In light of prevailing secular values in American schools, Christians ought to reflect on the call of God on their lives to be good stewards of their children’s education; retired pastor John Piper says we ought to first and foremost help our children place their confidence in the Lord, and we can strengthen our resolve to do so as this school year begins.
John Piper is an author of many Christian books and other resources, many of which can be found on his website; in an archived sermon on parenting, he describes how a child’s true education begins at home – one that will hopefully help them stand their ground when facing secular influences elsewhere.
Piper began his message with a warning, reminding God’s people that parenting cannot be our ultimate end (see Matthew 19:29): “Woe to us if we become so fixated on our children that they become our god,” he said. Instead, fathers and mothers ought to joyfully labor to glorify God in the stewardship of their children. While parents do not have the ability to impart faith to them (see John 1:12-13), we are called to train up our children in the way they should go (see Proverbs 22:6). Piper urges parents to act as a “spiritual guardianship” to their children until the day they hopefully come to know Christ.
Piper took six points from Psalm 78 that parents should be mindful of. The text reads, “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (English Standard Version, verses 5-7).
God: “It all begins with God,” says Piper; the point of all education is that we might know God more fully, for He has created all things (see John 1:3). “All education that omits God omits the main thing, and is therefore superficial and distorted. God is the bottom, and the center, and the goal of all Christian and all true education,” he said.
Truth: God is the Author and Origin of all truth, and He has disclosed Himself to us in the Bible. Piper calls the word of God an “all-permeating foundation” that should be laid in our children’s education. The Bible is not merely one of many books, he says; rather, it is the book by which all other books will be judged. “This book will be known first, and this book will be known best by Christians,” says Piper.
Teaching: It is the parent’s responsibility to teach their children the ways of the Lord (see Ephesians 6:4). Piper says that one of the first and most important things we ought to impart to our children is how to comprehend the meaning of a text. He urges parents to teach their young ones to assess different phrases, words, and symbols, and to understand how they relate to one another in the text to present an argument. Learning how to read well will help children discern what is true from what is false.
Learning: Although parents are responsible for teaching, they cannot compel their children to actually learn. Parents can labor and pray for the Holy Spirit to give their children real, intimate knowledge of God - for them to see His beauty and embrace it.
Leading our children to put their confidence in God: The essence of American education is to gain self-confidence, while the Christian parent’s goal should be to instill confidence in God, Piper says. Learning ought not lead to pride; “true learning reveals your dependence, your child-likeness, your need of God and His glorious greatness – and thus it humbles,” says the retired pastor.
A life of obedience: Many parents might be satisfied by their children’s conformity to God’s commands; however, Piper urges parents to seek for something deeper. The goal should not be external conformity to rules, but rather should be hope for our children to have hearts which “know the ultimate beauty of reality in God and His salvation and His wonderful work on their behalf, who grow in tremendous confidence in the promises of this great God … living by faith in future grace – and out of that faith and that confidence, they obey the commands [of God].” God is after our hearts, and a true knowledge of His grace will overflow into a life of obedience, he says.
Finally, the former pastor encourages Christians to parent with help from the body of Christ - “God means [for] parenting to happen in community because we can’t do it by ourselves,” he says. We need to learn from others, to be encouraged and be held accountable by them, and to have partners in prayer with us for our children. Piper encourages parents to be in community with “parents and singles who model all that we are aiming at in our educational mission.”