If you are a parent with children living under your roof, then you are a minister of God. You are a pastor over a little congregation, responsible before God for the spiritual education of those little lambs. That responsibility comes with the opportunity to instruct from Scripture.
Preaching is a joy. As wonderful as it is to hear a great sermon, you can be sure that the speaker gained far more from the message than you did: He put in multiple hours of preparation in study, prayer and meditation, then in shaping that message. I personally find this preparation process—from asking God for direction on what the congregation needs, to digging in to the Bible and related literature, to thinking about how to express points in the clearest, most effective and memorable way for God’s people—exhilarating and deeply gratifying.
I remember early on in my marriage, before I was ordained a minister, hearing a sermon that admonished us to conduct family Bible studies. Though we had no children, I was moved to apply the instruction. I prayed that God would inspire the subjects to cover. Then I began looking at my marriage and thinking about what we really needed in order to grow as a couple. Then I looked into the Bible to get God’s mind in those areas.
Then—and this was the crux of it—I sat down with my wife and taught her what God had taught me. We had specific studies on preparing for the holy days, improving our Sabbath observance, deepening our fellowship. When we received some inheritance money after my grandfather died, I gave a study on managing wealth and avoiding materialism. When we started to talk about having children, I gave a study on counting the cost and recognizing the responsibility involved.
This was a life-changing experience. It put God right at the center of our family. It forced me to be more attentive to the spiritual needs of my family. It developed my mind-set as a leader. It improved my study habits and showed me just how practical God’s Word really is. It encouraged my wife to view me as her spiritual head. It unified our thinking and drew us closer together.
As beneficial as this exercise was, there is no specific law in the Bible saying a man should give Bible studies to his wife. Once children enter the picture, however, the Bible is clear: God commands us to instruct them from His Word. Through us, God wants to bring those children up in His truth and usher them right into His eternal Family. He also wants to use this opportunity to prepare us to better fulfill the job we’re going to be doing for all eternity!
Moses’s Urgent Plea
We often speak of the Malachi 4:5-6 commission that Herbert W. Armstrong fulfilled in his ministry: “he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.”
If you study the book of Deuteronomy, you can see that Moses felt a similar responsibility to build the families of Israel. In this, his final instruction to God’s people just before he died and they entered the Promised Land, Moses repeatedly emphasized parents’ duty to pass their spiritual wisdom to their children and grandchildren.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). The phrase “teach them diligently” means to repeat intensively, to do something again and again—like sharpening a blade through repetitious grinding or friction. Surely Moses had witnessed a lot of failure among Israel’s families. You can sense his urgency: Commit these words to heart—then teach them diligently to your children, and discuss them at every opportunity! This is how to survive as a nation!
Moses did more than command family Bible studies: He emphasized the importance of reinforcing those biblical lessons throughout the day, both at home (“in your house”) and away (“by the way”). He expected parents and children to be interacting often, and for the Bible to be a regular topic of discussion. He stressed the need for instructing each night before bedtime (“when you lie down”), and again each morning (“when you rise up”).
Moses followed up with a very practical instruction: He advocated writing certain scriptures and principles down and posting them in the house to help internalize them (verse 9; see also Deuteronomy 11:18-20).
Spend some time taking these scriptures to heart—even committing yourself to them in prayer before God. Life can be a jungle of duties and distractions. We may agree with Moses’s statements in principle but then struggle to implement them. We may make an effort but lack the consistency these scriptures demand. The mention of diligence and repetition are aimed directly at countering our natural tendency to allow this duty to slip.
Generation to Generation
Consider the rewards of making family Bible instruction the priority God intends. Moses himself described the richblessings these studies and discussions would bring, including a better relationship with God, stronger families, and longer and more abundant life for ourselves and our children and grandchildren (Deuteronomy 11:21; 4:9-10; 6:2).
Every parent desires a close bond with his children. Quality family Bible study and discussion is a key to achieving that. Parent-to-child and grandparent-to-child spiritual instruction is the glue that binds generation to generation. “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). This is a powerful antidote to the poisonous influences of the world that aim to tear children away from their parents.
Even more: Obedience to this command welds individual families into a single nation under God. Moses showed that it does nothing less than ensure long-lasting national stability and guarantees a future as a godly nation! Meditate on those promises in conjunction with Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Consider the principle, and the incredible promise, in these scriptures. If parents in Israel had diligently followed the command to teach their children, the nation never would have departed from God’s way!
