters). It was meant for the provision and status of the family. Most of the occurrences of inheritance in the first half of the Old Testament refer to God bestowing the Promised Land on the Israelites—the Heavenly Father providing for His sons and daughters. Because the land was given by God to the individual families, the people were not allowed to dispose of their land permanently. If they needed to sell it, it was to be returned during the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:23–38). The Bible laid out specific guidelines for inheriting family property: the eldest son was to inherit a double portion (Deuteronomy 21:15–17); if there were no sons, daughters were allowed to inherit their father’s land (Numbers 27:8); in the absence of direct heirs, a favored servant or a more distant kinsman could inherit the land (Genesis 15:2; Numbers 27:9–11). At no time could the land pass to another tribe. The point of passing on the land was to ensure the extended family had a means of support and survival. Inheritance was assumed, and only Proverbs 13:22 speaks of it as a particular virtue.

The New Testament does not speak of a physical inheritance but rather a spiritual inheritance. In fact, in Luke 12:13–21, Jesus downplays the importance of an earthly inheritance, explaining that it can lead to greed and an obsession with wealth. It is far better to store up treasures in heaven. Our inheritance, like the Israelites’, is from God (Acts 20:32; Ephesians 1:11, 14, 18). And, like Abraham (Hebrews 11:8, 13), we will not receive our inheritance in this lifetime (1 Peter 1:4). What is this inheritance? Psalm 37:11 and Matthew 5:5 say it’s the whole earth. James 2:5 says it’s the kingdom of God, and Hebrews 11:16 calls it a heavenly country. First Corinthians 2:9 says it is so wonderful, that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” And Revelation 21 describes a new heaven and new earth where God will dwell among His people and take away tears, mourning, pain, and death.

As believers, we are not bound to the Old Testament Law. Instead, we are to follow the two greatest commandments—love God and love others (Matthew 22:34–36). The Old Testament offers practical examples as to how to fulfill the greatest commandments. In regards to inheritance, it’s the example of parents ensuring their family is cared for after their death. In modern times, this doesn’t necessarily mean land, or even material possessions. It can include imparting a good character, ensuring children have an education, or training them in a profession. But, when most people think of parents leaving an inheritance for their children, it is in regards to material possessions. The Bible definitely supports the idea of parents leaving their material possessions/wealth/property to their children. At the same time, parents should not feel obligated to save up everything for their children’s inheritance, neglecting themselves in the process. It should never be a matter of guilt or obligation. Rather, it should be an act of love, a final way of expressing your love and appreciation to children. Most important, however, is the parents’ responsibility to make sure children are aware of the inheritance they will receive if they follow Christ. Parents are to teach their children about God’s expectations (Deuteronomy 6:6–7; Ephesians 6:4) and bring their children to Christ (Mark 10:14). In this way, parents can provide for their children in the greatest way possible.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: What Was the Significance of Weaning a Child in the Bible (Genesis 21:8)?

According to Jewish custom, the time when a child is weaned is cause for celebration. A weaned child has survived the fragile stage of infancy and can now eat solid food rather than breastfeed from his or her mother.

In Genesis 21:8, we read, “And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.” Though Hagar laughed at the celebration (Genesis 21:9), Isaac’s parents considered this event an important occasion. They had a son who had survived the most difficult stage of childhood and could now eat on his own.

According to Jewish rabbinical traditions, weaning could take place anywhere between 18 months and 5 years of age. In one important biblical parallel, Samuel was weaned prior to being taken to Eli the priest to serve the Lord. First Samuel 1:24 says, “And when she had weaned him … she brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. And the child was young.” No exact age is given, but the weaning is mentioned, and Samuel’s youth is emphasized, so he was likely between 2 and 4 years old.

High infant mortality rates existed in ancient cultures. One reason for large families was the fact that many young children did not live to adulthood. Because of the risks that infants faced, the celebration of a child’s weaning was a natural and important part of the culture. If a child had developed past the need for the physical support of a mother, then he or she had reached a new stage of life that greatly increased the likelihood of good health.

Today, Jewish tradition continues the practice of celebrating the weaning of a child. Psalm 104 is often read during this time; part of that psalm says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire” (Psalm 104:4).[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: What Is the Biblical Stance on Artificial Insemination?

