“He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments;” (ESV – Read the chapter)
What are you teaching your children? Because the fact is, you are teaching them something. Every single thing you do is teaching them to look at and interact with the world in a certain way. Everything. From the way you dress to how you talk to them to how to talk to their mother to the work you do to your attitude about that work to the kind of hobbies you have to how much time you spend with that hobby to all the rest. The real question is not whether we are teaching our children, but if we are teaching them by intention or by accident.
Because God made us, He knows how our brains work. He designed for this kind of generational learning to happen. He designed it and He has a vested interest in making sure it works. In Moses’ farewell speech to the people of Israel, one of the first things he told them was to put God first in their lives. This is called the Shema and was the single most important Law for the nation through even modern Jews. They all know the Shema: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Now, when a command like that is given, what comes next matters a great deal. We may not remember it with the same consistency as the command, but when you actually read it, the next thing shapes in a powerful way what we do with the command.
So then, what was the next thing God said to the people through Moses? He told them to be careful to keep His commands. This was first in importance. If they didn’t keep His commands nothing else would matter. The very next thing, though, was that they should diligently teach those commands to their children. On this matter, He spends fair bit of time.
As a parent, if you are a follower of Jesus, the single most important thing you will ever teach your children is to love the Lord and keep His commands. Everything else comes in a distant second to that.
Here the psalmist reiterates the all-encompassing importance of this effort. We are to teach our children our faith. We are to be making disciples of all nations, but our first and best efforts are to be focused on the piece of the nations that lives within the borders of our own land.
Alright then, let’s get reflective for a second: How are you doing in his effort? What are you doing to intentionally pass your faith on to your kids? Let’s be clear on a couple of things here: Taking them to church is not enough. It’s good and important to be doing that (although heaven forbid you merely drop them off at church and don’t go yourself—that’s almost worse than not taking them at all), but it cannot be the only thing you are doing. That is not diligently teaching them faith. That’s a half-hearted effort at best.
Do they see you regularly reading your Bible? Do you encourage them to read their own Bible? Do they have a Bible of their own? Do you pray for them? Probably. Do you pray with them? At more than the dinner table? Do you show them a consistently Christlike character? Do you let them see what it looks like to serve others in Jesus’ name? Do they experience His love and grace from you on a regular basis (especially when they’ve blown it)? Do you ever have conversations with them in which you teach them to engage with the world through the lens of the Christian worldview?
All of these things are a good starting point for passing on our faith intentionally. If you aren’t doing these, it’s time to get started. If you already are, keep up the good work. Your job one as a parent is to pass on your faith. Be sure you can confidently say you’ve done everything within your power to make it happen.