“Parenting and Deuteronomy 6:5”Categories: Meditations
I don’t have a teaching assignment on Sundays this quarter, so I’ve been attending a class on parenting, taught by one of our elders. Several times, he’s asked the question, “What is the most important thing you can do as a parent?” I think that’s a great question, and there are several solidly Biblical answers that commend themselves. Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Pray. And so forth.
However, about the time we began the Lord’s Supper last Sunday, my brain kicked out a different response (apparently, it takes about 45 minutes to warm up). Deuteronomy 6:5 is the answer, it decided. The most important thing you can do as a parent is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
This is hardly an obscure text. It is part of the Shema, the holiest writing of Judaism. It is identified by Jesus as the greatest commandment. I’ve certainly recognized it as the center of Christianity, but it had not occurred to me to regard it as the center of Christian parenting.
However, I think that’s the point that Moses is making in context. Generally, I’ve read the rest of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) as sub-commandments of the first commandment. You shall teach. You shall talk. You shall write. You shall bind.
I don’t think that’s wrong, exactly, but I don’t think it’s the point. Instead, I think what Moses is saying is that all of those other things are consequences of the first commandment. If you love the Lord your God as you should, you will naturally find yourself teaching and talking and writing and binding.
This certainly aligns with my own experience. My father talked with me about the Bible constantly. The last time I ever saw his face, we talked about the Bible. The last time I ever heard his voice, we talked about the Bible.
This wasn’t because my dad was intentionally Deuteronomy 6:7-ing as hard as he could. These conversations continued long after I was a grown man with a household of my own. Instead, it was simply because he loved the Bible and would talk Bible with anybody who would hold still long enough, especially one of his relatives. Without much intention to fulfill Deuteronomy 6:7, he did so impressively. That was who he was.
So too with Deuteronomy 6:9. When I look around the main room of my home, I see easily half a dozen quotations from the Bible or various hymns. The most prominent piece of art in the whole house reads, “Love is kind.” That’s not because my wife deliberately used Deuteronomy 6:9 as her decorating guide. It’s because she chose decorations that reflect her values, indeed, decorations that reflect her own love for God and His word.
It’s certainly good for parents to think about specific ways that they can become better. I myself have already had to confront several of my shortcomings as a father, and we’re only two weeks into the quarter! However, as we think about all of those other things, we shouldn’t forget the one necessary thing. If we love God with everything we have, everything else about our lives will fall into place.