Tonight as I was reading through (and furiously marking up) Luther’s Large Catechism, I came across these words in his exposition of the Fourth Commandment (“Honor your father and your mother”) that are so prophetic they are frightening:
If [bringing up children in the fear and knowledge of God above all things] were done, God would also richly bless us and give us grace to train men by whom land and people might be improved. He would also bless us with well-educated citizens, chaste and domestic wives, who, afterward, would raise godly children and servants. Here consider now what deadly harm you are doing if you are negligent and fail on your part to bring up your children to usefulness and piety. Consider how you bring upon yourself all sin and wrath, earning hell by your own children, even though you are otherwise pious and holy. Because this matter is disregarded, God so fearfully punishes the world that there is no discipline, government or peace. We all complain about this but do not see that is is our fault. The way we train children and subjects spoils them makes them disobedient.(Large Catechism, “The Fourth Commandment,” emphasis mine)
Once you get past the ‘chaste and domestic wives’ bit and finish reading the paragraph (ahem), let us focus especially on the italicized
indictments statements. Luther reminds us that the piety of parents is of no avail if the ‘training’ and ‘discipling’ of our children consists of shuffling them off to amusing (literally), relevant, worldly, youth ‘ministry’ events that are more focused on being hip, cool, and trendy than they are teaching the true Word of God. Please don’t get me wrong, not all youth ministry is infected with these vices (nor is all youth ministry necessarily off base, there are many good youth ministers and ministries out there…praise be to God) but enough of these ‘ministries’ are plagued in these ways that Luther’s rebuke must be heard.
More than this, parents, let us take heed of Luther’s closing remarks. Many of us tend to sit around and cast stones, complaining about the state of youth ministry and how our children are not learning or being discipled as they should (see the preceding paragraph for a great example…grin). “Wake up!” Luther shouts! The responsibility lies not on youth pastors nor youth ministries to teach, disciple, rear, and catechize our children…the responsibility lies primarily on we parents and especially we fathers to take seriously our biblical role. It is not for no reason that Luther prefaces each section of his Small Catechism with the words, “As the Head of the Family should teach it in the simplest way to his household…”
May God grant us grace to so teach and raise our children (by word and deed) that the blessings of God mentioned by Dr. Luther find their realization in our homes and land!