The gospel of Mark puts things into perspective when it says, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36-37) We can rephrase this question from the perspective of a parent and ask, “what good is it for our children to gain the whole world – wealth, prestige or power — but lose their souls?”
Have we ever stopped to consider how much at risk the souls of our children are when we send them to school? We mean well and pay well to send our children to reputable schools, but we don’t always think about the dangers they are susceptible to. Dangers like…
– The loss of innocence and purity
– Negative influence of peers
– Emotional disconnection or distancing from parents and siblings
– Pressure of materialism
– Emphasis on the wrong values
– Internalization of/or confusion due to a world-view that is not biblical
While schools may give children a foundation for “worldly” success, at what expense are we willing to risk their souls?
For example, many educational institutions have a humanistic or secular worldview. A humanistic worldview is “any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values, or dignity predominate.” Humanism denies the existence of God, and God as the creator of the universe. Without a creator, humanists say that life simply came to be by natural causes. Therefore, all that exists is what is material, natural. There is no spiritual dimension and no afterlife. Furthermore, without a God to determine absolute truth or absolute morality, truth and morality become relative. Humanist Max Hocutt says that human beings “may, and do, make up their own rules… Morality is not discovered; it is made.”
This humanistic worldview can be found in the content of curriculums, in the methodology of instruction, and in the philosophies of institutions. Its roots can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks.
“The Greeks were history’s first humanists, believing that man was the measure of all things. The Greek aim was to prepare intellectually well-rounded young people to take leading roles in the activities of the state and society. Greek concepts served as the basis for the liberal arts, the teaching of the various branches of philosophy, the cultivation of the aesthetic idea, and the promotion of gymnastic training…Greek philosophers doubted that humanity would ever be able to reach objective truth through reason, and taught that materials success rather than truth should be the purpose of life…The way the Greeks interpreted life is how life is studied in the modern educational system. We must understand this thought and compare it to what the Bible says about understanding, knowledge and wisdom. To the Greek, knowledge was the primary way to goodness.”
Humanism has been repackaged in many different ways through the centuries. But one thing remains the same…society keeps trying to find purpose, meaning, and goodness apart from God and schools are trying to completely remove God (if they haven’t already).
“Today’s public school system (American) teaches a secular worldview. Children are taught that the answers to all of life’s problems are money and education. Much of this philosophy has crept into the church; so much so, that many Christians value education to the extend that they will choose a ‘good education’ over God’s command to ‘be not unequally yoked.’ Or they will choose curriculum because it is equivalent to the academic requirements of a traditional education.
Developing a Christian worldview is of extreme importance in order to advance Christ’s kingdom. False systems will collapse under their own corrupted weight. One reason for the decline of Christianity in Western culture is the lack of a Bible-based worldview. Instead, the cultural world view of materialism, selfishness, and greed has become the predominant vision.”
The problem is we have allowed secular worldviews like this to invade our homes. We have knowingly or unknowingly followed the same value system these worldviews espouse. For instance, many of us put so much emphasis on academics to the neglect of character training. Young children, as early as two years old are brought to playschools where they can get a head-start and develop their motor skills and social skills. We think to ourselves, if my child can excel in these areas, he will excel in life. And we have the best intentions. What parent, after all, doesn’t desire their child’s success?
But have we stopped to consider what success really means? Or, are we simply buying into the worldly idea that wealth, fame, and power spell success? Some of us may be more “spiritual” and we say things like, “Do well in school so you can glorify God.” Yet the focus of our instruction remains the same – the pursuit of knowledge and ability. While these pursuits are valuable, they cannot be primary. They cannot be the reason why we choose to homeschool.
The Bible tells us to be careful, “lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
We have to go back to the word of God and look at his command to us as parents. Ephesians 6:4 addresses fathers and says, “bring up your children in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7 tells us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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.”
Dueteronomy 6:5-7 compels us to consider the who, what, how, when, where and why of teaching our children.
Who are we teaching? Our children.
What will we teach? Love for God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
How will we teach this? By exemplifying it first then being intentional about teaching them – mentoring and discipleship style.
When will we teach this? Everyday, moment by moment.
Where will we teach this? Everywhere possible.
Why should we teach this? Let’s look at the preceding passages…
The backdrop to Deuteronomy 6:5-7 can be found in Deuteronomy 5. Moses gives the 10 commandments to the Israelites (again) and the people convey their desire to follow God. In response, God says in Deutereonomy 5:29, “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” We see the heart of the Lord – his desire to bless his people. The laws and statues of God have always been intended for the greater good of people. But, wait a minute, does this all apply to us if it these passages were referring to the Jews?
Galatians 3:6-9 explains that “Thus Abraham ‘believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are men of faith are blessed with Abraham who had faith.”
