Parenting and the Bible: A Weapon, A Rubric or a Path to Flourishing?
by Linda Noble
“Teens arrested for …” I don’t know about you, but these news stories always give me pause I first thank God that this report didn’t involve my kid! Then, I wonder how this child got to a place where a destructive choice forever changed the trajectory of his or her life. It also occurs to me that the parents are going to say something like, “I never saw this coming” or “He is really a good kid!” just as I would. None of us want to end up in these parents’ shoes and we all have our strategies for preventative parenting measures. Those of us who follow Jesus, often, in a panic mode, respond by quickly writing up a list of rules for our children to adhere to and quote the Bible to back us up! Was this God’s intention and does it work?
God points the way to a life of flourishing and love through the scriptures. Many of us have mistakenly understood the Bible as a book of rules, a standard of performance or a list of demands. But God’s direction in scripture is a description of the way life REALLY works for us as humans. As we grow in our confidence in His goodness and in His desire for our flourishing, the result is an eagerness to hear what He has to say about the best paths to travel in life and the ones to avoid.
Moses instructs his people Israel in the book of Deuteronomy: “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish.” Deuteronomy 11:18.
The Psalmist says this in Psalm 19:8 “The precepts of the Lord are right, REJOICING the heart.” I always thought that this rejoicing was something that people who are really holy choose obediently to do. Sometimes doing things God’s way felt more like loss to me. I understand now that the rejoicing comes from living life in a way that really works. Who knows better than Our Creator when it comes to directing us into a beautiful life?
Jesus, hoping that the crowds would come to understand His hopes for our lives, told a story in Matthew 7:24-27: “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
The great fall of this house doesn’t come as a punishment, but as a result of choosing to build the house in a way that seems right to the builder rather than in the way that Jesus knows will keep our lives from slamming to the ground in destruction.
It’s a relief to know that God isn’t leaving us on our own to find LIFE — a life that flourishes here and now. He isn’t keeping this path to an abundant life a secret, or worse yet, hiding it from us. He has revealed it to us out of His own desire for us to live well. It’s foundational to begin referring to the Bible from our children’s earliest years in this way: God’s loving direction into a life of flourishing. On the basis of this foundation, our conversations with kids regarding choices they are facing in their teen and adult years, will proceed from an understanding of a loving God who desires to direct them into a full and satisfying life. In fact, it’s not too late for our adult children either. As we talk with them about our lives and choices, we can describe our confidence in God’s direction to lead us into the beautiful life.
Through scripture, they can know with certainty how to live and love in a way that leads to the best and most satisfying life possible. Who wouldn’t want that?
Linda Noble is the Discipleship Pathway Coordinator at Journey Community Church, co-founder of THE Conversation Workshop, helping you talk to kids about the body, relationships and sex (www.theconversationworkshop.