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Teaching Youth Religious Values

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The great experiment in value-neutral education is over. This movement, which advocated the idea that parents and educators should refrain from teaching young people moral values to allow them to determine their own values, has been a tragic failure. The results include an escalating rate of sexually transmitted diseases, higher rates of children born out-of-wedlock and broken marriages.

Not teaching any values tells young people that nothing is wrong. Everything is okay! In such a vacuum, no wonder so many young people make poor choices that affect them for the rest of their lives.

Parents who have agonized over whether or not to teach their children religious values should notice what God says. In Ephesians 6:4 Ephesians 6:4And, you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
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the Apostle Paul said, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Paul did not advocate value-neutral education. He, by contrast, encouraged fathers to teach their children God's values. This statement was simply a continuation of the same principle God gave the Israelite families in the Old Testament.

Command to instruct children

When God gave Israel His eternal laws (Romans 7:14 Romans 7:14For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
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), He told them, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 Deuteronomy 6:6-7 6 And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: 7 And 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 up.
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).

Here, God not only told parents to teach their children His ways, but He said to be diligent about it. He also said to do it throughout the day when they were sitting, walking, going to bed or getting up in the morning. This is all-inclusive; not much time is left.

The people of the Bible clearly understood God's direction to teach children His ways. Abraham, called the friend of God in James 2:23 James 2:23And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
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, was given high praise by God for teaching his children and household God's way.

Genesis 18:19 Genesis 18:19For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring on Abraham that which he has spoken of him.
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says, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” Abraham was conscientious in obeying God, and his descendants-Isaac, Jacob and Joseph-also diligently followed God's ways.

King Solomon understood that when we reach maturity, we reflect the training we have received as children (Proverbs 22:6 Proverbs 22:6Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
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). This also includes religious training. History clearly shows that Israel did neglect teaching and obeying God's laws as given in Deuteronomy 6 and they suffered the tragic results. The verses previously cited in Deuteronomy and Ephesians clearly show that God expects parents to teach their children His religious values.

Teaching is based on love

The biblical passages dealing with parenting express God's will that our children be treated with love, dignity and respect. Love is the foundational principle for all Christian relationships (Matthew 22:37-40 Matthew 22:37-40 37 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
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; John 13:34-35 John 13:34-35 34 A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
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). Jesus Christ said obeying the Ten Commandments expresses love toward God and love toward our neighbor.

Just as God gives us laws because He loves us, we must give our children rules if we love them (Hebrews 12:7 Hebrews 12:7If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not?
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). Loving our children does include discipline. Child psychologist, James Dobson, has written a well-known book, Dare to Discipline, that advocates this biblical principle.

Establishing fair rules and punishments for breaking those rules has been described as setting up boundaries. The purpose for boundaries is so our children learn appropriate behavior and feel secure. Proverbs 29:17 Proverbs 29:17Correct your son, and he shall give you rest; yes, he shall give delight to your soul.
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( New International Version ) says, “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” A value-neutral or lack-of-rules approach is a mistake for children and parents. Proverbs 29:15 Proverbs 29:15The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.
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says, “… a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”

Authority not to be abused

Because humans have a tendency to abuse authority, some have mistakenly concluded that all authority is bad. This is not true. God intended for authority to be used for good (Romans 13:1-4 Romans 13:1-4 1 Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will you then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath on him that does evil.
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). Jesus commanded his disciples not to “lord it over” others in the church (Matthew 20:25-28 Matthew 20:25-28 25 But Jesus called them to him, and said, You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority on them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
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). In similar fashion, Colossians 3:21 Colossians 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
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says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

Ephesians 6:4 Ephesians 6:4And, you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
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also tells parents not to use forms of authority that intimidate, bully or make children angry. Physical and emotional abuse of children are thus expressly forbidden by God. To those who foolishly reject God's direction on this issue, Proverbs 11:29 Proverbs 11:29He that troubles his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.
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declares, “He who troubles his own house will inherit the wind.”

Because physical and emotional abuse tend to continue through successive generations, some adults who were abused as children may find it difficult to break the cycle. With God's help and a strong desire, however, this scourge can be conquered.

Much has been written to help individuals who sincerely want to change, and the encouragement of older successful parents can go a long way toward helping adults adopt positive parenting roles. Titus 2:2-6 Titus 2:2-6 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. 6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
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speaks of the older people teaching and modeling proper behavior for the younger.

Amazingly, this principle of modeling good behavior has even been found effective in teaching primates better parenting skills (See supplement article, “Primates Learn Better Parenting,”).

An inclusive, relational approach

Notice Jesus Christ's attitude toward children. Several passages in the New Testament record Jesus rebuking His disciples for trying to keep little children away from Him (Matthew 19:13-14 Matthew 19:13-14 13 Then were there brought to him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come to me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
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; Mark 10:14 Mark 10:14But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said to them, Suffer the little children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
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; Luke 18:16 Luke 18:16But Jesus called them to him, and said, Suffer little children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
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). He had a positive attitude toward children and showed them personal attention by picking them up in his arms, praying for them and using them as teaching examples for adults.

Christ was not too important or too busy to give them some of His time. We need to remember that God considers our children holy (1 Corinthians 7:14 1 Corinthians 7:14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
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). We, too, must treat children with dignity.

In Deuteronomy 6:20-25 Deuteronomy 6:20-25 20 And when your son asks you in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD our God has commanded you? 21 Then you shall say to your son, We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand: 22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and sore, on Egypt, on Pharaoh, and on all his household, before our eyes: 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he swore to our fathers. 24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. 25 And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.
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, where God instructed the families of ancient Israel about the importance of obeying God's laws for their collective good, the liberal use of the ,pronouns, we, us, and our, is significant. For instance, in verse 25: “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.” God obviously intended for parents to include their children in matters of family obedience. God wants parents to expect their children to obey Him.

In one of the most passionate pleas to influence behavior, God, as our Heavenly Father, straightforwardly instructed ancient Israel in His laws, and the consequences for obeying or disobeying them. God concludes His plea, recorded in Deuteronomy 28-30, with, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19 Deuteronomy 30:19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:
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).

Did you notice? God did not attempt to be value neutral. He said, “chose life” for your own good. We, too, must be passionate about our desire for our children to adopt God's standards as their own. We must work to help them do so and strive to influence them to make that free moral choice.

Personal example

Our own example is paramount in properly influencing our children. Children are quick to notice discrepancies between what we adults ask them not to do and what we do ourselves. In some cases those differences are logically defensible. For instance, children should not drive cars if they do not have the skills necessary for safely operating a vehicle. It is a different story, however, when children see a double standard on moral issues.

Paul pointed out this principle to Jews who were trying to influence Gentiles: “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, 'Do not commit adultery,' do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For 'The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,' as it is written” (Romans 2:21-24 Romans 2:21-24 21 You therefore which teach another, teach you not yourself? you that preach a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You that say a man should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? you that abhor idols, do you commit sacrilege? 23 You that make your boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonor you God? 24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
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).

Parents cannot expect a “Do as I say and not as I do” approach to bring success. Regardless of what parents say, most young people will adopt their parents' standards and life-styles by the time they reach 25-35 years of age. In this case, actions do speak louder than words!

So when it comes to teaching values to our children, it is impossible to be neutral and God does not want us to be neutral. We adults have to concentrate first of all on being good examples ourselves. Then we can have greater expectations of successfully influencing our children to obey God for their own good. 

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