Christian Basis for Family Training
In this bible study, we attempt to use information from the childhood of Jesus and other relevant bible passages to understand God’s purpose for parental responsibilities. We learn that God assigns parents responsibility to provide for the basic needs of children: physical basic needs (i.e., food and drink, clothing, and shelter), protection, and community values training.
CALL TO FAMILY TRAINING God issued his call to family training and definition of parents and parental responsibility when he appeared to Abraham in human form, accompanied by two angels. He said [Genesis 18:18–19]: “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” Although spoken about Abraham in this account, the statement is applicable to all humankind and appears directed at defining parental responsibilities. The statement defines the responsibilities of a parent as consisting of two parts: first, providing for basic needs to bring up children; and second, training the children in the process, to direct them to follow the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Also, by corollary, the statement defines a parent as someone assigned the responsibility of providing this service to one or more children. Recall that parenthood is an appointment from God (see previous bible study at This_Link).
Bible Definition of Basic Needs
Our understanding of the call to family training as described in the fore-going paragraph brings up the question of what are basic needs. In fact, the bible provides information to guide us to an understanding of basic needs. First, in the interaction between God and Jacob at Bethel, Jacob vowed to serve God if God will provide for him as he identified through a list of five items that constitute the basic needs of a human being. Second, Christ confirmed the list several generations later in his teaching on compassion and human service through the Parable of the sheep and goats.
JACOB’S CONDITIONAL VOW Jacob vowed to serve God, saying [Genesis 28:20–21]: “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God.” Through the vow, Jacob requested five items, each addressing one or more basic needs [identified in square brackets] as follows.
- If God will be with me [Protection, Interaction]
- And will watch over me [Protection]
- And will give me food to eat [Food & drink]
- And clothes to wear [Clothing, Protection]
- So that I return safely to my father’s household [Shelter, Home preservation]
Therefore, through this understanding of Jacob’s request, we identify five basic needs as follows: Food and drink (one item), clothing, shelter, protection, and community values. The last item, community values, includes several things such as interaction and home preservation that we discuss later in more detail.
CHRIST’S TEACHING ON COMPASSION AND HUMAN SERVICE Several generations later, Christ confirmed Jacob’s list of basic needs through his teaching in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. He discussed human service through six items [Matthew 25:35–36], which as we look at closely actually address the same five basic needs [square bracket] that we identified in Jacob’s vow.
- I was hungry and you gave me something to eat [Food & drink]
- I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink [Drink]
- I was a stranger and you invited me in [Shelter, Protection]
- I needed clothes and you clothed me [Clothing, Protection]
- I was sick and you looked after me [Community values (e.g., interaction, compassion)]
- I was in prison and you came to visit me [Community values (e.g., interaction, compassion)]
BASIC NEEDS Through Jacob’s vow and Christ’s teaching several generations later, we identify five basic needs that can be described in two categories: Physical basic needs (i.e., food and drink, clothing, and shelter); and non-physical basic needs (i.e., protection, and community values). The division into two categories enables a similar categorization of things that parents are expected to provide for children in family training. The physical basic needs and protection take care of physical upbringing whereas community values training is directed at training children “to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.” Next, we look at the basic needs of Jesus during his childhood and who did what to provide for the needs.
Physical Basic Needs of the Child Jesus
The physical basic needs are not mentioned directly. However, the statement “and the child grew and became strong…” [Luke 2:40] actually implies the parents provided adequately for the child’s physical basic needs (food and drink, clothing, and shelter), so he grew and became strong.
Protection of the Child Jesus
We find more information about protection because of an incident in which God intervened to initiate the protection directly and handed it over to the parents thereafter. By initiating the protection and handing it over to the parents, God illustrated that protecting a child is a parental responsibility. He is the ultimate provider of all things including protection, but often will channel his provisions for children through their parents. Hence, in this case, he initiated the protection and handed it over to the parents with information on how to proceed.
GOD PROTECTS CHILD DIRECTLY The incident began when wise men from the east (referred to as Magi) arrived in Jerusalem seeking to locate the birth place of the “king of the Jews” [Matthew 2:2] whose star had appeared to them recently. King Herod determined the time of appearance of the star from the Magi and the likely location of birth from his staff. He sent the Magi to Bethlehem and requested them to report back to him after they find the child “…so that I too may go and worship him” [Matthew 2:8]. He of course had different intentions. God led the Magi to the child using the star but instructed them to bypass Herod and return by a different route. He directed the Magi away from Herod to protect the child.
GOD PROTECTS CHILD THROUGH PARENTS Thereafter, God instructed Joseph through an angel to escape to Egypt with his family in order to protect the child from Herod: “…take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him” [Matthew 2:13]. The angel appeared to him in a dream. He got up and left for Egypt with his family during the night. By moving to Egypt, he protected the child from a subsequent massacre of male children by Herod [Matthew 2:13–16].
Community Values Training for the Child Jesus
Community values encompass human interaction aspects of basic needs and can be described in terms of two classes: compassion and respect.
COMPASSION The term compassion describes a person’s sensitivity to the needs around him/her: the needs of self, other persons, and community. Sensitivity to needs means being attentive enough to recognize the needs and committed to doing what one can to provide for them.
RESPECT This includes respect for authority, laws and customs, and basic rights of self and other persons.
COMMUNITY VALUES TRAINING Parents have a responsibility to train a child in community values, to become a responsible and God-fearing member of the community that understands values of the community in interactions with other people. Usually, the training is provided through practice.
PARENTS’ PREPARATION Jesus’ parents showed their knowledge and respect for community values through things they did while he was a baby. For example, they circumcised and named him on the eighth day after birth, in respect for a custom that originated from God’s instruction to Abraham and was handed down through several generations. Also, they went through the customary purification period and presented the child for consecration to the Lord at the end of the period. Again this was a part of their religious customs passed down from Moses through several generations. The parents showed themselves to be respectful of Jewish laws and customs by completing the customary requirements [Luke 2:21–24]. Because family training is delivered through a form of apprenticeship, a parent’s knowledge and acceptance of the community values are key to the parent’s preparation to train a child.
FAMILY TRAINING FOR THE CHILD JESUS One of the things the parents did to train the child was take him to Jerusalem every year to participate in the Feast of Passover [Luke 2:41]. Taking him to participate in the festival year after year provided opportunity for him to learn the history, practice, and meaning of the festival. Furthermore, they allowed him to interact freely with friends and relations during the long trek home from the festival. We know this because on the 12th year when he stayed back in Jerusalem as his parents left, they were not aware that he wasn’t with them until after about one day. When they realized he wasn’t with them, they looked for him among their relatives and friends [Luke 2:44]. They did not know he wasn’t with them because it was their common practice to let him interact freely with relatives and friends during the long trek home. We learn from these accounts that they took him to Jerusalem every year to participate in the festival and allowed him to mingle and interact freely with relatives and friends during the festival and return journey. The accounts provide us an example, but likely not an exhaustive description, of the things they did to train him in community values. Training a child in community values is a key aspect of the responsibilities of parenthood.
Our study of the childhood of Jesus helps us understand that parental responsibilities include providing for physical basic needs (food and drink, clothing, and shelter), protection, and community values training. Parents should provide opportunities for children to learn community values, which include compassion (sensitivity to the needs of self, other persons, and community) and respect for authority, laws and customs, and basic rights of self and others. The training is usually provided through practice, in a form of apprenticeship.