Therefore, it is faith in God that makes us sons of Abraham. And as sons of Abraham, we are invited to the same blessings that God promised his people. There is neither Jew nor Greek. A few verses down from Galatians 3::6-8 is verse 29, which tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
When the 10 commandments were given to the Israelites, they were about to enter the promise land – a land flowing with milk and honey. God wanted to prepare their hearts. He knew they were going to encounter pagan people who would lead them astray, who would cause them to follow other gods. He also knew that the blessing of the land could make their hearts grow cold so that they forget that it was by His hand that they it inherited it in the first place.
Therefore, God made it very clear to Moses to teach HIS statues to the people. Deuteronomy 6:1-3 begins with this: “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.”
God has the best intentions for us and for our children. His heart is set on blessing his people. As Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” So he commands us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to teach our children to do the same. He wants us to experience the abundant life – a life of peace, joy, righteousness, and purpose. It is a life that is found in him and him alone. This is the WHY of bringing up our children in the training and instruction of the Lord. It’s not just about following a command in Deuteronomy 6:5-7. It is a sacred trust.
At the end of our lives, God is going to hold us accountable for this sacred trust. And until we understand this, we will see homeschooling as a mere alternative to conventional schooling. But homeschooling is first and foremost, an act of obedience to bring up our children in the training and instruction of the Lord in order to fulfill his purposes and not ours. Second, it is a commitment to discipleship – the discipleship of our children for their greater good.
What we think to be true about our children will impact how seriously we consider our commitment to their discipleship. We must be aware of the following truths:
Our children are created by God, for God. Colossians 1:16 tells us, For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Parenting is a stewardship. We don’t have the liberty to treat our children however we want to, nor do we have the liberty to do whatever we want to with our children. While they were born to us, they exist for the purposes of God. So we have to ask God, “How do you want us to raise our kids?” He will certainly not say things like, shout at them when you are angry, lose your temper, or spoil them!
Our children are created in the image of God – uniquely designed, gifted and purposed. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27).
Human beings, as opposed to all other animals, are not merely animals. Our children, like us, have a spiritual dimension. They are not just physical beings. Therefore, they have the capacity to discern spiritual things, to enjoy God, and to ponder the meaning of life.
The problem is, our children fall short of God’s glory, just as we do (Romans 3:23). Our children are born with fallen natures. They are not born spiritually “neutral” or pre-disposed to choose God. As adorable as we may think them to be, as pure and as innocent as they may seem, they make sinful choices. They will disobey, disrespect us, fight, and behave in selfish ways. Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Romans 3:10 reveals that “None is righteous, no, not one…” Romans 5:12 also says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all menbecause all sinned…”
Therefore, one of our urgent priorities as parents is to connect our children to the living Savior – Jesus Christ. Our children need Jesus Christ to save them and the Holy Spirit to transform them to fulfill God’s wonderful plan for their lives. Acts 4 tells us that, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
We need to tell them about the beautiful gospel story of God’s love. God loves us so much he sent Jesus to die for our sins and to save us from our unrighteousness and the penalty of sin (which is death). Our children need to understand God wants to have a relationship with us, but it is not possible until we recognize that we are sinful and lost and need Jesus to save us. Even young children have the capacity to understand this truth and invite Jesus into their hearts. When they do this, God begins to do his transforming work by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Philippians 1:6 promises, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
From a heart bent on rebellion, our children will begin to develop a desire to know God and seek God. “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19) 2 Peter 1:3 also says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
However, our work is hardly over. When a child prays the “sinner’s prayer,” it is merely the beginning of his faith journey – one that will require us to shepherd him through it. Our children need discipline, training and discipleship from parents. Proverbs 19:18 reminds us, “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.”
We must do everything we can to raise our kids to love God by teaching them about the Bible, helping them to grow in character, disciplining them when necessary, praying faithfully, leading by example, and “training them in the way they should go.” (Proverbs 22:6) We may make mistakes and our kids may still make sinful choices from time to time. But we can remain confident that God is at work in their innermost being to change them into the person he wants them to be.
And what should this person be like? To what aim are we going to home educate our children? True success is a person who loves God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, who love others, makes disciples (Christ-committed followers) and lives for the glory of God.
If we succeed in teaching subject matter, but neglect the hearts of our children, we will let lose into the world future leaders and influencers who are dangerously intelligent and capable but without, as author Tedd Tripp calls is, a “God-ward orientation” or desire to live for God.
 Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (New York: Gramercy Books, 1989), 691.
 Max Hocutt, “Toward an Ethic of Mutual Accommodation,” in Humanist Ethics, ed. Morris B. Storer (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1980), 137.
 Robin Sampson. “What Your Child Needs to Know When: According to the Bible / According to the State.” (Heart of Wisdom Publishing, 2009), 34 – 35.
 Robin Sampson. “What Your Child Needs to Know When: According to the Bible / According to the State.” (Heart of Wisdom Publishing, 2009), 27.
 Tedd Tripp. “Shepherding a Child’s Heart.” (Shepherd Press: Wallopen, PA. 1994), 20.