My oldest daughter recently graduated from high school. Reaching that milestone required overcoming a number of health challenges along the way, but we persevered and never lost faith that she would not only achieve this but much more. And that confidence has only increased over the years. Her mother and I set goals for her and expected excellence, and she did the work necessary to make that happen. While my own grade point average was high, the courses listed on my high school transcript were not necessarily the most academically challenging (something preaching school, college, and graduate school later corrected). And I insisted that my children have a more extensive education than I—something their mother has made possible through years of hard work. In this, I doubt that I am that different from many other fathers. However, even parents who push their children academically in school often fail to point their children to high aspirations spiritually. Instead, they accept a level of participation, education, and effort that they would never accept in general education. And yet, if anything, the opposite should be true. The words of Asaph in Psalm 78 reflect this principle well.
Parents should take seriously the responsibility to take what they have learned by hard experience and pass on to the next generation (Psa. 78:1-3). Truly, failing to do so spiritually is a disservice to our children, amounting to spiritual abuse. They need to know what God has done for us and for them, and they need to appreciate their parents commitment to Him (Psa. 78:4). In an allusion to Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the psalmist emphasizes the importance of teaching our children spiritually (Psa. 78:5-6)—not just facts and information, but faith and hope and love (Psa. 78:7). The last thing we should want is for our children to repeat our mistakes, accept our ignorance, or reject their God (Psa. 78:8), but the history of Israel shows just how easily this can happen despite their parents’ personal faithfulness (Psa. 78:9-64). Therefore, individual faithfulness is not enough to guide your children. You must do what it takes to instill in them a faith that they themselves claim as their own. The challenges the children of Israel faced were of their own making, and each generation was accountable to God for its own decisions. But the responsibility for each was the same—following God’s guidance faithfully (Psa. 78:65-72).
We should want the best for our children spiritually, and that means expecting excellence from our children spiritually. The goals we set for our children, then, should not center around their imitating their parents’ knowledge, activity, and involvement in Christianity; our goal, as parents, should be for them one day to surpass us in understanding, in faith, and in righteousness. It is sad how passive, docile, and passé parents can be about preparing their children spiritually. My friends, the core purpose of parenting does not revolve around preparing your children for life; it is all about preparing your children for eternity. And our parenting should reflect this.