I recently heard someone say we teach children God’s Word so they will live godly lives. Then he half-joked, “And that certainly makes life easier for the parents!”
Now, for all I know he was trying to be really brief and didn’t have time to elaborate. Most likely, this one statement doesn’t completely encompass his entire reasoning of teaching children the Bible. Maybe if he and I sat down over a cup of coffee and had a long discussion, we would find ourselves on the same page. But . . .
This little comment rubbed me the wrong way. Like the hairs on the back of my spiritual neck stood on-end. I felt a restless, uneasiness under my skin. I literally shifted in my seat trying to shake off my apprehension.
This, my friends, is performance-based parenting. I know it well. I’ve parented that way before. But, by God’s grace, I’m trying not to parent that way now.
When I teach my children with the end goal being that their actions and behaviors will look right, I miss the mark. If I am focused on their behavior, then I’m looking at the wrong thing.
Oh sure, living a godly life is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong. I love it when my children behave appropriately and properly. I especially love it when their actions make me look like a really good mom. But I don’t teach my children God’s Word so they will live godly lives. I teach them God’s Word so they will know God better and love Him more.
And my heart’s real motivation certainly isn’t to teach them to behave well enough to make my own job easy. Yeah, there are times when I really just want them to lie down and go to sleep at bedtime so I can watch something on Netflix and eat the chocolate I have hidden in the new hiding place they haven’t found yet. And there are times when I really want them to stop fighting in the back of the van because they are driving me out of my ever-lovin mind! I’m a normal, sometimes self-centered momma. So there are times when my motives are purely centered around making my own life easier.
But when I really consider my goal as a parent, when I get right to the heartbeat of why I do what I do — I’m going after my kids’ hearts. I want them to learn God’s Word so they will know God well, so they will see how much He loves them, and so they will love him with all they’ve got. I know that God’s Word is alive, and I want the Spirit to use the things they learn to transform them from the inside-out.
You see, I know that once God’s Word seeps into their very being, once the Spirit uses the Word to capture their hearts and minds and transform them, then the good behavior that follows is just gravy.
So, nope, I don’t teach my kids God’s Word so they will live a godly life. I really don’t want their behavior to be my focus. I want their hearts.