Making the Word of God a Priority for our Children
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4
This fall has marked a change in our household. Both of our children are now in full-day school, Kindergarten and 3rd Grade. The house is quiet from 7:35 am – 2:30 pm. This is a welcomed reprieve. Our kids are excited to ride the bus, eat sack lunches, learn and explore new things at school. As days turn to months and months to years, we anticipate the enthusiasm for school to fade. The average American will spend 15% of their lifespan attending grade school through high school or the equivalent of 11,700 hours at school.
Education is an intentional and many times unintentional part of life and society. The question is, what input and factors will shape the development of a child? From home, school, church, sports and other opportunities, the impact on a kid’s life has a broad range. But how much involvement or education is appropriate for different stages of development. I have come to think that we, all too often, don’t give enough credit to the capability of children and especially teenagers. We often put them on the back burner until they’re old enough to really serve God. However, spiritual training for Jewish children began at a very young age. The training was very intense as kids were given great responsibility. In fact, it is possible that many of the disciples were under the age of 20 (with exception of Peter). This might explain some of the disciples immaturity and adolescent bantering on who was the greatest (Luke 9:46).
Paul wrote to Timothy about how as a child, even from an infant, Timothy had been instructed in the Word by his mother (2 Timothy 2:5). I can just picture Timothy bouncing on his mother’s knee as she told stories of God’s faithfulness to Israel. Jewish children started memorizing and studying Scripture at the age of 6. Education was important to educators, students, and parents in those times. There was an ongoing argument between rabbis as to what age one would receive a youth as a pupil. One rabbi made the statement, “Under the age of six, we do not receive a child as a pupil. But from six upwards, receive him and stuff him with Torah like an ox!” The Word of God was central and crucial to a Jew. It was the way to interpret life, relationships, work and most importantly, how to relate to God.
Jewish children attended school five days a week. They would attend the local synagogue with the Torah as the main textbook. The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. On the first day of class, the rabbi would take honey and would cover the pupils’ slates, a first century device used as a personal chalkboard (without batteries or system upgrades). Honey was a sign of God’s favor. There was nothing finer, nothing sweeter, nothing more full of pleasure than honey. The rabbi would rub honey all over the slate. And then he would say, “Now class, lick the honey off the slate and off your fingers.” The rabbi would continue by saying, “May the words of God be sweet to your taste, sweeter than honey to your mouth” (Psalm 119:103). May the words of God be the most pleasurable, the most enjoyable thing you could even comprehend! This is how a child was introduced to the Scriptures as there was nothing more enjoyable in the entire universe than tasting, receiving, accepting the words of God and making them a part of life. By age 10 they would have the Torah memorized! Talk about Awana on steroids!
Love for the Word of God was central to the Jewish community and family. I am reminded of Jeremiah 15:6, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear Your name, O Lord God Almighty.”
How did Jesus show his understanding of God’s word? Luke 2:41-52 gives us a snapshot into his development as a 12 year old boy. Here we see Jesus spending three days in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers (46-47).
Making the Word of God the centerpiece in our homes and instilling this value into our children is easier said than done. We’d be the first to admit it’s easy to get distracted, discouraged and quickly give up. Whether you are a grandparent, single college student, empty nester or family rushing to the next school or sports activity, be encouraged! Continue to make the Word of God central to your home and follow the pattern set by our Lord. Jesus held Scripture in the highest esteem and authority. He used Scripture to defeat Satan and silence his accusers. His life was in submission and dependence on the Word of God. Together let’s continue to center our lives and homes around the Word of God.
Questions to Consider:
What are ways you’ve upheld the love of Scripture in your daily life?
What does Psalm 119:11 say about the importance of memorizing Scripture?
How can you instill the love of Scripture into your disciples, especially new believers?