The Bible’s Instruction Manual for Parents

A few weeks ago at my church, I concluded a preaching series called Father Hunger. This series was about how God is the true Father and all Fatherhood is a reflection of his ultimate love and authority.

The final sermon of the series (The Father’s Legacy) focused on how dads need to do more than merely protect and provide for their kids, but instill a biblical worldview in their hearts (Deut 6:4-9). In Ephesians 6:4, Paul says “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (ESV).”

The word for “discipline” here is important. It means much more than merely keeping kids in line through various disciplinary methods. The Greek word here is “paideia,” which does not have direct English counterpart. It is also translated “training” in the NIV and “nurture” in the KJV. To bring up a child in the paideia of the Lord is to instill in him or her a biblical worldview; not merely a few Bible stories, some rules, and some memory verses, but to help children see everything through a biblical understanding of things.

The Bible presents us with a complete understanding of everything: our origins (Creation), what’s gone wrong with the world (Fall), what God has done to address sin in the world (Redemption), and where all this is headed (Judgement/New Creation). God’s purposes are integral to everything and it is important for Christians to see everything through the lens of God’s work in the world.

So, then, where do we begin? The starting point is the gospel of Jesus Christ, where we all see that salvation is a matter of God’s gracious work to transform us by the cross and not our moral effort. But certainly, the gospel does not exclude morality, the gospel empowers morality. Within the framework of God’s saving work in the hearts of children, they also learn God’s character and how to live life through good training on Christian morality.

The first seven chapters of Proverbs is like an instruction manual for parents, showing the various topics of discussion and instruction that parents can instill in their children. These chapters ring continually with this and similar refrains, “hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching (1:8).” Several times through these chapters, the phrase “my son” appears and introduces a new topic.

I’ve made a list of the various topics from these verses to get a sense for the sort of instruction that is needed to give children a biblical worldview. This is not a comprehensive list of everything to teach children, but can give parents direction in where to begin.

Important practical life lessons

  1. Honor father and mother by listening to and obeying their counsel (1:8).
  2. Have good friendships who will be a good influence (1:10).
  3. Get along with others and avoid violence (1:11).
  4. Do not resist discipline but learn from it (3:11-12).
  5. Show justice and fairness to others  (3:27).
  6. Always tell the truth (3:28).
  7. Do not plan to do harm to someone else (3:29)
  8. Keep your focus on what’s most important (4:25).
  9. Settle financial disputes quickly before they turn ugly (6:1-5).
  10. Work hard to provide for yourself and your family (6:6-11).

Important lessons in sexual morality

  1. Don’t listen to a seductive woman (5:3).
  2. Don’t put yourself in situations where you’ll be tempted towards sexual immorality (5:8).
  3. The consequences of sin are painful and long lasting (5:9-14).
  4. Find sexual fulfillment (and lots of it!) in your wife (5:15-19).
  5. Don’t entertain sexual fantasies and lust (6:24-35).
  6. Guard yourself against all forms of temptation (7:1-21).
  7. Sexual sin is extremely destructive (7:21-23).

A good practice for parents would be to read through Proverbs 1-7 over and over and allow these verses to help instill a biblical worldview in your own heart so you can pass them down to your children.

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