The Family as a Training Ground and Teaching Site
I) The Family’s Constitution
A) The family is the first school of human instruction. “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” Ordained by God as the basic unit of human organization, the family is the learning center for young children. Decency, politeness, honesty, fairness, kindness – all these and so much more are the curricula of the home. It is the responsibility of the child’s first teachers, his parents, to convey these important principles to the child. A mother or father must take self-centered, demanding creatures and turn them into law-abiding, considerate human beings. Much of this, of course, is done by example as well as (often tedious) verbal communication. Parents begin this work with a great disadvantage – they are all amateurs who have no training for this monumental task. However, they also start this lifework with at least one huge advantage – they have a sort of hero status conferred on them almost immediately: “The glory of children are their fathers” (Pr 17:6). “Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence (Heb 12:9). There is no one whom a child more fervently respects or admires, in those early, formative years, than its father and mother. This is unique! In every other sphere of life, respect has to be earned. In parenting, it comes with the job and must bekept.
B) It is the training ground for eventual service for God. While every parent, Christian and non-Christian, normally has a concern for the welfare and health of his child, the Christian parent has the added concern of seeing his child’s life preserved for God. Manoah’s question expresses what ought to be the exercise of every burdened parent: “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” God intended to use Samson in days to come and placed him in a home where he would be protected from harmful influences.
II) The Family’s Provision
A glimpse at some Biblical families shows us some of the things a Christian home and family should provide for a child. We will only look at the first one in any detail.
A) A safe haven – Samson, Judges 13. There were woeful conditions in the land. The relativism and situational ethics of the late 20th century were presaged by the attitude of Israelites in the days of the judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 21:25). How difficult it was (and is) to teach a child the difference between right and wrong when the definition keeps changing! Thank God, the believer can employ immutable truth to combat the shifting sands of “modem” thought.
There was a weighty conviction in their hearts. The words of the heavenly messenger would convince them of the truth stated later in the Word of God: “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is His reward” (Psalm 127:3). Realizing that God has given us our children to be raised for Him will keep us from viewing them as either inconveniences or encumbrances. What a high honor and privilege it is to be entrusted with young hearts and lives to mold and shape for God and eternity!
There was a wonderful communication in their hands. They had been given divine guidance and direction as to the child’s manner and vocation. Having the Word of the living God, we hold in our hands the most comprehensive, authoritative, and sagacious volume possible. We do not need to subject our children to novel theories and post-modern philosophies that we “hope” will work. The principles of God’s Word cannot be surpassed. I may misunderstand or misapply its instructions, but a proper grasp of what God teaches regarding child-raising will allow me to give my children the best possible instruction and upbringing. For instance, some parents feel torn between what they believe the scriptures teach about the use of “the rod.” They feel that corporal punishment is ineffective with some of their children, although it seemed effective with others. They either continue to “spank” their child because they want to “obey God” or they give up disciplining their child because it doesn’t seem to work. But, of course, the Bible’s teaching about using the rod includes far more than what is termed corporal punishment.
Along with it is the injunction to “withhold not correction” (Proverbs 23:13). For some children, a look would be enough to command obedience. For others, in certain circumstances, “spanking” might be required. For yet others, the removal of some cherished privilege might be more indelible and instructive. A proper understanding of the scriptures will help me realize that the “rod” includes, among other things, instruction, reproof, warning, and correction.
There was a wholesome climate in the home. Samson was to be raised in a home free from defilement, distraction and danger. Nothing detrimental and everything conducive to his continued Nazariteship was to mark the home. The increasing technology of our age makes it vital for parents to assume the job of “gatekeepers,” insuring that nothing enters our homes, or if in our control, the lives of our children, that will be harmful to their ever being saved or serving God as redeemed believers. The almost ubiquitous access to the Internet, videos, and television makes it all the more important that parents be vigilant watchmen, preserving a wholesome climate within the walls of their homes.
B) A sure foundation – Timothy, 2 Tim 3:15. From his grandmother and mother, Timothy apparently received consistent and careful instruction in the Word of God. This is a type of “home schooling” that is absolutely essential. We can be deeply thankful to God for competent preachers and teachers. However, we dare not leave the instructing of our children solely to preachers and Sunday School teachers. Perhaps as many as four generations are viewed in Psalm 78, each learning or communicating truth to succeeding generations. “For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children. That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Psalm 78:5-7).
C) A spiritual heritage – Moses, Heb 11:23-27. Seeing by faith that Moses was “a proper child,” his parents did not allow the world to destroy him. Apparently those early days in the home of his parents were sufficient to give Moses a realization of the rich heritage that was his. Moses deemed the people of God, the reproach of Christ, and the recompense of the reward all of more value than what Egypt could offer. May God give us all grace to convey to our children the value of God’s assembly, of living for eternity, and of honoring His Name! His grace alone can halt the hemorrhaging of assembly life at this earliest possible point by enabling us to raise our children with a view towards their eventual usefulness for God in His assembly.
D) A sense of significance and purpose – Samuel, I Samuel 1:27-28. Would Samuel ever outlive the feeling of his mother’s hand on his shoulder and her quiet words of conviction: “For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him. Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD”? It may be that God has gracious purposes of usefulness for our children that we could never imagine.
I hope our consideration of these things has been done with a great sensitivity to the hearts of believers whose children have not followed in their footsteps. Some very godly saints have lived and died praying for their children’s conversion. Salvation is by grace alone, and we should never imagine that we can merit God’s favor or blessing by our faithfulness. It is a great privilege to be entrusted with young lives. May the Lord graciously increase our sense of responsibility and exercise for our children and strengthen our dependence on Him for their salvation, their blessing, and their future usefulness for God.