Friday, January 20, 2012

The 10 Commandments for Parents: No Other Gods

The Ten Commandments in St Mary's Stanwell
Image credit Maxwell Hamilton
One of the best things about becoming a mom is finding new depth and riches in Scripture.  I have thought a lot about how the Beatitudes apply to parents, and last night I began to think of how important the ten commandments are in our relationships with our children.

The very first says, "You shall have no other gods before Me".  But idolatry is still alive and well within the Church.  When we hear about it, it is usually in reference to possessions, greed and general priorities.  That is important.  But there is another form of idolatry that many in the church actually encourage: setting up parents as idols to children.

There is a teaching that pervades Christianity that essentially teaches that children will never learn to follow God unless they first see their parents as gods.  Under this reasoning, children are expected to obey without question.  Worship Respect for parents is paramount, and even mere thoughts that might be out of line are considered defiance.

Some, like Tripp and Pearl, take it even further: by spanking a child, they are able to remove the child's sin and guilt (Jesus could have saved Himself a lot of hassle if He had just gotten more parents to hit their kids!).

Stated this way, it sounds kind of extreme.  But I have heard countless parents use these very arguments.  Children must learn to obey parents so that they will someday be able to obey God.  That a spanking absolves guilt, and that in fact, a child will ask for a spanking or punishment to relieve his conscience.  Not to mention all the times that I have heard parents claim omniscience and assume that they know exactly what is going through the heart, mind and emotions of the child.  I believe that this is setting ourselves up as idols for our children--taking a position that should only belong to God.

It goes even further.  Most parents are far more harsh and demanding than God is.  First time obedience with a happy heart is very popular with them.  God, on the other hand, was more concerned about real, from the heart obedience, even if it took awhile.  Read the parable of the brothers in Matthew 21.  Consider times when Abraham and other heroes of faith argued with God and it was accounted to them as righteousness.  God actually had some pretty strong things to say about those who complied outwardly but whose hearts were far from Him.  I believe that there is even a blessing in wrestling with God, in holding tight until we can choose Him without any reservations.

When we tell our children that they cannot be forgiven without a spanking or other punishment, we are clearly violating Scripture.  We are forgiven through grace because of faith in Jesus--not because someone else punishes us.  Yes, I know that many have made God into their own image and claim that He spanks us.  I don't buy it.  And, even if He did, my point here is that we are not God.  He is all-knowing and just.  We aren't.  Vengeance belongs to God, not us. And He said and shows us that mercy triumphs over judgement.  What message are we sending our children?

This applies to shaming, as well.  It is one thing to teach our children about the consequences of their actions.  It is quite another to try to induce feelings of guilt and repentance.  Conviction comes through the Holy Spirit and leads to a wholehearted desire to make amends and change.  If I try to heap shame on them and make them feel bad for mistakes, to force them to be sorry, I am not only getting in the way of that, but actually taking on the role of Satan--the Accuser.  That is a sobering thought.

Another way that parents set themselves up as idols is through a pretense of perfection.  I struggle.  I make mistakes.  And I need to be honest with my children about it.  I apologize when I do something wrong (much more often than I wish!).  I let them know when I make mistakes, and do my best to make amends. 

Finally, we have the progression all wrong.  Obedience is a result of relationship, not a prerequisite.  As our children grow in grace and wisdom, the relationship and trust will produce the desire and confidence to listen to our instructions.  Demanding compliance in the hopes that it will eventually allow them to earn a relationship with us is backwards.  God lavished love on us even while we were sinners. 

I want my children to worship God, not me.  I don't want them to see me as the intermediary between them and God.  I want them to know Him for themselves.  To follow Him out of hearts full of love and trust.  To repent from wrongdoing because they desire to do what is right, not because I have burdened them with shame and fear.  I cannot, must not, set myself up as an idol to my children.


Rach said...

So good! I shared this on facebook.

Anonymous said...

This is so wrong. The Lord have mercy on you so that you will repent before it's too late.

Anonymous said...

Complete and utter rubbish. This position denies scripture and will result in wayward children. Amazing that so-called believers agree with this.

Megan @ Purple Dancing Dahlias said...

