I‘m becoming more convinced that our approach to parenting will teach one or the other. I’m also convinced that many Christian parents, in an effort to zealously teach obedience, are, in fact, teaching idolatry.
I realize that is a very strong claim to make, so I will do my best to back it up. I also do my best to always be supportive and understanding of every parent, meeting them where they are in their parenting journey, and never judging their heart, which I always assume loves their child very much. But it is because I make this positive assumption about parents’ motivations that I feel I must speak so strongly on this subject.
The first 5 Commandments,
paraphrased as I taught them to my children.
- Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these
- things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33
- I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me.
- You shall not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything in
- the heavens above, the earth beneath or the waters below.
- Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
- Honor your father and mother.
Do you notice the same thing about these verses that has been jumping out at me lately? Perhaps not, but I didn’t notice it
until recently so don’t be too hard on yourselves. Who comes first in these passages of instruction-God or someone else?
I’m seeing that we’re to seek first the Kingdom of God and HIS righteousness AND that we are to honor God before we honor our parents.
Yet popular Christian parenting experts will tell you the opposite-that a child will learn to obey God by FIRST obeying his parents. I would like to know on what basis this claim is made since it goes exactly against the teaching of God. And, I might add, that I choose to fear God instead of man and desire to teach my children to do the same so I will listen to God over these experts. I also want to teach my children to listen to God over ME and that cannot be done if my requirement of my child is first time obedience to everything I say.
Our only direct instruction as parents regarding what our job is, other than the many references that we are to discipline our children, are found in these two verses:
- 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.
Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9
- Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the
nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
There is nothing about punishment in these verses. Actually, the second verse talks about not provoking our children to anger and many spankers will openly admit that spankings provoke some, if not all, children to anger. Yet spanking has remained the preferred method of ‘discipline’ within Christian circles. Even if spankings are questioned or abandoned many parents still feel the necessity to punish.
These verses speak of teaching God’s ways. What are we to teach as we walk along the road, sit and lie down, and rise up? ‘THESE COMMANDMENTS I GIVE YOU THIS DAY.’ We are to teach what pleases God! We are to teach the way of life that God has laid down in the Bible for us to live. And one very key element of God’s Law is that children are not held to its standard! The time of childhood (which the Rabbis understand is not completed until the child is 21) is the time for teaching God’s Law. Adulthood is the time for being held to its standard. And another key element of God’s Law is that when a sacrifice was required for a violation of the Law, it was the sacrifice of an innocent animal. Our sins have always been atoned for through the sacrifice of an innocent. This was prophetic of Jesus who would be the perfect and final sacrifice.
Thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice we are no longer in relationship with God based on our own efforts. Thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice we can stand before God and cry out ‘ABBA’ ‘Daddy’ and not only can we run to Him, but He runs to us. We have intimacy of relationship with God in Heaven thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice of atoning blood here on earth. Jesus suffered the consequences of disobedience to God’s Law, of which we are all guilty and which is referred to throughout the Bible as sin, so that we don’t have to.
Yet what does punitive parenting teach? Two things, I suggest, that violate all that these verses instruct:
Yet what does punitive parenting teach? Two things, I suggest,
that violate all that these verses instruct:
- 1) Punitive parenting
- requires that atonement for a violation of the law be paid by the
- personal suffering of the individual guilty of the sin and
- Punitive parenting teaches the parents’ law ahead of God’s Law.
When I came to these realizations I was floored. I was shocked. My jaw literally dropped. The idea that our children will eventually learn to obey God if we require that they obey us is counter to all that Scripture says. It’?s counter to God’s instruction. And when we put our law ahead of God’s Law we are teaching our children to worship us-a worship where violations of our law are atoned for with the physical suffering of our children as they atone for their sins. This is idolatry.
Look again at the first 5 Commandments. Love of God and obedience to Him take up the first 4 Commandments. ‘Honor your father and mother’ doesn’t come into play until number 5. Children don’t learn to obey God by being required to obey us. They learn to honor us AFTER they have learned to honor God. We are not the end all be all and we are not even the means to the end. We are, however, the tools of instruction for the children to whom God has entrusted to us. We are, therefore, admonished to choose a style of discipline that truly teaches children the Commandments of God. God’s Law is summed up by Jesus in these two
- ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength’
- ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
‘Teach your children these two things and you will be teaching them to fulfill all of the Law and the Prophets.
That is obedience.