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The Parents’ Responsibility in the Home (Part 1)

April 9, 2009

The Parents Responsibility in the Home #1

A Biblical defence of Parental Responsibility for the Educational Training of their Children

Foreword

When a 21st century pastor looks upon the state of God’s people, and starts to dig and test the ground of their homes, what he often finds is a great confusion, or utter ignorance, or a clear dislike of the teachings of the Holy Scriptures concerning the home, the church and the State.

Out of a sincere desire to know the mind of God for myself and my family, and for those who I love and serve, here is the commencement of a series of studies on Biblical Parenthood. I could deal with concerns about marriage and family worship, etc…but that is not my aim in these studies.

Here, I want to assert from the Holy Scriptures that the authority and responsibility of the moral, academic and physical training of our children has been delegated to parents by God. To be clear, parents can delegate their authority to teach and train, to some other godly person, but they can never delegate their responsibility to teach and train their children to anyone else. God will hold parents responsible for what training (academic, moral and physical) their children receive, whether from teachers, books, projects, or peers. To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). Our children are dying souls entrusted to our care!

We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Bible. We acknowledge it to be the only written revelation of the will of God, and therefore we must apply it to all circumstances, to all ages, and all cultures.

What does the Bible say? That is the question to ask. Am I willing to be challenged? Am I willing to change? Is there ‘a Biblical defense of parental responsibility for the educational training of our children’? Or can the public (secular) and the private (the Christian or church) schooling be defended from the Bible?

The readers of these studies must be warned at this point, that questions may arise in your hearts. There is a danger at this point to start to judge these questions by how our godly parents brought us up, or by the ministry of the faithful and godly men that we know. You and I start to ask, "Well Doctor so and so, Pastor so and so, elder so and so never made an issue of these things. Have most of these men been wrong all through their ministry about parental responsibility and education?"

Perhaps, the reason for this could have been that the majority of the State schools in the United Kingdom, of the past generations, had a distinctive Christian ethos. This could be the reason why education was not deemed as a major threat.  However, it is different now.  The current spiritual and moral problems in the State schools are much more acute than a generation ago.  The problems in the public schools of previous generations were deemed as far less serious.

The words of R. L. Dabney in his Discussions are fitting words to begin these studies, "I mean once more to assert the unfashionable truth. Truth is never out of date. It has sometimes happened that a tentative experience has thrown so much light upon a bad system as to reopen the discussion with better guidance than the previous."

Truth is never afraid of truth. I have called this "A defence", not that the word of God needs defending, but the state of the church is so dire concerning this and many other vital matters, that the number of those who hold to these points are very small. It is your responsibility to prove positively from Scripture, a solid biblical data for your belief and practice.

Now, let us examine our views by God’s Word. If our thoughts, in the light of Scripture prove to be wrong, then, let us admit it, and let us together repent and turn to the ways of the Lord.

1. Who is to raise your Child?walking toddler

The raising of children is both commanded and delegated to parents by God. Many will agree with this statement, even though in practice they deny it.

(i) Children are God’s Heritage to Parents

Psalm 127:3-5

“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

What is heritage?

"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD" – the Hebrew word for heritage is also translated in other places as, ‘inheritance’, ‘inherit’ and ‘possession’. Let me give you a few examples.

Gen. 31:14, "And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house?"

Num. 26:56, "According to the lot shall the possession thereof be divided between many and few."

Ps. 94:5, "They break in pieces thy people, O LORD, and afflict thine heritage."

Ps. 94:14, "For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance."

Num. 18:24, "But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance."

From the above verses, we see that the word ‘heritage’ means a possession or the property which has been handed down to us by Jehovah. An inheritance is something that is someone else’s possession but is handed down to another for blessing, enjoying and keeping.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ‘heritage’ as, "property that is or may be inherited; special or individual possession; an allotted portion."

So children are the possession of God – they are actually of the LORD, they are His – who have been given as the possession of the parents. They are not for someone else. They are not for other people, be it family members (e.g. grandparents) or the ungodly (the employees of the State, e.g. daily childminders, teachers, etc).

What is a Reward?

"the fruit of the womb is his reward" (Ps. 127:3b)

Children "are the fruit of the womb" of the mother, and they are "his [the Lord’s] reward". The Hebrew word is translated as ‘hire’, ‘wages’, ‘price’, ‘fare’, ‘worth’. That means they are a blessing; they are precious; they are of great worth.

These words go against the notion that parents have in our day, that is children are a debt. That they are a liability. So the idea is, the less of them the better – which means less expence, less time and less effort. They are not what the Bible says; they are not a reward but a liability. That is the attitude of many Christian parents, grandparents, those who are to be parents – which is also the same attitude of the worldly-minded, ungodly relations, neighbours and government. This is one of the points that unites modern Christians and the anti-God world.

