What handbook are you using to raise your children? If you look in a bookstore, there are many to choose from. There is William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues and its’ companion volume, The Moral Compass, with their conservative political slant. There is Herbert Kohl and Colin Greer’s A Call to Character, which is more liberal in nature. There is First Lady Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village to Raise a Child and there is former Vice-President Dan Quayle’s The American Family. In between, there are the older and much used Commonsense Book of Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock and James Dobson’s Dare To Discipline.
In a recent cover story titled, “How to Raise a Moral Child,” one national newsweekly mentioned almost all of these books (along with others) in a discussion about the best advice for raising children with a morals and a sense of values. Never in the discussion, which covered over six pages in the magazine, was the Bible mentioned. We now live in a society in which the moral upbringing of children can be discussed without a word about God’s views.
There are principles in most of the books listed above with which I can agree, and there are probably some with which I would strongly disagree. I even own some of these books, but I am not advocating any of them for use as a manual for the teaching of morals. God’s word has been in the past, and continues to be, the best book, indeed the book, for moral instruction.
Interestingly enough, God’s book of virtues is not complicated, and in fact, it offers few words about children at all. What it does offer speaks volumes to parents who would have their children do right. In God’s word, we find instruction on punishment (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14), on nurturing and dealing fairly (Eph. 6:4), on moral instruction (Deut. 6:4-9; 11:18-21). In all this, God’s intent is that parents, both in their words and in their actions, teach their children to love and live for Him.
Consider the works of the Bible and the virtues taught. Where else but Genesis would one go to teach our children respect for the Creator and His power? Children need to learn humility and nowhere is this made more clear than in the story of a great and awesome God. Nowhere else can we learn better of His omniscience and omnipotence than in the narrative which begins, “In the beginning God . . .”
In God’s book of virtues, we find the story of Abraham, a man willing to sacrifice his homeland, his family, even his only son in order to serve this great God. Certainly no character in literature is more impressive than Abraham in his faith and loyalty toward God.
In the story of Moses, God shows His people the fortitude it takes to be a leader. In addition, it is Moses who teaches us true self-sacrifice (see Heb. 11:24-26).
Caleb and Joshua teach the principles of moral courage and faithfulness, detailing especially what it takes to stand for right in the face of great opposition. Children are especially fond of the stories of Joshua at Jericho and of Caleb asking for the land where he could drive out the giants who had frightened his brethren (Josh. 14:6-14).
King David too, teaches us what it truly means to be penitent (Ps. 51).
In Ezra and Nehemiah, we find two men so filled with singleness of heart (dedication to rebuilding God’s temple), that threats of foreign armies are not enough to dissuade them from their task.
Finally, we reach the New Testament and the birth of Christ. In His words we learn that the commands of God truly are for the heart, and must be carried out there in order to be pleasing to God (Matt. 5:17-48). In His life, we learn what it means to obey (Matt. 26:39), to resist temptation (Lk. 4:1-12). In His death, we learn what it means to be forgiving (Lk. 24:34) and what it means to need His cleansing (Acts 2).
In the contemporaries of Jesus, we learn as well. In Peter, we learn the importance of God’s willingness to forgive and grant a second chance (Matt. 26:69-75; Acts 4-5). Where else is the gospel made more poignant than in the story of the apostle who denied his Lord, only to come back and teach others with great boldness?
In Thomas, we learn that even the best of men sometimes face doubts and fears (Jn. 20:24-29).
In Paul, we learn of the awesome power of God to change men’s lives (Acts 9, 22). That a former persecutor of the church and self-described “foremost of all” among sinners could turn around to the point where he wrote the majority of our New Testament speaks to me in my own frailties and shortcomings.
These are but a few of the lessons we find in God’s word, and they are certainly not the only virtues to teach our children. You too, have favorite Bible stories. But the point remains that it is here in His word that we find real help to raise not only moral children, but God’s children. And that, above all else in our duties as parents, should be our foremost goal.