 

Artificial insemination, also known as intrauterine insemination (IUI), is a medical procedure in which a man’s sperm is implanted in a woman’s uterus at precisely the right time and in precisely the right location in order to increase the chances of pregnancy. While it is usually used in conjunction with fertility medicine in women, this is not always the case. Artificial insemination is different from in-vitro fertilization in that fertilization occurs inside the woman and in a more natural way, while in-vitro fertilization occurs outside the womb, and then the fertilized egg(s) are implanted in the woman’s uterus. Artificial insemination does not result in unused or discarded embyros. Artificial insemination does not have as high a success rate as in-vitro fertilization, but many Christians view it as a much more acceptable alternative.

Should a Christian married couple consider artificial insemination? The Bible always presents pregnancy and having children positively (Psalm 127:3–5). The Bible nowhere discourages anyone from seeking to have children. The fact that artificial insemination does not have the moral dilemmas of in-vitro fertilization would seem to make it a valid alternative. So, if artificial insemination increases the chances of an otherwise infertile couple having children, it would seem to be something a Christian married couple can prayerfully consider.

Some object to all fertility options due to the fact that such procedures supposedly do not take into account God’s sovereignty. But God is just as capable of preventing pregnancy after artificial insemination (and in-vitro fertilization, for that matter) as He is of preventing pregnancy after normal sexual intercourse. Artificial insemination does not “overrule” God’s sovereignty. Nothing overrules God’s sovereignty. As proven by the account of Abraham and Sarah, God is capable of enabling a reproductively dead woman to get pregnant and have a healthy baby. God is absolutely sovereign over the reproductive process. If it is God’s sovereign will for a woman to get pregnant, she will get pregnant. If it is not God’s sovereign will, she will not get pregnant, no matter what methods the couple attempts.

Yes, a Christian married couple can prayerfully consider artificial insemination. As in all things, a couple considering artificial insemination should ask God for wisdom (James 1:5) and very clear leading from the Holy Spirit.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: What Does It Mean to Train up a Child in the Way He Should Go?

 

Solomon’s advice to parents is to “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Raising and training a child within the context of this proverb means that it begins with the Bible, as “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training …” (2 Timothy 3:16). Teaching children the truths of Scripture will make them wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15); thoroughly equip them to do good works (2 Timothy 3:17); prepare them to give an answer to everyone who asks them the reason for their hope (1 Peter 3:15); and prepare them to withstand the onslaught of cultures bent on indoctrinating young people with secular values.

The Bible tells us that children are a reward from God (Psalm 127:3). It would certainly seem fitting, then, that we heed Solomon’s wise counsel to train them appropriately. In fact, the value that God placed on teaching our children the truth is clearly addressed by Moses who stressed to his people the importance of teaching their children about the Lord and His commands and laws: “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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:7–9). Moses’ thoroughness underscores his deep concern that successive generations maintain obedience to God’s laws to ensure they would “live safely in the land” (Leviticus 25:18), that all would “go well” with them (Deuteronomy 12:28), and that He would bless them in the land (Deuteronomy 30:16).

Clearly Scripture teaches that training children to know and obey God is the basis for pleasing Him and living victoriously in His grace. Knowing God and His truths begins with the child’s understanding of sin and his need for a Savior. Even very young children understand that they are not perfect and can grasp at an early age the need for forgiveness. Loving parents model a loving God who not only forgives, but provides the perfect sacrifice for sin in Jesus Christ. Training up children in the way they should go means, first and foremost, directing them to the Savior.

Discipline is an integral part of raising godly children, for we know that the “LORD disciplines those He loves” (Proverbs 3:12). Thus, we should neither take discipline lightly nor become disheartened by it as the Lord “punishes everyone He accepts as a son” (Hebrews 12:5–6). And we know that God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10). Likewise, when we discipline our children, they receive wisdom (Proverbs 29:15) and they will bring us peace (Proverbs 29:17) and respect (Hebrew 12:9). In fact, even at a tender age children are able to discern that discipline is rooted in love. That is why children who grow up in homes without discipline often feel unloved and are more likely to disobey authority as they grow older. Now, the discipline administered should be commensurate with the offense and physical discipline, such as spanking (rightly motivated), is certainly condoned by the Bible (Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13–14). Indeed discipline, though it may seem unpleasant when received, will produce a “harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

Parents should have the same zeal for teaching their children that Moses did. Parents have been given the privilege of being stewards of their children’s lives for a very short time, but the teaching and training they provide is eternal. According to the promise of Proverbs, a child who is diligently trained in the “way he should go” will remain true to that way in this life and reap its rewards in the next.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: How Should Christian Parents Handle a Teen Daughter Who Has Become Pregnant?

