I’ve been asked a number of times about whether parents should require their children to have a time of reading the Bible each morning after waking up. They explain that they are concerned that their children might react to being required to read.
Let’s start by investigating whether there is a need for someone to read the Bible every morning. The Holy Spirit, through Peter, gives us excellent direction on this topic. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:2-3). Actually, this applies not only to our children but also to us as parents. However, for the sake of staying on track, we will focus on our children. Peter is giving us a physical reality to illustrate a spiritual truth. Most everyone understands how healthy babies want to drink milk. In fact, they will become loudly insistent on acquiring their milk if they aren’t fed. All the baby knows is that it is time to eat, and he isn’t happy unless milk is on the way to his stomach.
Peter is saying that in this same way believers are to desire the Word of God. This desire is not necessarily a thought out process just as newborns aren’t really thinking through that they haven’t eaten for three hours and are hungry. Scripture is what our children need to grow, taking them from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. If a child isn’t fed physical milk, he won’t grow. How frequently does he want to eat? I remember our newborns. At first they ate every two hours, and it seemed as though as soon as they finished nursing, it was time for them to be fed again. They needed that nourishment to grow stronger.
As we travel, we see so many children who are in spiritual danger today. The appearance is that they aren’t getting spiritually fed as much as they require. I know that no parent, who wants God’s best for his child, would purposely spiritually starve him. However, after speaking with vast numbers of parents on this subject, I’m convinced that often Dad and Mom assume that having their children in church will be enough spiritual food. What newborn would live if fed only once, twice, or three times a week? For that baby to thrive and grow in strength, he needs lots of nourishment. For our families, worship with a local assembly should not be neglected, but it takes more than simply attending church to spiritually “feed” our children.
Peter started us with the analogy of how we want to “feed” our children the milk of the Word. We can also look to a mother’s example for more details on this process. When it is time to eat, does Mom feed the child in a noisy environment? Not normally. Teri would go to a quiet, pleasant place in the house to nurse a baby because there would be no distractions for the child. With newborns, it was less of an issue, but as the weeks went by, that baby was much more interested in the world around him. If there was activity around, the baby would stop nursing to see what was going on.
In the same way, the more worldly distractions there are in the home, the less interest there will be in the pure milk of the Word. MP3 players, computer games, or TV programs will all be noise and a serious distraction, enticing a child’s heart away from desiring to spend time in God’s Word. Dads will have to be on guard against the world’s distractions that will hinder his children’s time in the Word.
Not only does Mom get away from distractions, but she also makes the baby and herself comfortable during the feeding time. A mommy who wants to encourage her baby to eat will snuggle that child and hold him securely. What if Mom decided she wanted to be real efficient with her time, and she tried to jog on a treadmill while she nursed the baby? I suppose there might be some child somewhere that would nurse well, but the majority of babies would quit long before filling his stomach and wait for things to settle down.
Therefore, it is important in a loving, gentle way to make time in the Word comfortable and away from distractions. For quite a few years, I have gathered in the living room with six of my children early each morning for our personal Bible times. Everyone has his favorite chair, and some have a blanket to keep warm with while they read. We will normally fellowship for a few minutes before we all begin reading to ourselves. It is a delightful time for all.
I understand that many children will read their Bibles in bed before getting up, and that would be a comfortable setting as well. The negative of reading in bed would be that it could be a little too comfortable and easy to fall back asleep. When we meet together in the morning in the living room, there is friendly accountability to stay awake. This is much like the mom who is keenly aware of whether her baby is taking on nourishment or has fallen asleep.
What if a child is lost and has not made a real profession of faith? Should he still be expected to read the Bible daily? My question for you is: do you encourage your child to eat food that is good for him, even if it isn’t his preference? Most parents who want their children to be healthy and to instill good, lifelong eating habits will do so. Then we should ask ourselves, what is more important—the body or the spirit? Of course, the answer is the spirit. We must do all we can to spiritually feed our children what is good for them.
It is so important that the lost child reads his Bible. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). God’s Word will not return void. It is that dry, barren soul that needs the life giving water of the Word. However, it is ever so important that we bring our children to the water of the Word with love and gentleness, and by example.
If all you ever did was command your children to eat broccoli and you never ate it, would they likely eat it willingly? Doubtfully. However, when you eat broccoli in front of them and are enjoying it, you are modeling good behavior. That is why our morning Bible time is so positive. I’m there with the children, and if one were to look at me, he would see his father in the Word right along with him. Often I will share something I learned that was a blessing to me after we finish.
We want God’s best for our children, and that means they need to learn to be in the Word personally every day. This will be the basis for their spiritual growth through their childhood and adult years. Part of the responsibility of bringing our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) is to help them desire the milk of the Word. We set the example, give them time in the morning to read their Bibles to develop this habit, avoid distractions, and make them comfortable. May we be men who are committed to the Word and lead our children in this as well.