This is so good! I am sharing for sure!! Thank you!

Emily S said...

I completely agree! We do have to be careful not to set ourselves up as idols to our children.

Mike and Christie said...

Wonderful post! "Obedience is a result of relationship, not a prerequisite. As our children grow in grace and wisdom, the relationship and trust will produce the desire and confidence to listen to our instructions. Demanding compliance in the hopes that it will eventually allow them to earn a relationship with us is backwards. God lavished love on us even while we were sinners."
Amen and Amen!

Shianne said...

This is beautiful, and the part that Mike and Christie quoted is my favorite part of the post!!

Shianne said...

P.S. I shared this on FB :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dulce for this!! I find it interesting that God moved us both towards a similar theme today.

<3 gg

Guggie Daly said...

What an excellent commentary on this behavior! I have often thought about these things in my head and love the way you've captured them on your blog.

barrett and amy said...

Love this! I've been reading your blog consistently for a couple of months now. I am grateful for all of the times you have given me the opportunity to think from new perspectives. Thank you! (I also definetly shared this one on fb.)

Pippi said...

I love this post. Idolatry permeates the church today; they evangelize based on all your problems going away if you just accept Christ, and yes, there's the whole parenting thing too. Thankyou. I shared it on FaceBook too. I'm sorry that some people can't handle being merely a guide to their children.

Lori said...

Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right (meaning, we train them up in the ways of the Lord and to know what sin is)HONOR (indicating the Father Himself gave us authority over our children)your father and mother. This is the first COMMANDMENT that embodies a promise, that it will go well with you and you may live long in the land. Eph 6:3 (my words) It goes on to talk about parents not provoking your children to wrath...ever ignore bad behavior? Bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. The world is taking away the authority God Himself gave parents. Spanking doesn't absolve sin, but it sure can get thier attention when it's nessesary. Being an authority is NOT being an idol....we can't use scripture to fit our parenting choices...we need to make are parenting fit scripture. Try again.

dulce de leche said...

Wow! Of all the controversial things I have posted, I never suspected that this would be among them. I appreciate all of the encouraging comments so very much! <3

Lori, I agree completely with the first part of your comment. Children are commanded to obey and to honor. I see that you are following Torah. Do you speak Hebrew? Obedience is more than just compliance--it means hearing, understanding and choosing to obey. It cannot be forced (although mere compliance can, to some extent). Furthermore, those commands are to children, not to parents. So, yes, I agree that we have a grave responsibility to teach our children. I don't believe that we should ever usurp God's role, however.

It sounds as if you are saying that ignoring bad behavior is the way parents provoke children to wrath. Certainly, failing to teach them results in disastrous consequences. There are also many other ways to provoke them to wrath or dishearten them--and spanking, prideful attitudes and lack of mercy are some of the biggest.

I agree that we should bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

The world *cannot* take away authority that God has granted parents. Why do you feel threatened in yours? I feel most confident in my authority when I am walking in the fruit of the Spirit.

There are much better ways to get someone's attention that hitting them. Especially since I want their attention to be focused on learning the right way to act--not distracted by anger or shame. Punishment focuses their attention on what we are doing to make them feel bad. Gentle discipline focuses their attention on how they can make better choices next time.

I agree that being an authority is not being an idol. Frankly, it seems that the people angered by this post are the ones confusing that.

I also agree that we must fall in line with Scripture rather than the other way around. Sadly, many parents have imposed their own cultural ideas of dominance over what God's Word actually teaches. I would encourage you to read through for a deeper understanding of Torah as it relates to parents and children.

And I will try again. And again and again to share the message of parenting that honors the Lord and Scripture, that doesn't distort His grace and mercy, that helps turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents. <3

dulce de leche said...

Somehow, it ate one of the links. is an amazing site by another scholar who follows Torah. Please take a look at it.

Lori said...