It seems that one of the hardest things for Christians to remember is that it is not a sin to be pregnant. It’s not a sin to be pregnant out of wedlock. And it’s not a sin to be born to unmarried parents. It is a sin to have sex outside the marriage relationship—and it is just as much a sin for the man as for the woman. But an unbiblical intimate relationship is a much easier thing to hide from critical eyes than a pregnancy and, sadly, less damaging to a family’s reputation in the Christian community.

As disappointing and overwhelming it may be to learn a teenage daughter is pregnant, it’s crucial to keep a kingdom perspective. The sin is done. Whatever influences the teens have been under to lead them to sin can’t be avoided now. This new situation is not about the morality of out-of-wedlock sex or the reputation of a family. It’s about the development of a child. All children are blessings from God and He has a plan for each one (Psalm 139:13–18). Even if the circumstances in which they come may be less than ideal, that child is as precious and loved by God as any other.

The pregnant daughter is also precious to God. The role of parents is to teach and guide their children to live godly lives in whatever they face. This is a prime opportunity to do just that. The girl may be scared, ashamed, and emotional, and it is her parents’ responsibility to help her push past emotion and turn to her Heavenly Father.

Some parents fear that giving their daughter the love and support she needs will encourage the behavior that led to the pregnancy. But, again, being pregnant and giving birth to a child is not a sin, and there are so many other benefits to actively and publicly standing with a pregnant teen. It fosters an environment in which the child is valued as a blessing. It encourages the father to take responsibility without fear. And it makes abortion look like a much less desirable option.

If a family abandons their pregnant teen—even emotionally—she will be much more likely to make harmful decisions. She may think marrying the baby’s father is the only option. She may not know how to take care of her health and that of the baby. Other pregnant teens may see the volatile relationship and keep their own condition secret.

Conversely, the girl will be able to make much wiser decisions about her and her baby’s future if she can rest in her parents’ acceptance and loving guidance. Making this journey more emotionally difficult for her will not encourage clear thinking. Wise parents will help their daughter walk through the options of keeping the child or adoption. It may also be beneficial to involve the father and his family; he needs to take as much ownership as the mother. After careful prayer, parents should be clear about the level of support they can give in raising the child. Make use of Christian crisis pregnancy centers.

Our God is a powerful God who can bring joy and blessing even out of our sin. There may be incredibly tough times ahead for the pregnant teen and her family, but our God is the God who redeems.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: Is Being a Sperm Donor a Sin? Is It a Sin to Use a Sperm Donor?

These are difficult questions to answer. Some people would say that using donated sperm to fertilize an egg—or donating your own sperm so someone else can conceive—is wrong because it seeks to bypass God’s will. If God wanted that person to have children, the thinking goes, she wouldn’t need sperm from anyone other than her husband. However, if we take this reasoning to the extreme, then we would have to say that it is also God’s will for a person with appendicitis to die, because performing life-saving surgery would “bypass God’s will.” Such reasoning is fallacious because medical intervention is not inherently sinful.

Still, there is a difference between saving a life in jeopardy (performing an appendectomy) and using medical procedures to aid in God’s creation of a new life. Just how much scientific advancement is God-honoring (1 Corinthians 6:19–20; 10:31)? Is all technology something God desires His children to make use of? In these “gray” areas, a believer in Jesus needs wisdom. It is good to gather detailed information and make a careful study of the procedures involved in donating sperm or receiving donated sperm. Also, it is wise to consult with doctors and other believers and, above all, to spend much time in prayer.

