The Bible Isn’t a Parenting Manual

The Bible Isn’t a Parenting Manual May 23, 2016

Scripture offers occasional parenting advice, and some of it is good, but the Bible was never meant to be a parenting manual.

By Creator:John Haynes-Williams [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
There are a few scattered verses that talk about raising up children, discipline, and a handful of generic bits of wisdom, but few offer specific pieces of advice or relevant applications for today’s society.

To make matters worse, Jesus—the central figure of Christianity—was never a parent. He didn’t have to worry about changing diapers, taking kids to school, protecting them, or transporting them to soccer practice.

Sure, Christ our Lord and Savior had to deal with the disciples, who were sometimes child-like in their words and actions—especially Peter—but let’s admit that despite all the amazing things Jesus did, he isn’t the best example of parenthood for the simple reason that he was never a parent.

There are hardly any examples in the Bible of good parents, and even if there were, it would be hard to reconcile the radical difference between cultures that span over thousands of years. We would understand little of their parenting customs and find most of their practices confusing, repulsive, and completely unfamiliar.

For Christian parents searching for clear, concise, and exact answers to all of their parenting questions, concerns, and dilemmas, the Bible is frustratingly thin on content.

This is difficult for many to accept because Christian culture often puts an extra burden on parents to raise their children in the most “Christian way” possible.

Spiritual communities constantly emphasize, discuss, and communicate various techniques related to how kids are supposed to be spiritually trained and “faithfully brought up.”

Strict behavioral expectations from churches, pastors, teachers, family, friends, and even strangers can cause us to constantly compare ourselves—and our kids—to others.

Self-righteous strategies and “wisdom” is presented from all directions, whether it’s solicited or not, and it can be wrapped in scripture verses that give the appearance of “Biblical support.”

In response to religious fear-mongering, parents can become obsessed with achieving unrealistic goals (like perfection).

In our never-ending effort to achieve the task of being a flawless parent, we burn ourselves out. We spend every spare moment attempting to read more parenting blogs, experiment with different discipline techniques, change eating habits yet again, tweak sleep routines, switch education theories, and constantly adjust to the ever-changing demands of parenting.

And many of these things aren’t bad in and of themselves, but parents can idolize the process of “parenting” to the extent of completely missing the point.

When we—or our children—inevitably fail (and failure will happen), we blame ourselves and are ridden by extreme guilt. Because unfortunately, in environments where terms such as “hell,” “morality,” “sin,” “holiness,” “purity,” and other religious jargon is prevalent, Christian parents can easily become infatuated with parental success while simultaneously facing the constant stress of punishment, correction, and self-improvement.

This legalistic mentality not only presents false ideals, impossible standards, and anxiety-inducing apprehension, but it also causes parents to blame and punish not only themselves, but also their children.

It’s at this point where the Bible is useful, because although it’s not a parenting guide, it does offer one piece of advice over and over and over again: to love.

Love God (and realize that God loves you and your children!)

Love your neighbors.

Love strangers.

Love the oppressed.

Love the poor.

Love the marginalized.

Love enemies.

Love family.

Love children.

Love your kids.

Ironically, Jesus—the least qualified person to give out parenting advice—gives parents the best possible parenting advice: love.

As a parent, when you read the Bible, don’t struggle trying to find hidden parenting tips or try to navigate how a particular parable or lineage can somehow make you a better parent.

Instead, simply love your children—today, tomorrow, and forever. God help us.

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