Previous article in this series: December 15, 2016, p. 131.
In the first article on this subject I discussed the important role that parents have in teaching their covenant children about our calling to work. This calling is obviously central to their lives. Work will consume much of our time and energy and interest in life. Work is part of the cultural mandate God has given to man. This mandate continues after the Fall, but must be directed by the higher purpose of Christian living, which is seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness in all things.
The Christian has the obligation to support himself or herself. If the Lord gives a spouse in marriage to them and children afterwards, husband and wife together have the solemn obligation to care for their household. One who does not do so is worse than an infidel ().
Every Christian has the obligation to support the church of Jesus Christ and the causes of His kingdom in the world. He must work to obtain the necessary resources to do all of this. The Christian has the obligation to support Christian charity, chiefly through the work of the deacons in the church, though also if possible through institutions of mercy. According to the admonitions of Scripture, the Christian must work diligently with his hands in order that he might have something to give to those who are in need ().
The Christian in his daily occupation must keep the primary purpose of seeking the kingdom and its righteousness first. We are admonished not to set our hearts on becoming rich in the world. The glory of Christ must motivate us in all of life. We are called to do our daily work heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men. The praise of man, honor and glory among men, are not of greatest importance, but righteousness and truth and faithfulness to our Lord. Our Christian homes must teach our children extensively about all of these things.
As parents, we must seek to teach our children about daily practical things of Christian living. This is beautifully emphasized in Deuteronomy 6 where the Lord commands parents to teach their children when they sit in their house, or walk by the way, and when they go out and come in. There is and must be a daily training going on in our homes by precept and by the example of our own lives as parents. What an impact the daily example of our lives has on our children! This includes attitudes and perspectives we ourselves have as parents in life, what we place the greatest emphasis on, spend the most time on, and take the greatest interest in.
Years ago, life was much simpler than it is in our modern time, though this may not be as true as some might sometimes imagine. Life on earth after the fall has always been difficult. False imaginations concerning the simplicity of the past should never be used to excuse ourselves for our failures in meeting the challenges of life in our modern world.
In days gone by, daughters learned homemaking from their mothers, both by instruction in the skills required and by the example of their mothers. Skills of good homemaking should be considered important even today for our covenant homes. Sons commonly learned the trade of their fathers or were trained to take over the farm or business. Today, often after children grow up, they will take on very different occupations than their parents. Quite often they will engage in occupations requiring much higher standards of education and much more training. Always maintaining the right spiritual perspective in these matters is a great challenge, and requires earnest spiritual mindedness on the part of parents.
In order to learn to work, children have to be trained in their homes to be disciplined, energetic, and hardworking. In some homes children grow up without ever being given regular responsibilities and tasks to perform in their homes. This will not be for their future good. Children of rich families sometimes are trained in laziness and irresponsible living. They imagine that somehow they have an inalienable right to the riches of their parents, and to demand that parents provide for the satisfaction of all their desires and wants in life. In the covenant home, children should be given routine duties to perform (“chores” as they were called on the farm where I grew up). They must be required to work hard, to be diligent and not lazy.
I have read studies that indicated the powerful influence of mothers and fathers in the home on motivation in the minds of children and on discipline in their lives. Children have a strong sense of receiving the approval and appreciation of their parents. Many of the highest achievers among children describe with thanks the incentive good parents were in their lives. Putting a Christian perspective on this, we would say it in the words of Proverbs 31 and its description of the virtuous woman. Her children shall arise and call her blessed.
The above considerations do not mean that we should make the lives of our children a burdensome drudgery. Childhood is also a time when our children should be carefree. The joy of playing and time for developing friendships with fellow Christian children should not be denied them. This also will be important for them. Parents must be careful not to overburden their children. Children who are overstressed will often develop psychological and spiritual problems. Too much emphasis on academics and setting too high a standard for achievement can do damage to the soul of our children. Yet childhood is also a crucial time for training in the more serious callings we all have as mature Christians in the world.
Training in the home must encourage our children to develop their God-given skills and talents in the days of their youth. This will enrich the lives of our children and also prepare them for their broader calling in life in the church and in Christian society. A significant example of this is training our children in musical skills, perhaps in playing a musical instrument or developing the gift of singing. What a blessing it is for the Christian home when children have been trained to accompany and support singing at the piano or organ or with other musical instruments! Such training will manifest the Christian joy of the home mentioned by Paul in: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
There are so many areas of life on earth that children should be encouraged to take an interest in and enjoy. There is the sanctified use of sports, which teaches valuable lessons when it is used as part of life and fellowship with others and not merely to promote sports heroes idolized by the world.
God’s creation is so glorious and full of His riches. Children can be encouraged to develop an interest in many different areas—mechanics, gardening, the multitude of sciences, and various forms of art. There are so many ways that interest in these areas of life can enrich the lives of our children themselves and at the same time contribute to the multifaceted life we have in the communion of the saints and in Christian society.
We seek the help of Christian schools for the training of our children. We are truly thankful for all the help they can and do give. On the other hand, by the grace God, Christian schools are a great help in their task when parents do their part with good parenting at home, maintaining Christian motivation and perspective for their children.
Parents can encourage their children by sitting down with them and taking an interest in the subjects children are being taught in school. Children should continually be encouraged and admonished in Christian love and genuine concern. They need to be corrected when that is needed, but also properly encouraged in the challenges and rigors they face in their lives. So many opportunities arise as we train our children during the God-given years they are in our covenant homes. As parents, we must lay hold on these opportunities and not let them pass or be occupied with so many far less important things in our lives. Our children will be in our homes for only a short time.
In our modern-day culture there is much emphasis on the difficult sciences, like math, physics, electronics, and the computer sciences. Training in these areas will often greatly benefit children in finding good occupations later in life, which will help them provide for their families and the church. To be a well-rounded Christian in many areas of life, a broad liberal arts education is of great value.
Foundational to such a broader perspective on life is reading. Parents do well for their children’s future when they instill an eager interest in reading at a young age. This too, of course, must always have a spiritual perspective. Guiding our children to read good books, including specifically Christian books, is so very important. In most cases leaders in the church among us must be well read in sound doctrinal books. That begins in our homes. We must train the future leaders of the church in our covenant homes. Theological study and discussion helps greatly to accomplish this purpose.
It was rightly said by a famous Christian leader that our children must be taught that all of our life in this world is religious. When we encourage the development of the minds and gifts of our children, this will benefit them greatly in their study and deeper understanding of the Word of God and, hopefully, their commitment to the truth in their lives.
How well we know this by experience after years of being a pastor in the catechism class! How obvious the fruit of good parenting of children in the home becomes in the attitude, discipline, and understanding of their children! What tremendous spiritual benefit we give to our children when we teach them the proper attitude to learning the truths of Scripture and the doctrines of Christianity. Real, careful preparation for catechism is the responsibility of parents in the home.
Well-rounded and comprehensive parenting is a great task! Let us pray daily for the wisdom and grace, and for self-sacrifice and God-centered purpose to perform it.