Ultimately, the creation of life is still in God’s hands (Psalm 139:13–16; Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 110:3). Science may aid someone in getting pregnant, but technology is not the source of life, and God can still prevent any pregnancy He doesn’t want to happen. At the same time, God allows sin even though He disapproves of it. So, the question remains: is it sinful to donate sperm or to receive donated sperm? There are some important issues to consider regarding donating sperm that could help someone make an informed, God-honoring decision. The first two questions are for a man who is considering donating sperm:

First, is the donated sperm to be distributed among unknown mothers? If so, you have no way of knowing if your child will grow up in a loving home, if he will be brought up to know the Lord, or even if she will have a two-parent home. Would contributing to an abusive family situation honor the Lord? If there’s a possibility that your child will not be reared in a godly home, and if that possibility leaves you without peace as you pray about it, then it’s probable that the Lord doesn’t want you to donate.

Second, what effect will your donation have on the child it helps to create? If you are not going to rear the child yourself, the child may struggle for years with questions about why you would “sell” him and never be a part of his life. Online blogs exist for children searching for their biological fathers (or “sperm donors”), as they try to come to terms with their unusual heritage.

Now, a question for a married woman considering using donated sperm: have both you and your husband considered the ethical and moral implications of introducing another man’s sperm into your body? God designed marriage to be a union of a man and a woman to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

And, finally, a question for anyone to consider: is the sperm from the sperm bank used to fertilize more than one ovum (as in the in-vitro procedure)? If so, multiple zygotes/embryos will be created, and some of them may later be destroyed because too many are growing in the womb. Other “extra” embryos are frozen and never implanted. If you agree that abortion is wrong, then you would probably agree that such treatment of embryos is also wrong.

A believer should pray, read God’s Word, and wait for a clear answer from the Lord (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; Colossians 1:9–10). Your decision affects many other people, and it affects the potential life (or even death) of other human beings.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: Should a Christian Continue Spanking His/Her Children If It Is Illegal?

The subject of spanking is a divisive one, even among Christians. Several countries have banned the corporal punishment of children, yet many parents consider spanking an essential tool in discipline. When the law forbids spanking, the question arises—if spanking is illegal, do parents have the God-given right to continue to use corporal punishment to discipline their children?

When the subject of spanking is broached, it must be assumed that the corporal punishment in question does not occur in an abusive way. It is not extreme nor given in anger, but proportionate to the offense and part of a loving, responsible relationship. And the fact is, spanking is efficient and can be very effective. Some children respond to spanking quickly and completely when all other types of punishment fail. Parents of a strong-willed three-year-old who loves to run out into the street understand they have two choices: spank promptly to curb the dangerous behavior right away, or confine their child to a strictly controlled environment that may disrupt the entire family and restrict the child from more pleasant activities.

The Bible neither explicitly demands nor forbids the spanking of children. (Although the “rod” of Proverbs 13:24 could refer to reproof in general, corporal punishment cannot be excluded as an option.) Firm, decisive discipline is vital to the well-being of a child. It provides guidance and wisdom the child will need later in life. Fathers in the New Testament bear a responsibility to rear their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Mode of discipline is not specified.

Christian families in many nations in Europe and even on U.S. military bases are faced with the challenge of disciplining their children without the option of spanking / corporal punishment. Parents who believe that spanking is a God-ordained practice necessary for the rearing of their child may spank privately, disregarding the ban as a matter of civil disobedience. Other parents may choose not to spank, submitting to their civil authority and trusting that God is wise enough to lead them to discipline in other ways.

Both options have their merits. When rearing a fearless and stubborn three-year-old, spanking may seem like the only safe and responsible option. In most cases, however, spanking is not the only option; alternatives can be found. Non-corporal punishment will most likely require a great deal more effort, time, and commitment, but it can be effective as well. God knows His children well. May we know our children well enough to know how best to discipline them with patience, perseverance, and love.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: Why Do Christians Practice the Indoctrination of Children?

The definition of indoctrination is “instruction in a body of doctrine or principles; the instillation of a partisan or ideological point of view.” Indoctrination is seen as the act of imparting facts as truth without imparting the ability to critically consider those facts. In this way, we all indoctrinate children. We present clothes for wearing, beds for sleeping, and toys for playing. Every society is built on a foundation of principles that allows its citizens to easily relate to each other and work together for common goals. Christian parents are no different. They, like any other parent, often enact arbitrary rules to ensure peace or convenience. Christian parents also indoctrinate their children in Christianity for three specific reasons.

