The Next Generation
The Next Generation
There are many passages in the Bible which exhort us to train and teach the next generation.
- “I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord” (Genesis 18:19).
- “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). The same command is repeated in Deuteronomy 11:18-19.
- “For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Psalm 78:5-7). The purpose of this, among other things was to avoid becoming a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose heart is not prepared and whose spirit is not faithful.
- “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6).
- “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Yet over the years I have seen people, even professed Christians push back against such clear instruction. For example, one idea I have heard a number of people profess:
“I Don’t Want to Prejudice Them”
That is, “I am not going to repeatedly talk to them about God or Scripture as is clearly indicated in the above passages. Rather, I am just going to allow them to figure things out for themselves. I don’t want to impose my beliefs or values upon them”. Yet I find a number of things wrong and inconsistent with this point of view.
- If you do not want to impose any values upon your children, then why did you become a parent in the first place? One of the primary tasks of a parent is to impose values and beliefs. All the above passages are expecting that you will do that. A parent saying that they do not want to impose any values or beliefs is like a police officer saying that they do not want to arrest anyone, or a fireman being against putting out fires.
- You are imposing values and beliefs! When a parent says that they do not want to impose any biblical values and beliefs upon their child, in essence the value they are imposing, the value the child is learning, is that what is in the Bible is not very important.
- You are imposing all sorts of other values. Most parents, even those who are not Christians expect their children to eat healthy food, get an education, stay away from drugs, avoid getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant, and so on. So the issue is not imposing beliefs and values. All parents do that, believers and unbelievers. The issue is, which values will I impose? Will I be consistent?
- Values must be connected to something. Again, most parents want their children to avoid getting addicted to drugs, ending up in jail, harming or killing someone because they were driving recklessly or drunk and becoming teenage parents. Yes, those are good things to avoid. But why? A why that is only connected to the physical consequences isn’t strong enough. The real why is, “Because God will judge and condemn you for such” (Hebrews 13:4; Matthew 5:29-30). In the previous verses, I am struck by the fact that when warning us about sin, Jesus did not mention the physical consequences, i.e., avoid adultery because such can ruin your marriage. Rather, He immediately brought in the ultimate consequence, i.e., hell.
In addition, the word “prejudice” is the wrong word to use when it comes to talking about biblical instruction. Because the word prejudice means, “a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual evidence”. What is found in the Bible is not a preconceived opinion, rather what is in the Bible is based on reason and evidence (Acts 17:1-2; 11). It is the truth (2 Timothy 4:2). Teaching your children the truth is not “prejudicing them”, rather it is instructing and enlightening them.
“I want them to figure it out all on their own”
Yet the people who say this do not practice it when it comes to other areas of necessary learning. Rather, they work with their children to understand the ABC’s and mathematics. They read books to their children, warn them about strangers, send them to school, put them into after school activities where adults train them in music, academics, sports and so on.
- Real life and the Bible both agree. Children are not born into this world “knowing the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6). They are equally born with ignorance and foolishness in their hearts (22:15).
- Not only that, but I find it very hypocritical for an adult who was trained by loving parents, instructed, brought to bible class, etc… to then say, “I am not going to give my children any of the advantages I was given”.
- Who among us can really say, “I was able to figure it out all on my own?” (Acts 8:31).
The more I think about it, the above point of view is incredibly naïve. If you as a parent opt out of the training process, I guarantee you the world and Satan will jump right into the void you created.
- The world will truly prejudice them (and is not ashamed to do so) (2 Timothy 4:3; 2 Peter 2:1-3).
- The world will talk to them constantly about the wrong path. I find it ironic that people who talk about God and the Bible a lot are often labeled as “Bible thumpers”, yet the world is not ashamed of harping constantly on one false idea after another. In fact, one reason why I need to be constantly talking about God and the lessons from the Bible to my children is because the world is constantly contradicting and seeking to undermine what you are teaching. The devil does not take a day off when it comes to teaching your children. He is more than willing to talk to them when they sit down, lie down and get up.
What is this all about?
First, a Scripture. The Hebrew writer argues that discipline from a parent is proof that a parent is willing to claim you as their own and thus, they love you (Hebrews 12:7-10). The child who no one wants to discipline is the child that no one wants to claim as their own. Therefore, to deny our children the necessary discipline, which includes the entire training of the child (instruction as well), is to deny them love. So, if I am unwilling to impose biblical values upon them, this means two things are probably true: (1) I don’t really prize or believe in those values myself. The words of Scripture are not impressed upon my heart, because if they were, if I really believed, I would talk about it to anyone who would listen, especially, to my children (2) I really love myself, my time, sleep, privacy, etc… more than I love my children.
Then there is a third issue. In looking back over the years one common denominator I often saw among people who either did not want their children or their mate to learn more about God, was the desire to avoid people examining their own life in the light of truth. You see, the more educated about the Bible the people around me are, especially my immediate family who interact with me on a daily basis, the less likely I can fool them that I am serving God, when I am not. The less likely I can maintain a point of view on something that is not biblical. The more likely I will be challenged if I am not living right. The less likely my excuses for not attending as I should will be accepted. The more that people will see me as I really am. So keeping those around me in the dark is often motivated by the desire to keep the light of truth off of my own life.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017