What God Says About Parenting
Being a parent has been one of the most joyful experiences in my life and also one of the most humbling! God blessed my wife and me with four biological and two adopted kids — three boys and three girls. This mix was enough for us to nickname our tribe the StewZoo. We have experienced a blender-full of hilarious experiences, emotional conflicts, cultural misunderstandings, chaotic schedules, PMS, endless competitions, entertaining performances, and terrifying transitions. Our family, like yours, has journeyed through emotional highs and lows — sometimes in one day!
This crazy mix of emotions began at the very start when my wife first announced to me that she was pregnant. I was giddy with excitement at the thought of being a dad but scared to death about my responsibility to care for this life that God was entrusting to me. These extremes undoubtedly showed up in the times I pursued great adventures (or “dangers,” as my wife would describe them) with my kids with too little thought of what could go wrong and in the times, I was way too protective and hindered their development because of my fears.
Like many parents, I sought wisdom about parenting from multiple sources. I learned from my parents, watched other families around me, read plenty of books about parenting, and looked to the Bible to see what it said about this joyful yet daunting responsibility. I discovered the true and reliable wisdom from these multiple sources is filtered by the last source I mentioned — the Bible.
God’s Word contains timeless guidance that parents of all generations should follow as they rear their children. Time and space limit the many principles His Word provides, but here are three truth concepts that stand out to me:
It blows my mind when I realize God has invited me to partner with Him in caring for his world! After he created them, the first instruction to humans was to be fruitful and multiply. He didn’t need us but invited us, which reflects God’s generosity to us and trust in us to fill the earth with offspring who will glorify Him (Genesis 1:28).
As Solomon described in his poem, Psalm 127:3, “Children are a gift from the Lord” (NASB). Despite the challenges that come with parenting, a spirit of joyful gratitude should reside in our hearts as we embrace this responsibility. One of the verses that encourages this spirit in me is actually a directive to church leaders. “Be shepherds of God’s flock, the believers under your care. Watch over them, though not because you have to. Instead, do it because you want to” (1 Peter 5:2 NIRV). As a dad who is also a pastor, I hear God’s Word informing me that my family is my primary “flock” that God has put under my care. This forms a joyful desire and a sober responsibility to parent my children well. Our children should sense from us that we enjoy and treasure them — that we “want to.”
The Bible contains many statements that reveal the importance of having a purpose in our parenting. God instructed the Jewish people to “teach [God’s Words] diligently to your children, and talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way” (Deuteronomy 6:6 ESV). The New Testament supports this instruction as dads are told to do the same: “…instruct them and teach them the ways of the Lord as you raise them” (Ephesians 6:4 NIRV). Proverbs 22:6 provides practical guidance for raising our kids: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). Most commentators explain this training as the task of identifying the unique aspects of each child’s gifts, personality, and opportunities and guiding him or her in pursuing that right “fit” into God’s plan for them. Parenting, according to the guidance of the Bible, involves being intentional in the spiritual instruction and daily life skills that will equip them to live according to God’s design.
There’s something I have learned the hard way about parenting and any other roles I have in my life. The effect I have on the lives of others is based less on what I do and more on who I am. If I spend all my energy trying to learn and do the right things as a parent and neglect the core of who I am, my influence will be limited and, at worst, destructive. This is why the Apostle Paul urged believers to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16 ESV).
By surrendering our lives to the authority and leadership of the Spirit of Jesus and living in step with Him, we will express life-giving attributes that will positively influence others. We will live out our roles from the healthy place of abiding in Jesus and produce the fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23 ESV). Parenting is best done when these characteristics are being expressed, and these characteristics are produced from being faithfully with and surrendered to Jesus. I am in a position to be a much better dad if I am nurturing an authentic relationship with Jesus and influence my kids from that place instead of simply trying really hard to parent well. The best thing I can do for my kids is to be a dad who truly loves and serves my Savior.
Being a parent is a high calling — a responsibility given to us by God to provide for, protect, and prepare our children. It is also a joy-filled experience as we nurture their development, engage together with fun-filled adventures, and celebrate their milestones and accomplishments. The task is too important for us to simply parent according to our own instincts or the current trends of this age. God has given us his Word that provides timeless wisdom sufficient to guide us on our journey. His Spirit abides in all who believe in him, and he will guide us in truth as we live in step with him. Let’s cheer one another on as we joyfully and responsibly embrace this calling of parenting!