The same is true of God’s Church, the spiritual nation of Israel. Family instruction guarantees spiritual stability through the generations. In the September 1979 Good News, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Brethren, God’s Church is not showing even half the growth it should have from the oncoming generation of our members. This shows we have neglected the teaching of our children!” (emphasis mine). Mr. Armstrong recognized this weakness in the Church over six years before he died. The near-universal falling away in the Church further betrayed the widespread failure among parents to fulfill this responsibility toward their children and toward God.
Let’s learn from this failure and heed the urgent plea from these great God-inspired men and make sure we’re rearing our children to know and love the Bible. The fact is, God is calling His very elect today to marry His Son and participate in the child rearing and spiritual instruction of the rest of the world! There is probably no better training for those responsibilities than bringing up the children God has entrusted to our care “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). If we are not fulfilling that responsibility with our children today, how could God consider us fit to look after His own children forever as the Bride of Christ? This is a priority we simply cannot let slip.
How to Go About It
The idea of expounding on the Scriptures for your family may seem daunting. Here are a few simple points that will help you move from agreeing in principle with this biblical command to actually making it a part of your family’s regular routine.
First, you yourself must be excited about the Bible. Look again at the passage in Deuteronomy 6. The two verses that precede the main instruction on teaching your children read, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart” (verses 5-6). You have to love God, and love His Word—to be stirred and moved and excited about your own Bible study. If you struggle with your own studies, then you won’t be motivated to teach; naturally, your children will struggle as well.
How much do you know about the Bible? Are you accustomed to searching the Scriptures for answers to the problems you face? Are you comfortable with using Bible helps like concordances, lexicons and alternate translations? Can you read a passage and expound on it? Can you relate Bible verses to real-life situations? Again, God is calling you to be a teacher—forever! These are skills we must continually develop and refine throughout our Christian lives (Luke 12:42-43; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17; read also Hebrews 5:12-14). Commit yourself to it, and you will find yourself drawing closer to God, the Author, in exhilarating fellowship!
As you build excitement in your personal Bible study, your eagerness to pass it on to your children will increase. Cultivate that enthusiasm by acting upon it.
Your aim is to build a regular habit of instructing your children from God’s Word and talking about the things of God. Until you are in the habit, it may feel awkward and forced—but keep at it. Over time, it will become easier for you, and your children will grow more receptive and accustomed to it. Have a set time each morning and each evening before bedtime to at least talk about God, His truth and way of life.
At least a few times a week, this time should include reading straight from the Bible. It is certainly fine to read high-quality youth Bible-based books to your children. But your main habit in family Bible study should involve the Bible itself. You may want to go somewhat methodically through a portion of the Bible such as the Proverbs or the Gospels. It would be wise to adapt your study at times according to your family’s specific needs at that time. You may want to choose a particular theme each week and give several related studies hitting that topic from various angles—law, history, proverbs, examples, prophecy.
Try to make God real to your children. Talk about His qualities of character. Show them what He looks like, and what His throne room is like. Give them a sense of His mightiness. Get into the details of His miracles; read to them about His mighty acts.
Each specific study may only involve a single verse, or perhaps two to three related verses. In a two-parent household, the father should read the scripture, then rephrase it in plain terms and explain it, making it very practical. Show how the scripture links to real-life examples. Be creative in getting the concepts across. Make it fun, exciting. Be sure the children understand. The mother should also add to the discussion. Ask them questions; have them think of examples of their own; encourage them to link the principles to their own daily lives. The more practical and understandable this teaching is, the easier it will be to reinforce it in discussion during the day.
Don’t go on for too long. Depending on your children’s age and attention span, you might go for 5 to 20 minutes. Work to hold their interest and keep it a positive experience. Praise your children as they progress. Don’t discourage them about things they forget—heap praise on them for what they remember. Take advantage of the fact that they want to please you. Ensure they have the overall feeling that studying the Bible is enjoyable, and that God’s way is great!
What a positive command it is that we share our spiritual riches with our children! Deuteronomy 6:7 and related scriptures embody a way of life. A way pulsating with life, with robust interactions between generations. A way where God’s government is firmly in place, with God at the top and every last member of the household experiencing the joy and stability that come as a result.
Family Bible studies require diligent effort—but the blessings they produce are well worth it. And the way they prepare both our children and ourselves for our future in God’s Family make them an invaluable treasure!