They believe Christianity is the truth. Imparting truth should be the goal of any parent. To do otherwise is at best laziness and at worst abuse. Christian parents indoctrinate their children in Christianity because they believe it is true. First Corinthians 2:12–13 says, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” By passing on truth, parents show their love and respect for their children.

They believe children will benefit from understanding Christianity. If Christianity is true, then learning about it will be beneficial. Receiving training in God, humanity, sin, and salvation becomes absolutely vital. The Scriptures provide this training. Second Timothy 3:16–17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” There should be a relationship between the child and Christianity—the child learns, accepts and lives out his beliefs. If the relationship breaks down at any part, indoctrination becomes vain speculation.

They believe they are living out their beliefs. Just as the child must be actively engaged in Christianity in order to benefit, the parents must also. This includes ensuring their children understand their faith. Deuteronomy 6:7–9 says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” If the parents believe and follow Christianity, then they believe and follow the Scriptures’ admonition to pass on those beliefs.

Christian parents indoctrinate their children in Christianity because they believe Christianity is true and they believe that understanding Christianity will benefit their children. In a world of turmoil and violence, Christian parents hold fast to the promise Scripture gives them: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Critical thinking has a role in becoming a Christ-follower; every child must make a personal decision to follow Christ. It is the parents’ responsibility to explain the importance of that choice. Indoctrination in the Scriptures is the most effective way to do this.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Family / Parenting: What Does It Mean to ‘Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child’?

The phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” comes from Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” The Lord uses discipline to reveal our sin to us. This is also how parents reveal the truth of our need for a Savior to their children. When a child does not feel the consequence of his sin, he will not understand that sin requires punishment. The Lord provides a way to salvation and forgiveness through Jesus, but that means little to those who do not see their sin.

Furthermore, correction shows us that we are not above reproach and that we are accountable for our actions. Our natural pride blinds us to our need for a Savior, and discipline reveals the truth of our wretchedness (Revelation 3:17). Since salvation is the most important choice the child will ever make, it is imperative that parents are leading them to Christ, and discipline is critical to this process. Proverbs 23:13 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” In the context of verse 13–14, “die” means spiritual death of hell. Children who respect authority and feel sorrow for their sin are much more likely to ask Jesus to forgive them and be saved.

All children are born sinful (Romans 5:12–19). Their natural self is destructive and unrighteous. That does not mean they aren’t infinitely valuable and worthy of love (Psalm 127:3). It means that they are not born with any natural “goodness” in them. That is why all children need discipline. Proverbs 22:15 says “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Discipline is critical for wisdom (Proverbs 29:15), and a child who obeys his parents will be wise (Proverbs 13:1). And even adults who do not heed correction will feel the consequences of their foolishness (Proverbs 10:13).

Some people believe in discipline, but not in physical discipline such as spanking. However, the Bible is the final word on what is truth; it is not mere opinion or theory. The word “rod” indicates a thin stick or switch that can be used to give a small amount of physical pain with no lasting physical injury. A child should never be bruised, injured, or cut by a physical correction. The Bible warns that parents should never abuse the power and authority they have over their children while they are young because it provokes the children to righteous anger (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). Physical discipline is always done in love, never as a vent to the parent’s frustration. It is also just one part of discipline and should be used when the child shows defiance to a clear limit, not in the heat of the moment.

God instructs parents to parent their children the way He parents His children. Hebrews 12:5–11 tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves to perfect their righteousness. God only disciplines His own, which proves that Christians are His beloved children. Notice that David says that the Lord’s rod comforts him in his time of trouble (Psalm 23:4).

Finally, we know that no discipline feels good while it is happening, but afterwards the rewards are rich (Hebrews 12:11). Godly character, fruit of the spirit, and peace are rewards of God’s discipline. The same is true for our human children. Children who have learned how to take responsibility for their actions are much happier people (Proverbs 3:11–18). The importance of the rod of correction is that it steers the heart of a child toward Jesus and forgiveness of sin He offers. When parents trust God’s methods over their own, they will see the blessings for their children and themselves.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.