Updated: Jul 28, 2020
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 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.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–9 ESV)
Yesterday, it was my joy and privilege to give thanks with two families in our parish for the birth of a healthy baby. In the coming days, two more babies (including our seventh!) will be born to our parish. It was no small encouragement to read yesterday these words from Deuteronomy 6 in the daily office, which point to the duty of God’s people to not only love God, but to diligently teach their children to do the same. To this day, Jewish households have little boxes which contain the words of the law on little scrolls called mezuzah which are nailed to the frames of their front doors as a reminder of the household being bound to the Lord’s commandments.
If you had to choose for your children from the following list, which would you choose?
Financial Stability and Prosperity
Holiness and Love of God
I’d imagine that for many of us, if we were honest, we would have a a mix of priorities. But, holy Scripture teaches that without a holy life, none of the others matter. Paul writes:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3 ESV)
In the prayers which we pray in thanksgiving for the birth of a child, we pray for the parents:
“O God, you have taught us through your blessed Son that whoever receives a little child in the Name of Christ receives Christ himself: We give thanks for the blessing you have bestowed upon this family in giving them this child. Confirm their joy by a lively sense of your presence with them, and give them calm strength and patient wisdom as they seek to bring this child to love all that is true and noble, just and pure, lovable and gracious, excellent and admirable, following the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The prayerbook doesn’t teach us to pray that our children would be smart, or popular, or successful, but only that they would follow the example of Jesus in this life, not only loving the right things, but loving God with all their heart, soul, and might. During this strange time in which our families have been largely sequestered at home, I have been repeatedly impressed by how our parents have put first things first. One parishioner told me that he and his wife have turned their household into a little monastery, balancing work and prayer in a wonderful way. This is a treasure, and I believe that the Lord is teaching us valuable ways of family life that can be sustained for the long haul. If I can be of any help in coaching and encouraging you in this treasured practice of God’s people in raising up faithful children, please let me know.