(Read Part 1)
Preparing for value transference
There are two major things we must do to prepare ourselves before we being the process of transferring our values to our children. The first is found in Deuteronomy 6:6.
1) The words of the commandments must “be in (our) heart.”
This means that we must have learned and internalized these values ourselves before we can pass them along to our children. Teaching a subject you do not know yourself is very difficult. Many parents who struggle to recall their high school algebra classes when it’s time to help with homework assignments can attest to this truth. H. L. Mencken said, “A man who knows a subject thoroughly, a man so soaked in it that he eats it, sleeps it, and dreams it—this man can always teach it with success.”
Having God’s Word in our heart implies far more than just a casual knowledge of the Bible. It means that we have learned the principles and are acting upon them. Hypocrites make poor parents. None of us are perfect, and it is certain that we will fail at times in working with our children. But maintaining a double standard ensures that what we say will be ignored in the light of what we actually do.
A personal relationship with God and His Word that is real to the parent is the first step toward transferring a similar sense of God to our children. Number one on the priority list, before work, before church, even before family, is our relationship with God. If we are not taking time to build and strengthen it, the consequences go far beyond our own lives.
Although I grew up in the middle of “Big Orange Country” in Tennessee, I have been a life-long fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide. This left me in the minority among my friends and classmates, but I didn’t care. They were my father’s team, and I wanted them to be my team as well.
But my father grew up in South Carolina. Why would he like Alabama? Because he had been impressed with the quality of the young men produced by coach Bear Bryant, he had developed an allegiance to that football team. It was in his heart. And it was in mine. My son is named Bryant, and it’s no coincidence that he hates orange too.
The things that matter to us, the things which are truly in our hearts, the actual things on which we lavish our time and attention as opposed to things to which we pay lip service—these are the things we will pass on to the next generation.
The second vital requirement for parents to prepare them to transfer values is actually mentioned three times in this chapter of Deuteronomy. In 6:2, 6:13, and again in 6:24, we are reminded of the importance of fearing God.
2) We must fear God.
The concept of the fear of the Lord is alien to modern American thinking. Even within sound churches, it is often watered down. Typically a preacher will say that the fear of the Lord is “a reverential trust in God.” But a careful reading of Scripture reveals that when the Bible talks about the fear of the Lord, it is talking about something far stronger than reverence. Fear means to be afraid. The same Bible words used for “fear” in the fear of the Lord are also translated “tremble,” “quake,” and “terror.” Clearly God is trying to convey an important message to us that we must not ignore.
What does it mean to properly fear God? When my sister was five years old, she followed my father out of our house. Somehow when her hand hit the glass part of the door, it broke, and her entire arm up to the elbow went through the door. Her arm was completely surrounded by jagged pieces of glass.
My father turned and saw what had happened and shouted, “Don’t move!” At that young age she had already learned the fear of my father, and even though she was frightened, she remained perfectly still. She didn’t move until he had taken out enough of the glass to safely remove her arm. She loved her father and he loved her, but it was her fear of him that kept her safe. That is the purpose of the fear of the Lord.
It is not the quivering terror we would feel when facing an unjust tyrant. It is, instead, a realization of the power and awesome holiness of our God, and His feelings about sin. We rationalize and minimize our sins, but God hates them with a fury we can scarcely comprehend.
None of this is to downplay the love of God for us, or our relationship with Him as a Father. But because He loves us so much, He will not allow us to do things that are damaging. God has not gone out of the sin-punishing business. Understanding God’s attitude toward sin explains why Proverbs 16:6 tells us that “By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.”
Behind every thought regarding teaching our children God’s principles for living is the realization of the consequences of failure in this vital task. For their future well being, we simply must teach them what God says they must know. Understanding the fear of the Lord gives us tremendous motivation for undertaking the challenge.
The tragic failure of the priest Eli with his sons dramatically illustrates this concept. Eli was a godly man who led and judged Israel well for decades. But his two children, Hophni and Phinehas, refused to follow in their father’s footsteps. They were wicked and ungodly in their actions. When God sent word through the boy Samuel that He was going to judge Eli’s family, He placed the blame for their behavior squarely on Eli’s shoulders. The Bible tells us that Eli “restrained them not.” Perhaps if Eli had feared God and been more conscious of the consequences of failure, he would have been more diligent in trying to make sure his sons followed his God.
Peril in value transferrance
There is also a serious warning found in this passage. As we set out to transfer vital values to our children, there is one great danger that threatens our success. This is found in verses ten through twelve of Deuteronomy six where we find the warning that, especially when things seem to be going well, we need to remember God.
This seems like such an obvious thing that it’s surprising to find a warning like this in the Bible. How could anyone forget God? But that is the trap into which the Israelites fell again and again.
We are most in danger of forgetting God when things are going well. The Israelites were told that they would be enjoying great blessings in the Promised Land. But it is in times of great blessing that we tend to become self-centered and self-sufficient. And that is exactly what happened to the children of Israel.
Many parents lose their children when the children reach the teenage years. They have worked with them, taken them to church, and tried to teach them while they were young. It is tempting to relax at this point and feel like the work is done. Often parents allow themselves to become proud and take credit for what they have done.
The Bible warns us in Psalm 127 that no matter what labor or effort we put forth, unless God is building our house, our work will be in vain. So we must take care to remember God, praying for His help in rearing our children, especially as they get older.
If we forget God, all the work we have done will be wasted. We see this in the life of David. He was a “man after God’s own heart” who tried to follow and please God. David was Israel’s greatest king, the Psalmist who wrote the national hymnal, a gifted warrior, and a tremendous leader of men.
He was also almost a complete failure as a father. David did not remember God’s instructions for fathers when it came to rearing his children. He did not restrain Adonijah “at any time.” He allowed Amnon’s rape of Tamar to go unpunished. When Absalom took matters into his own hands to avenge his sister, David refused to forgive him.
Because David forgot God when it came to his children, he reaped a terrible harvest of consequences. David’s heart broke as he cried out wishing he had died in place of his son Absalom. But it was too late too change his son’s course once the pattern of rebellion and neglect had been set for him.
We must be on guard against the great danger of forgetting about God in the process of rearing our children and transferring our values to them. If we follow the directions God has laid out for us in His Word, success in teaching our children to walk with Him is indeed possible despite the society in which we live. It’s a tremendous challenge, but the rewards are worth every effort when we have completed the task.
Robert Byers has helped produce numerous book and curriculum projects for a wide variety of ministries and pastors. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology (84) and a Master’s Degree in Education (85) from Hyles-Anderson College. Robert and his wife Brenda have two college-age children, Rhonda and Bryant, and live in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he works for a CPA. He is eagerly anticipating the kickoff of the 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide football season.