By: Scott O'Malley
April 30th, 2021
In part one of our series we discussed the importance of our dependence on God. In part two we will discuss an additional biblical foundation: reliance on Scripture to equip us for the task of parenting.
I have had the privilege of teaching many parenting classes over the years, and interacting with real-life stories from hundreds of parents. One story especially stands out to me because it crystallizes the importance of recognizing your own worldview and presuppositions. This particular story unfolded when a mom of a 2-year-old came to class with a burning question on her mind. She said, “What do I do when my daughter keeps ripping her hand out of my hand and running into a crowd when we are at the mall?” She went on to say she really didn’t think her daughter was doing anything wrong because she was just asserting her independence. But, the mom was obviously concerned for the safety of her daughter.
Foundation #2 – The Scriptures thoroughly equip parents
I tried to gently help this mom think biblically about what she was observing. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Unfortunately, this mom had adopted a worldly perspective of children instead of recognizing the Scriptures thoroughly equipped her to parent her daughter. I asked her, “What do you think God thinks of your child’s behavior?” She said she was not sure. I encouraged her to consider Ephesians 6:1 as a good starting place: “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” While child psychologists will state that it is necessary for a child to assert his or her independence, the Bible warns us that “folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” Furthermore, if we continue reading Ephesians 6:2-3 we read, “Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise) that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” In other words, God promises blessing to a child who learns to honor and obey mom and dad, not one who tries to assert his or her independence.
Just as a good sermon helps us understand and apply what is in the Scriptures, a good parenting book will do the same. When the Bible informs one’s thinking, a parent can not only see clearly in an individual situation like this one; it also helps a parent avoid disastrous mistakes.
When the Bible informs one’s thinking, a parent can not only see clearly in an individual situation like this one; it also helps a parent avoid disastrous mistakes.
Consider one well-known Christian psychologist who argued that if two siblings want to fight, a parent should send them out to the backyard and let them fight. How many biblical principles are violated by such counsel? We will briefly look at four.
1. It encourages children to vent their anger, a violation of Proverbs 29:11.
2. It violates the instruction of Galatians 6:1 to help restore a sinning person through gentle rebuke.
3. It does not help the children identify the heart issue that led to the conflict in the first place. James 4:1 tells us the desires within their hearts are the source of the conflict.
4. Finally, as one who has an older brother who was bigger and stronger than me, sending children out to the backyard to fight will almost certainly cause exasperation to the younger sibling, violating Ephesians 6:4.
These situations provide us examples of why it is so vital that our thoughts are informed and guided by Scripture and not the philosophies of this world (Psalm 1:1-3).
Another reason relying on the Scriptures to guide us is vital in parenting is because it gives us wisdom we so desperately need. Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
Years ago I was serving as a houseparent when one of the children in the home became very disrespectful to me. Unfortunately, I returned evil for evil and we got into a heated argument. After this sinful conversation proceeded for a short time, I was convicted of my sinful anger and told the young lady to go to her room. I had no idea how to fix this mess that I just made. So, I did the only thing I could think of to do and started to file through in my mind all the Scripture I had ever memorized, looking for guidance. I then came across 2 Timothy 2:24-26 which says, “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (NIV).
This incident happened over 20 years ago but that day is still very clear in my mind. I was so encouraged that God had described what I just experienced. I was thrilled that I could see what God wanted of me in this moment. I saw my sin of resentment that led to my obvious anger. Not only was I convicted, I was also given guidance on what I should have been doing: gently instructing this young lady, calling her to repentance. So when I walked down the hall to reengage the conversation, I had great clarity and confidence. I had been changed by the Word of God. I was able to take the log out of my own eye by asking for forgiveness before I sought to address the speck in her eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
Not only were we able to reconcile, that day changed my parenting forever. I recognized that when I was desperate for wisdom I needed to depend on the Word of God to guide me. I saw so clearly how practical and helpful the Word of God was for my life. I was inspired to be a student of the Bible and continue to memorize Scripture, seeking to practically apply the Bible to the situations I faced on a daily basis. My prayer for all of us as parents is that we will be able to join with the psalmist in saying “Oh how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).
Please join me next week as we look at an additional foundation for biblical parenting: focus on faithfulness – not your child’s behavior. Let me close with a few additional questions for you to ponder.
Questions for Reflection
1. How am I doing at being a student of God’s Word?
2. What is my plan to grow in this particular area in the coming months? There are many great resources to help Christians grow in this particular area – here are a few recommendations.
a. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdlOVua0_ss – What Tools Do I Need to Study the Bible by John Piper. He explains an overview of four necessary resources to study the Bible for yourself. b. https://www.desiringgod.org/labs - Look at the Book by John Piper. He carefully explains and teaches through how he makes observations in studying the Bible for many different passages of Scripture. c. The ESV Study Bible d. Dig Deeper – Tools for Understanding God’s Word by Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach.
3. What are some Scriptures that I need to memorize for myself as a parent as well as in ministering to my children? Make a list and get started memorizing.