I am Torah observant...only WISH I could speak Hebrew. I do a little for study sake. The reason I found this webpage is because of my lovely and brilliant daughter. I am a grandma to her new son. She is always studying to be a great parent. So am I. Here is my response to her. Blessed by Him who has given us the freedom to learn! :)
i think that we SHOULD respect our children, but we are not equals...yet. If you use society as an example, one of the problems (ask grandma about this) is children don't have a distinguishing line between them and adults. There is no longer a natural "fear" of authority. When we are told to fear God, FEAR in this example means respect. Know the standard He has set before us and the consequences that follow disobedience. But, that is just one part of the relationship! Love developes out of fruit! What I mean is, Love is developed because the parent meets the natural need for children to be disciplened, AND with disciplen comes evidence of mercy, gentlness and self-control. Because Yahweh designed children to be under a covering or authority, there can be no BEAUTIFUL relationship if that design is not established or is out of order. Of course, there are those who demand obedience for the sake of power and forsake the relationship....there will always be those people, but they are not who we should be focusing on. You don't abandon design because of a few misguided oafs.

I agree wil you. The reason OBEY and HONOR are both used in Eph 6:1-3 is because there is a difference between them. I find it interresting that OBEY comes first. You know the Hebrew word for obey - Shema Which means "To hear" which transliterates into to hear and obey. If you hear His voice you are designed to obey it. Hearing and obeying are one in the, huh? To me this could read Children, hear you parents instruction and obey them.

Honor - Kah-bed which means "weighty" in terms of impressivness or importance. We honor God by lovingly obeying Him. I like the way this is quoted:

The Lord intended that the mishpakah (family) would picture His relationship with us. Just as God created both man and woman in His image (Gen. 1:27), so children are to regard their parents as divinely ordained and truly significant.

Bottom line, we cannot teach our children a fear and honor and love of Yahweh using the worlds methods of training or parenting. It must follow HIS design.. Just like we cannot benefit from a relationship with Yahweh without following His design, neither can our children, as believers in the ONE TRUE GOD, benefit from a healthy loving relationship without His design.

This is great! I love this subject because I am finally understanding the importance of His order AND the defining of mine! :)

I TOTALLY agree that choosing wise and creative words to explain youself is smart! It raises intelligent and wise children. But, there will be instances and a time a child should be taught to just obey from hearing an instruction and be quick! This is His constant plea. The old addage "Delayed obedience is disobedience" is SO true and a real problem with parents that are inconsistant AND have fallen out of natural design. If we worry so much about what the world thinks...then we give our children and the devine rights as parents to them too.

Blessing to you Dulce de leche!

dulce de leche said...

Lori, thank you so much for replying! :) One thing I gather from your comment is that a hierarchy of top-to-bottom status is important to you. Jesus' example to us was that the greater would serve the lesser, that the last would be first. Instead of grasping for authority (which He had every right to), He chose to use His authority to serve those under Him.

I flat out disagree that children should respect/obey all adults. That is never taught in Scripture. Did you know that the current stats are that 1 in 3 girls will be sexually abused? 1 in 6 boys? I do not want to teach my children that they have to obey any person simply because that individual is older than they. *That* would be abandoning my God-given authority to protect my children.

I disagree that the order is compliance before love or that love must be earned. God loved us even when we were not obeying Him. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance--not His punishment.

If you study shema some more, I believe you will find that it is about hearing with the heart, not just the ears. So, yes, we hear and obey, but it also implies understanding and choosing.

I get the impression that you think that gentle discipline is abandoning God's design to follow after secular teaching. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the example of God Himself, revealed in Scripture, that inspires me to treat my children as I would wish to be treated.

As for your view of delayed obedience, have you read Jesus' parable of the two brothers? He said that the brother who initially refused and eventually had a heart change was the one who truly obeyed. Instant compliance is certainly convenient, but it is not the same as true obedience. Real obedience comes about through trust and relationship.

Why do you follow Yahweh? Is it because you are afraid, or because you love Him? Even if Hell didn't exist, it would not change my relationship with God. It isn't about eternal fire insurance or fear of punishment. I want to obey Him because of who He is. Because I love and trust Him. I want my children to obey for the same reasons.

dulce de leche said...

BTW, I apologize if my reply sounds brusque. I don't mean for it to. I really do appreciate your thoughtful responses, and am not trying to attack you in any way. Just sharing food for thought, and tone is so often hard to read over the web (and I totally stink at conveying it sometimes!). :)