Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck (Prov.1:8-9).
At the beginning of the year, I find myself being drawn back to the centrality of the family in God’s purpose. Despite the fact that He was the Son of God, Jesus came to earth as Mary and Joseph’s first child, and He certainly had lots of siblings to interact with as He grew up. The locals where He grew up later said of Him,
Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? (Matt.13:56).
In every way, there would have been lots of similarities between Joseph and Mary’s family, and yours. There would have been spilt milk, lumps and bumps, tensions, sickness, differences of opinion, misunderstandings, along with some anger and sin. Frankly, it’s been that way since Genesis, and I don’t see it changing in a hurry.
Families really do have remarkable capacities, which we do well to understand and appreciate, which are well beyond what can be covered in this letter today. And this is all part of His design! When the Lord made Adam in the Garden, even though as a part of creation he was “very good” (Gen.1:31) and without sin, God said that there was something about him that wasn’t good. He didn’t have Eve!
And when the Lord brought her to Adam, he realised what he’s been given. He said
This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh… (Gen.2:23).
Thus God’s plan is that togetherness begins in a family.
But there is much more to family that just the togetherness of husband and wife; that’s just where it all kicks off! For almost all families there is procreation, along with the preparation and education of children for maturity and independence. That will mean lots of very important things: training in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, discipleship, along with the many aspects of preparation for life and adulthood. And this is a big part of why God gives children to parents; procreation just the beginning.
The Puritans believed the Bible: they believed that children were a gift from God, and that having them was a holy vocation for parents. Parents were thus to bring them up “…in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph.6:4). (One of them even gave 10 reasons why mothers should breast-feed.) They also believed in family worship at home, along with the father’s duty to be reading and expositing scripture, and praying with the family. They were powerful and influential people in their time, and we would do well to emulate them.
I agree: problems with children can be tiresome for us parents. But of course, we are all in the process of learning and growing. Those problems we are encountering with our children are actually good for us! In the process we should be developing patience and lots of God –honouring virtues and fruits.
“Father’s instructions” and “mother’s teaching” are vital aspects of what the Lord wants us to share with our children. They are vital family issues, recognised by Solomon as early as 950 B.C., and the homeschooling family has abundant opportunities to provide their children with these. And very often they can be in non-formal, casual circumstances and conversation.
When the Bible says, “Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways” (Prov.23:26), it is really referring to those opportunities that parents have with their children to capitalise on the intimacy of family relationship and interaction, to have a powerful and God-ordained influence on a child. Children learn by what they see.
And the object of this is that
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her rejoice who gave birth to you (Prov.23:24-25).
Of course, no family should ever see itself as absolute, or totally independent. We are all to be in fruitful relationships amongst the Lord’s people, His church. God’s plan is that the family, church, and State be interdependent, mutually supportive structures, never competing against one another.
Thus pastors, elders and others should be authoritative and influencial leaders, and as spouses and parents, it’s to our advantage that we are subject to them. Moses was a great leader, but even he needed an outsider’s help through Jethro’s understanding and advice (Ex.19:13-27), to carry out his tasks more effectively. The Psalmist asked the Lord,
Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; it is oil upon the head; do not let my head refuse it… (Ps.141:5).
Let me encourage you today: take your marching orders as a parent from the Bible, for it has much to say about the responsibilities of parents regarding their children, beginning in Genesis. And as we parents take our responsibilities seriously in the discipline and training of our children unto the Lord, it will have a marked impact on them for good.
And on our day of judgment, we’ll be able to give a good account of how we’ve discharged our responsibilities as parents. It all begins in the family.
 See my book, “The Significance of the Godly Family,” 2009.