This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: Proverbs 1:1-9, Ephesians 6:1-4
Focus: Raising children tenderly in the fear and wisdom of the Lord is a Christian parent’s primary responsibility.
Function: To encourage parents to raise their children in the fear and wisdom of the Lord as their primary, highest parental responsibility.
Sermon prepared by Dr. Jack Van Marion, Edina, MN
Good babysitters are hard to find. Isn’t that the truth? Here you are: You and your husband have not been on a date together since you had your first-born child 6 months ago. You are ready for a break, but who’s going to take care of your child for the evening?
Your parents live 400 miles away, and even though you had a few names of possible babysitters referred to you, you are ill at ease. After all, who is good enough to take care of your precious child? Surely, no one can take care of your kid the way you do! Ah, parents are picky when it comes to babysitters. That’s why I say: good babysitters are hard to find!
When it comes to the physical comfort and safety of our children, we tend to be picky. But you might have observed over the years that many parents are not so “picky” when it comes to the raising of our children’s mental, moral, emotional and spiritual formation and character. Let me ask you, for example, who is responsible for raising our children? Is it parents? Or the schools? Or the media and pop culture? Is it the church and its youth pastor? Or is it the government? Who is responsible?
They say that it takes a village to raise a child. There is some truth in that saying. For example, raising children takes place in a social context: there are the neighborhood, the schools, the churches, and other institutions where social interaction takes place.
But you cannot hold “the village” responsible for raising your child. You cannot hand over your parental priorities to “the village.” Far too many parents in our society today are doing precisely that very thing: they abdicate their parental priorities—and later on they wonder why their kids turned out the way they did.
In light of the Scriptures, we maintain today that raising children tenderly in the fear and wisdom of the Lord is a Christian parent’s primary responsibility. Therefore, Christian parents do well to set clear parental priorities for themselves. God’s word encourages all of you to raise your children in the fear and wisdom of the Lord as your primary, highest responsibility.
The Scriptures speak to us all today: Parents and children are amply addressed: Take Proverbs 1:8 and 9, for example: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Or listen to the apostle Paul addressing children and parents, and in particular fathers: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right…Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Even those of us who are single or do not have children receive a word from the Lord. Listen: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Clearly, God is knocking on our doors. Being picky about good babysitters is one thing. But how about being picky about our parental priorities and responsibilities? Let me say it again: Raising children tenderly in the fear and wisdom of the Lord is a Christian parent’s primary responsibility.
No one claim to be a perfect parent. Nor an expert. Most of us have learned parenting “on the go.” One thing is certain, however: It takes wisdom to parent. And that’s why we ought to be grateful for God’s Word, for God speaks to us words of wisdom in the form of proverbs—wisdom sayings.
These words of wisdom, gleaned by Solomon through general observations and filled with instructions from God’s Spirit give us footage and steadfastness in navigating our ship of life and raising our children.
We do well to take these proverbs seriously, for they come from the mouth of God himself through Solomon and others. In fact, the voice of God’s eternal Son, the Lord Jesus, comes through in the Book of Proverbs. Jesus is the wisdom of God personified. That’s why the apostle Paul can say (I Cor. 1:30) that “…Christ Jesus…has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” To know this Jesus, to be found in him through faith, and to be shaped by his word and instructions is to live a life of wisdom.
Surely, in that light the summary wisdom saying in Proverbs 1:7 makes a lot of sense: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
True knowledge and the passing on of true knowledge to our children begins with an attitude or posture of holy reverence for God. The fear of the Lord is a measure of dread or deep respect for God’s holiness and divine wisdom.
If you would have to brew a soup called “the fear of the Lord” you would have to take a kettle and fill it with these ingredients: dread, reverence, majesty, holiness, divine power, awe and wonder, a deep respect, love, child-like trust, humility, and many other characteristics that exalt the Lord. Then, when you begin to spoon-feed yourself and your children with all these ingredients that make up the fear of the Lord, you and the children will begin to gain true knowledge. How we all need the fear and wisdom of the Lord!
In Ephesians 6:4 we learn that Christian parents have a primary responsibility to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord. Negatively, Paul says in particular to fathers, “do not exasperate your children.” Positively, he says, “instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”One commentator (Hendriksen) exposes some ways by which we, at times, exasperate our children. And perhaps some of us are guilty of these.
For example, by being over-protective; by playing favoritism; by dampening their enthusiasm with discouragement and negativism; by bitter words and outright physical cruelty, or by neglecting to show interest in them and in their accomplishments; or by failing to remember and acknowledge that our children—as they develop into teenagers and young adults—have a right to have ideas of their own. They do not have to be copycats of their parents to be or become servants of the living God.
You are right: raising children is a daunting task. Yet, to raise our children tenderly in the fear and wisdom of the Lord is our primary, highest responsibility. That’s why we should pay close attention to Paul’s positive words when he says, “…instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Christian parenting means that we “school our children in the ways of the Lord.” Our homes and our parental sphere of influence is the environment or school in which we teach our children the mind and ways and wisdom of the Lord. Our children need such reverence and knowledge. And we who claim to be Christian parents must make these elements of Christian discipline and instruction our highest priority.