The modern Christian does not want to be the possessor of the number of children that God gives. However, from this verse we have already learned that children are the responsibility of parents, because they are handed down to them by God. Children are also a blessing, a reward. They are a blessing, and parents do not deserve their children – they are given by God’s grace. So Elizabeth could say to the mother of that holy babe, "blessed is the fruit of thy womb." (Luke 1:42)

spurgeon small

The above comments may be deemed too strong, but let me get help from our beloved friend, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. On this text he says, "(God) gives children, not as a penalty nor as a burden, but as a favour. They are a token for good if men know how to receive them, and educate them. They are ‘doubtful blessings’ only because we are doubtful persons. Where society is rightly ordered children are regarded, not as an encumbrance, but as an inheritance; and they are received, not with regret, but as a reward. If we are over-crowded in England, and so seem to be embarrassed with too large an increase, we must remember that the Lord does not order us to remain in this narrow island, but would have us fill those boundless regions which wait for the axe and the plough. Yet even here, with all the straits of limited incomes, our best possessions are our own dear offspring, for whom we bless God every day." (The Treasury of David, Volume 7, p31)

Now let us go even further back from Spurgeon’s time and see how the old commentators and Divines, the Puritans and the Reformers interpreted these verses:

adam-clarke

Adam Clarke (Commentator), "’Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD‘, That is, To many God gives children in place of temporal good. To many others he gives houses, lands, and thousands of gold and silver, and with them the womb that beareth not; and these are their inheritance. The poor man has from God a number of children, without lands or money; these are his inheritance; and God shows himself their father, feeding and supporting them by a chain of miraculous providences. Where is the poor man who would give up his six children, with the prospect of having more, for the thousands or millions of him who is the centre of his own existence, and has neither root nor branch but his forlorn solitary self upon the face of the earth? Let the fruitful family, however poor, lay this to heart; “Children are a heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” And he who gave them will feed them; for it is a fact, and the maxim formed on it has never failed, “Wherever God sends mouths, he sends meat.” “Murmur not,” said an Arab to his friend, “because thy family is large; know that it is for their sakes that God feeds thee.”" (Volume 3)

goodwinThomas Goodwin (Puritan), "The Psalmist speaks of what children are unto godly and holy parents, for unto such only is any blessing given by God as a reward, and the Psalmist expressly speaks of blessings which God gives his beloved ones, and this blessing of children he makes to be the last and greatest." (The Works, Volume 18, pp.85-95)

Joseph Caryl

Joseph Caryl (Puritan), "Hence note, ’tis one of the greatest outward blessings to have a family full of dutiful children. To have many children is the next blessing to much grace. To have many children about us is better than to have much wealth about us. To have store of these olive plants (as the Psalmist calls them) round about our table is better than to have store of oil and wine upon our table. We know the worth of dead, or rather lifeless treasures, but who knows the worth of living treasures? Every man who hath children hath not a blessing in them, yet children are a blessing, and some have many blessings in one child. Children are chiefly a blessing to the children of God. "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." But are not houses and lands, gold and silver, an heritage bestowed by the Lord upon his people? Doubtless they are, for the earth is his, and the fullness of it, and he gives it to the children of men. But though all things are of God, yet all things are not alike of him: children are more of God than houses and lands."

BowArrow Commenting on v.4 George Swinnock (Puritan) notes, "As arrows – Children are compared to "arrows". Now, we know that sticks are not by nature arrows; they do not grow so, but they are made so; by nature they are knotty and rugged, but by art they are made smooth and handsome. So children by nature are rugged and untoward, but by education are refined and reformed, made pliable to the divine will and pleasure." (The Works, Volume 1, p398)

This is the end of the first instalment of these studies. In the will of the Lord, we shall take up other passages in a near future.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. elle permalink
    June 12, 2009 6:57 am

    Hello Pooyan,
    I am very thankful for this series and hope to continue reading. I just have one question before I go on to read the other articles.
    You state that the parents are delegated their responsibility by God to train their children, a truth I agree with, and you assume that parents are in a position to further delegate this responsibility. However, you do not give scriptural evidence for this assumed right of further delegation. This is a very common assumption, and it is my hope that as one who is searching for the truth in God’s word regarding His intention for parents and their chidren’s upbringing, that you would give it some thought and study.
    I cannot find evidence that God allows parents to delegate the responsibility to anyone else. Sounds hardline, but I have not yet to date read or heard of anyone who actually questions that assumption.
    I would love to know your thoughts, as you get time, and as the Lord leads, of course.
    Blessings,
    elle
    ps we are friends of P Mitchell from Adelaide, who directed us to your blog. You are certainly an encouragement!

    • June 12, 2009 7:57 pm

      Dear Elle,
      Thank you for your encouraging words and kind response to this article on Christian Education. I am pleased to receive a challenge in digging deeper in the Word of God for every point that I have put forward.
      At the time of writing, when I wrote that parents can delegate some of the education of the children, I had in mind things such as learning to play some musical instrument, or some other activity that is in a way impossible for the parents to learn and teach. However, I would seek to become clearer and more biblical, and you have encouraged a deeper study of the God’s Word, for which I am thankful.
      I have the same feeling as you about statements which are loaded with assumptions.
      It was a privilege to meet Peter, and the other brothers. May the Lord bless you all as you live for Him.
      Yours by grace,
      PM

      • elle permalink
        June 15, 2009 11:20 am

        Thank-you PM. I think I may have come across as a bit direct, but I know that I was so pleased to read what you had written, that I knew it was worth me asking the question. And I agree it is appropriate at times to have someone teach your child something that we parents cannot teach. We had a tutor teach our children Chinese at one stage.
        I eagerly await the results of your study. Praise the Lord for men who are humble and willing to be subject to His word. The Lord bless you and your family.
        elle

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  1. ‘An Heritage of the LORD’ « Puritanism Today

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