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. Deuteronomy 6:7
Teach – God commands parents to teach His instructions to their children. Let’s say that again. God commands parents to teach specific instructions to children. Those instructions are found in Torah. In fact, this verse comes immediately after the Shema, a call to remember who God is and why Israel is chosen. God does not say, “Send your children off to school to learn about life.” He doesn’t say, “Just live correctly and let them watch you.” He doesn’t say, “Give them a Bible, take them to church, send them to youth group.” He says, “You teach them.” Parents are responsible before God for what their children learn. Oh, and did you notice that the teaching happens all the time?
Actually, the word here is only metaphorically about teaching. In fact, in the Scripture, this is the only place that the word is translated “teach.” All the rest of the occurrences of this word are about something entirely different (but intimately related). The Hebrew verb shinan means “to sharpen.” God is literally telling parents to sharpen their children with the whetstone of His Word.
The pictograph makes it even clearer. Shin-nun-nun paints the picture of teeth (shin) and life (nun). But notice that nun is repeated. Teeth of life twice. It’s not just biting into life. It’s biting into life twice. And for that you need very sharp teeth. You need to “teach” your children how to consume life twice over. You need to polish them to a point so that they can penetrate truth and falsehood and live accordingly. How do you do that? By talking about God’s words when you sit, when you stand, when you walk, when you lie down and when you get up.
This is a terrifying commandment for most parents today. Why? Because most of us have not done what God told us to do. We did not make it a daily, hourly practice to speak of His words with our children. We opted for substitute education. We let the professionals handle the job. School, preachers, Sunday school teachers, television, cultural influences and the plethora of media manipulations presented a 24/7 deluge of misdirection and misinformation. Oh, I don’t mean that getting an education isn’t important. Of course it is. But God is not telling you how to teach mathematics or economics or psychology. He’s telling you how to teach His instructions for living. Today’s culture teaches children how to use the world for gain. God wants you to teach your children about Him, His character, His community and His perspective. Unless they learn this, their teeth will be dull indeed. They will not be able to bite through the false premises of the culture. They will be the ones eaten instead of being the ones who do the feasting.
Perhaps you need to repent because you have not fulfilled this commandment. Perhaps you recognize the impact your disobedience has had on your children (the third and fourth generations). Perhaps you haven’t been the sharpening stone you needed to be. It’s never too late. God honors confession, repentance and obedience. It’s just much harder to recover character than it is to keep it.
Topical Index: teach, sharpen, shinan, Deuteronomy 6:7, education