Do you know what the most often quoted scripture of all time is? Many Christians might answer John 3:16 or maybe Psalm 23, but the most often quoted Scripture from the Bible is by far Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Here’s why: Every morning and every evening in Orthodox Jewish homes, this scripture is said aloud. It is recited every Sabbath. It is quoted at deathbeds and at bar mitzvahs. When Jesus was asked to name the most important commandment, He went directly to Deuteronomy. “You will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (v. 5). These verses, called the Shema, were likely the first scripture Jesus ever heard as a child because it was probably said every day in His home.
Shema is a Hebrew word which means “to listen.” The verses in the Shema are a mandate for Christians to leave a legacy of faith to our children:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
These verses teach us three foundational lessons:
1. Loyalty to God
2. Transmission of faith and love to our children
3. Constant mindfulness of God’s teachings
Unfortunately we have lost the Shema vision in too many of our homes. It’s time to regain that vision and the focus it takes to build a spiritual legacy in our families. The Shema shows us that faith is passed on when parents living out an authentic, faithful life to God, leading their kids by example. Transmitting faith to growing children is not the job of the church; rather, the church’s role is to come alongside families to help them develop strong faith and values that will guide their children to grow up faithfully and then pass their faith along to the next generation.
It is the calling of parents to disciple children toward spiritual maturity. No one has ever said this is an easy task, and it can definitely get messy. Nonetheless, we are called to develop spiritual growth in the lives of our children—and, as the Shema tells us, one important way we can do so is to talk with our kids about life with God, “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” . . . in other words, a lot!
If you haven’t yet developed a Shema-shaped family, that’s okay. It’s never too late to begin having more healthy, positive faith conversations with your kids.
If you need help you may want to consider purchasing Faith Conversations for Families or Pass It On.