Importance is relative. What is important to you may not seem important to your children. What is important to your neighbor may seem trivial to you. What is important to one child is a matter of indifference to another, even in the same household. Thus, it is essential to be sensitive to what each of your children thinks is important. However, what really matters is what God says is important. In one sense, your job as a parent is to help your children bring their view of what is important in line with what God says is important. That is, you want them to interpret their circumstances from God’s perspective. The Holy Spirit establishes this goal in the book of Deuteronomy. In chapter four, verse nine, the Spirit directs Israel this way:
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things
your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach
them to your children and to their children after them.
The Israelites had experienced the direct hand of God in their lives in tangible ways that would never be repeated. Once the Jordan was crossed, the daily provision of manna would cease. The cloud that led them for forty years would no longer lead. Their clothes and sandals would begin to wear out. Their children would only know about these things if their parents taught them from the heart. Notice the careful wording of the verse – do not let the actions of God slip from your their heart as long as you live. How easy it is to let the beauty of God slip from our hearts. How easy it is to forget the wonder of our salvation and the constant care that God gives each day. How easy it is to forget God’s faithfulness to us in the midst of our own unfaithfulness. Moses says that these wonders had to be taught to their children.
Your school age children are learning about life outside the home. They will sometimes receive unfair or harsh treatment. Your child will place some kind of interpretation on each action that happens to them. This interpretation will be based upon what they think is important. That is where the teaching of Deuteronomy 4:9 can make the difference. To interpret the things that happen to them in light of God’s reality, your children need your biblically informed input. It is not just raw data that they need. They need the precious things of God that have taken up residence in your heart. Deuteronomy 6:6 says the commands of God are to be upon your heart. These things of God must be closely held and deeply valued, else they will slip from your heart. This genuine heart-felt transmission of God’s truth provides the worldview that is necessary in order for your children to interpret the events in their lives from God’s perspective.
Your children will make judgments about what important – that is a given. What they need to make wise judgments is the wisdom of God given to them by parents who have taken this wisdom to their own hearts. The book of Proverbs over and over again encourages children to hold fast to their parents’ instruction. This is instruction that is not simply academic or rote, as Isaiah 29:13 warns against, but it is instruction that “has not slipped from the heart.” It is instruction that you, as a parent, depend upon for your very life. In the strongest sense, it is heart-felt and heart-believed instruction. As Moses says later on in Deuteronomy, these words are not just idle words, these words are your life.
It is from this instruction that your children will learn what is truly important in life. Your school age children need to learn these things primarily from you, not from outside influences that do not put God first.
This is at least part of what Paul means when he says to fathers in Ephesians 6:4 – do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Your children need the truth of God that has not slipped from your heart in order to know what is important. Your words are to help them build a worldview that is centered on what God says is important. This is the preparation that they need the turbulent teen years that lie ahead.