In practicing and teaching the fear and wisdom of the Lord, three things should be stressed:
Number One:. Christian teaching or doctrines are vital in forming the children as men and women of God: Many adult Christians have an aversion to doctrines. Some of you have no use for Christian teachings and prefer to stay ignorant when it comes to the knowledge of God and the fear of the Lord. You prefer to make up your own knowledge of God. Or you feel it’s better for your children to decide for themselves what they should know about God and how they should relate to God. That’s a colossal mistake, however!
Christian doctrines revealed by God in Scriptures and formulated by Spirit-led Christian men and women in the church of Christ through the ages are like a roadmap. They give you and your children structure, and a way to go through life without getting burned by sinful ways, selfish attitudes and demonic vices. Just as a roadmap guides us to stay on the highway and find our way on the byways, so Christian teachings guide us through life. And just as a roadmap warns us about dangers and places that are off-limits for travelers, so Christian teachings keep us from heresies and idolatries and vices that undermine our service and fear of the Lord.
Christian teaching or doctrines are vital in forming the children as men and women of God. Knowing and passing on Christian doctrine should be any Christian parent’s highest priority. Why? Because Christian moral conduct, Spirit-filled virtues, characters of integrity, and hearts filled with righteousness and a desire to serve the Lord—all these are formed and shaped by Christian doctrines found in the Scriptures.
Let’s not raise and send our kids into the world without Christian doctrine taught by you and me in our homes. And that leads me to my second emphasis:
Number Two: Instruct and train your children first and foremost at home. We should be thankful for the Christian Reformed Church’s historic emphasis of parenting by pointing to the availability of the three-legged stool: the Christian home, the church, and the school. It is a Christian parent’s highest responsibility to shape and form our children with the mind of Christ and the wisdom of the Lord. As parents we avail ourselves of the community of faith, the church, and we gladly reinforce the Christian teachings that are supposedly taught in the home.
And we gratefully may make use of Christian instruction at specific schools to reinforce our parental instruction and formation at home. But at no time may we abdicate our parental responsibility or priority to teach our children the knowledge of God and the way of the Lord Jesus.
So, for example, dropping off your 15 yr. old teenager at church for catechism instruction, expecting the youth pastor or volunteer Christian teacher to make a man or woman of God out of your child during a weekly, one-hour instructional program over a three or six month period—is wishful thinking.
It’s time that Christian parents assume full responsibility themselves to teach their children the doctrines of faith. It’s primary to our task as parents.
Yes, it’s also vital that the church does her job of teaching and showing our youth the way of the Lord. As members of this church we should always insist on solid Christian teachings at all levels of the church. But dropping off your kids at church, thinking that such is the end of your parental duty, and then doing your own thing on Sundays or throughout the week is the wrong message to send to your kids and it’s the wrong way to go as Christian parents. Raising children tenderly in the fear and wisdom of the Lord is a Christian parent’s primary responsibility. Make it your highest priority at home.
That, of course, leads me to my third emphasis:
Number Three: Review and discuss together with your spouse your family time at home. In many homes in the past, as you grew up, your family had breakfast and supper together; your father read Scripture after each meal; you prayed before and after you sat down to eat. Perhaps you read a lot at night because there was not much else to do. But now, I know, for most of us these days are over.
So, how do you nurture the faith of your children at home? How do you pray for each other? How do you speak the name of Christ and discuss Christian teachings at home? How do you model to your children the wisdom and fear of the Lord?
“Where do you get the time?” You ask. But that’s the wrong question: We don’t need more hours in the day. We need to restructure our use of time each day. And that’s difficult to do.
There’s not a quick and easy answer for you when it comes to your home life. But this we know: When we take seriously our parental priorities and responsibilities, God will show us the way. Therefore, go for it: prioritize your family time at home.
It’s true: finding a good babysitter is a picky and difficult business. However, being a responsible, Christian parent, setting parental priorities for your family is far more important. Do not be discouraged. Keep at it, today and always!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Suggested Order of Worship
- Silent Prayer
- Call to Worship: Hosea 10:12
- God’s Greeting
Gathering Songs: Come, All Who Fear the Lord God PsH #240
It Is Good to Sing Your Praises PsH #171
God Calls Us to Reconciliation
- Prayer of Confession
- Assurance of Pardon
- God’s Law for Grateful Living: The Ten Commandments & Proverbs 11:18
- Thanksgiving Hymn: Let Children Hear the Mighty Deeds PsH#585
We Hear God's Word
- Prayer for the Word
- Scripture Reading: Proverbs 1:1-9; Ephesians 6:1-4
- Sermon: Parental Priorities
We Give God Our Response
- Song of Response: When We Walk with the Lord PsH#548
- Intercessory Prayer
- Tithes and Offerings
- Offertory Hymn: I Love to Tell the Story PsH #530
God Sends Us Into the World
- Doxology: O God, Our Help in Ages Past PsH #170