What does God require of parents?

Will God be satisfied if I just provide the basic necessities of life for my children, such as food, shelter, clothing, and security? Am I supposed to give my children everything I never had as a child? Or protect them from every problem? Or put them in the best schools, buy them the latest toys, give them the biggest trust fund, and provide them with every opportunity? What exactly does God require of parents?

The answer is the same in the Old and New Testaments. Besides providing for their physical needs, which Scripture assumes parents will do, the primary responsibility of parents is to train their children to know and love God. Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (NIV) says,

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

This passage describes the home as a learning environment for knowing and loving God. When your children sit, teach them. When they walk, teach them. When they lie down, teach them. When they get up, teach them. Keep these truths front and center. Our children should see God, hear about God, and learn to love God at every turn.

This passage specifically instructs us to teach our children the commandments. “Impress them on your children,” verse 7 tells us, which means to implant them on our children’s hearts. We impress the truth through regular, ongoing conversations and instruction. This requires repetition and patience.

The commandments that we’re to teach refer specifically here to the Ten Commandments, which tell us how to love God and others, but also to God’s ways for all of life. This includes the hope of the Gospel itself, and His will for our relationships, our work, our recreation, our suffering, our money, our health, and our character.

As you teach your children, share your own experiences with God to help them understand who God is and what it means to have a relationship with Him.

Tell them about how God saved you and what He has done for you. Share with your children what you’re learning as you read the Bible and teach them to ask, “What does the Bible say about this?” Let them know you’re praying for them and how. Pray together for the needs of the family and then praise God for His faithfulness. Point out evidences of God’s grace to your family. Let your children know about God’s love for them and about Jesus dying on the cross for their sins.

As parents, there are so many wonderful opportunities we can give our children, but having godly priorities recalibrates our vision of what it means to parent well. God isn’t an afterthought, a box to check off, or a weapon that guilts our children into good behavior. Our relationship with God is the most important part of our lives. Knowing and loving Him brings blessings unlike anything the world has to offer, and pursuing godliness is the one endeavor that “holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

God wants you to teach your children to know and love Him, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bless your children with a great education, opportunities, and nice things. It doesn’t mean your children must live a sheltered, holier-than-thou existence, or go to a Christian school. But sometimes we can provide a lot of good things but miss the main thing. Make sure the extras do not detract from the essentials.

Additional Resources

Genesis 18:19
Psalm 78:1–8
Ephesians 6:1–4
Parenting (one-page PDF)