Verses 20 – 25 of Deuteronomy 6 are a godly apologetic for the choices parents have made to honor God’s law when children ask questions such as: “Why do we always have to go to church?” or “Why is our family different from other families?”
We are not different because of social status, money, poverty, heritage, education, skills, intelligence, or opportunities. We are different because of who God is and what God has done! When we appeal to any of the above descriptors to motivate our children to know God or walk in his ways, or to explain why we are different from the culture around us, we are either appealing to pride or avarice to reason with them. Deuteronomy 6 answers the questions with power and clarity!
When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the mean- ing of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.’ (Deuteronomy 6:20–25)
What precious words these are! Rather than answering our teens’ complaints about family choices to follow God with, “Because I said so!” or by reasoning with them that it is because of social status, money, poverty, heritage, education, skills, intelligence, or opportunities, we can bring them the gospel.
We can answer: “We were lost and enslaved in our sin. Anger, bitterness, emptiness, lawlessness, and purposelessness ruled our lives. But God mercifully redeemed us from our sin and set us free to know fulfillment of life in him. We are able to live consistently with our Creator’s purpose for us—to bring glory to him and to serve Christ’s Kingdom by loving others. We don’t do this perfectly, we know, but purposefully by the grace given to us through the perfect life, atoning death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In fact, he is our High Priest who is always interceding for us at the right hand of God. Since this is our testimony, why would we not organize our life and family around God’s calling to live for him?”
This is a glorious response to a complaining, rebellious, ornery teen! Any other answer will come back to bite us when our children either learn to live in light of the worldly motivations we have used or reject the worldly motivations we have used.
Psalm 145:4 describes the parent’s task as well. “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” That is the calling of parents, to commend God’s works to the next generation.
Psalm 145 goes on to describe whole categories of instruction: God’s works, acts, majesty, power, deeds, and all his attributes. Psalm 145 recommends many forms of instruction: commend, tell, speak, meditate, proclaim, celebrate, and sing. So, the parents’ role is to instruct with passion and conviction and pray with hope and confidence. That is where the parents’ role ends. Salvation is of the Lord.
If you think about it seriously, you would not want your child’s salvation to depend on your parenting. None of us could perform well enough to secure our child’s eternal well-being. Our resolve is often inconsistent and our spiritual fervor waxes and wanes. Our insights into God’s ways and truth are finite.
Praise God we can bank on something more powerful than our performance!
Excerpted from chapter one of It’s Not Too Late: Restoring Broken Relationships with Teenage and Adult Children by Margy Tripp