“Teach Your Children Well” (Deuteronomy 6:1-9; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; 3:14-17)
I don’t know if you noticed it, but today we’re having a Christian education emphasis in our service. Four of our hymns today are from the Christian education section of our hymnal. I’ve selected an alternate Old Testament reading, from Deuteronomy 6, which deals with teaching God’s word to our children. The Epistle reading, from 2 Timothy, mentions Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice, who passed on the faith to Timothy. And to that, I’ve added a portion of a 2 Timothy reading that will come up in a couple weeks, about how from childhood Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures. Even the Gospel reading today includes a warning from Jesus about not leading the little ones astray. So there is a strong emphasis on Christian education in the service today.
Why? What’s the occasion? Well, the occasion is that today we are happy to start up a Sunday School class for our children, to give them a foundation in the Bible. And this week on Thursday, we will start up a class on the catechism for the older children, to instruct them in the basics of the Christian faith and to lead them to confirmation and first Communion. This is a joyous occasion indeed! We are so glad and thankful to have enough children in our congregation now to be able to do these things. We are glad and thankful that we have parents now who care enough about their children to want to see them in these classes. We are thankful that the rest of our members are and will be supportive of these Christian education efforts. And so we give thanks to God for this great blessing to our church!
With all that in mind, then, and picking up on the themes of the lessons, our message this morning is this: “Teach Your Children Well.”
Teach your children well. Teach our children well, the children of our congregation. And to do that, this morning I want to suggest four points: 1) Teach them the Law. 2) Teach them the Gospel. 3) Teach them at home and at church. And 4) Teach them by word and example.
First, teach your children the Law. By that, I mean teach them God’s Law. God’s Law is his design for us, his human creatures. It is his good design. God knows the best way for us to live, since he is our Creator. And God’s good design for our lives is what we mean by his Law. God’s Law is written on human hearts, a sense of what is right and what is wrong. And our conscience, our heart, should accuse us when we do wrong, and affirm us when we know and do what is right. The problem, though, is that we can so numb our conscience and harden our heart that we don’t hear what our conscience should be telling us. Especially in our culture today, where good is called evil and evil is called good. So it’s important that we also have God’s Law summed up for us in the Ten Commandments, handed down from the Lord to Moses, on Mount Sinai.
The Ten Commandments tell us how God would have us live, to do what is best and right for us. They tell us that there is only one God, not many gods, and that we are fear, love, and trust in him above all things. The Ten Commandments teach us to value the name of God, how he has revealed himself to us, and to treat his holy name with respect and reverence. They teach us to set aside time regularly to gather with God’s people in order to hear his saving Word.
Then the Ten Commandments teach us how we are to love our neighbor. To honor our father and our mother and those in authority over us. To not hurt or harm our neighbor. To not interfere with or disrupt our neighbor’s marriage. To not steal from our neighbor. To treat our neighbor’s reputation and his good name with care. To not even let a covetous spirit get started in our heart. This is God’s Law. It is his good will for our lives.
And we are to teach these things to our children. In the reading from Deuteronomy, Moses says: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children.” There is a strong emphasis here and throughout the Bible on passing on God’s Word to the next generation. And that includes God’s Law, the Ten Commandments.
But when we do this, we are going to discover a couple of things. One, our children are not going to do as well as we hope–or as well as God requires–in keeping God’s commands. They will break the commandments. They will mess up. They will fall short. And guess what? So will we. We will not do as well as we should in even teaching God’s Law, let alone in doing it. That’s because you and I and our children–we all are sinners. We do not keep or do or teach God’s Law the way we are supposed to. And that is sin. And sin under the Law carries with it the punishment that sin deserves, namely, God’s judgment and eternal damnation.
So therefore, in addition to teaching our children the Law, we also need to teach them the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news that there is forgiveness for all our sins, and it is ours in our Savior Jesus Christ. This Gospel is the greatest treasure we can give our children. It is the greatest gift.
This was the treasure that Timothy’s mother and grandmother passed on to him. Paul writes: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” And how did Eunice and Lois pass on this faith to young Timothy? Paul again writes: “As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
It was through the Holy Scriptures that Timothy came to faith in Christ Jesus his Savior and was kept in that faith. And these same Scriptures will make us and our children wise unto salvation through faith in Christ. The Old Testament Scriptures point us ahead to their fulfillment in Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And the New Testament reveals Christ to us, the Son of God come in the flesh to be our Savior. The Holy Scriptures testify to us of Jesus, the one who died and rose again to give us what we most need: forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation in his name. We need Jesus, our children need Jesus, more than anything else in the world. Without him, we are lost and condemned, enslaved to sin and doomed to death. With him, with Christ, we have righteousness before God, new life now and eternal life forever, with the light of heaven shining upon us. What could be more important to pass on to our children than this faith?
Teach our children the Law. Teach them the Gospel. Now the question becomes, where do we do this? At church? Yes, surely, at church. That is why we are here today, and why we have brought our children. So we and they can receive God’s Word and grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. That is why we are starting up a Sunday School today and a catechism class this week. To teach our children the faith.
But is it only to be at church that we do this? Is it enough for parents just to give their children one or two hours a week of exposure to God’s Word? Really? What about the other 166 or 167 hours in the week? What about all the other influences, the negative influences, our children are getting from our sick culture around us? Maybe it’s not just at church that our children should be getting God’s Word. Ya think?
Yes, that’s what Moses tells the Israelites, and it’s good counsel for us as well: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
In the morning, in the evening, throughout the day, both formally and informally, we are called to teach our children the Word of God, 365 days a year. That’s how often we need it. That’s how often they need it. Both at church and at home, we are to teach our children God’s Word.
Then, finally, we teach our children both by word and by example. And that will be the case whether positively or negatively. We are always teaching our children by what we say and by what we do. They pick up on what we say and do. And sometimes it’s not for the good. Sometimes the good teaching that we say is negated by the bad example that we do.
God help us to do better! And he will. God is rich in his grace toward us, for Christ’s sake. He forgives us our failings. He picks us up and helps us get going again. You are receiving his grace today through Word and Sacrament. God refreshes us and strengthens us through the same, in faith toward God and in fervent love toward one another. And in our love for our children, to love them enough to teach them well. To teach them God’s Law, his good design for our lives. To teach them the Gospel, the wonderful good news of the forgiveness and the new life we have in Christ. God will strengthen us to teach our children both at church and at home. And he will help us to teach them both by word and by example.
God loves your children even more than you do. And God loves you even more than you can imagine! That God sent his Son to be our Savior is proof of that. That God gives us the Holy Spirit to teach Christ to us is even more evidence of how much God loves us and loves our children. Yes, dear friends, God will give you all the help you need to teach your children well.