Question: Why does Jesus not specifically address parenting in all of His teaching?
You may have noticed that while Jesus specifically speaks to marriage and to the tension of honoring and hating our parents, He does not speak specifically to parenting one's children. Here are some thoughts on this issue:
First, just because Jesus did not specifically teach about parenting, this does not at all infer that He was not passionate about the proper and righteous parenting of all children. There is no biblical record of John the Baptist teaching about parenting, but Luke 1:17 clearly states that one of the primary purposes of his ministry was to “….turn the hearts of the Fathers back to the children…”. Here is vs. 17 in full, "It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him (Jesus) in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready people prepared for the Lord." This is an obvious partial fulfillment of and reference to Malachi 4:5,6, "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will come and smite the land with a curse." Jesus also fulfilled this prophecy. And I believe many others have since and will increasingly before the Lord returns.
Both John and Jesus were always going for root and foundational issues. They weren’t going to waste time on “Ten ways to raise a happy child” when the parents they were ministering to had no spiritual capacity (yet) to carry out such well meaning parenting practices.
Let’s look at a long passage that illustrates this. In Mark 9 Jesus had taken three of His disciples up on a mountain where He was transfigured before their eyes (vs. 1-8). On the way down they had a discussion related to what had happened on the mountain (vs. 9-13). When they returned to the other 9 disciples and the large crowd that had formed, they discovered some turbulence caused by a failed demon extraction/exorcism (vs. 14-18).
Jesus’s response to this disgruntled and desperate Dad is very enlightening: “And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” (vs. 19).
Who is the “them”? Some think the disciples. But Jesus deals with the disciples later in the passage (vs. 28,29). I think rather He was addressing this man and his fellow citizens especially in his generation. He was addressing this man and all those in the crowd who like him felt the main problem here was ineffective disciples. That was not the main problem. The main problem was a whole generation of parents, who were on the most part walking in deep unbelief and perversion (Matthew 17:17 is the parallel passage = “…..You unbelieving and perverted generation….”). This kind of extreme demon possession of a child can only happen when the parents, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, etc., who in one way or another touch this child’s life all are living narcissistic and hedonistic lives. If that weren’t the case then they would have been able to better understand Jesus’s revelation to them that He would need to suffer for their sake’s (see vs. 30-32). If that were not the case the 12 disciples would not be wasting time arguing about which one of them was the greatest (see vs. 33,34), but instead would be looking to Him to how they could better serve along with Him – especially serving the children. But since they were absolutely oblivious to this call to servanthood starting with selflessly ministering to children, He had to bring a child into their midst to explain (see vs. 35-37).
Then as we go on in this chapter, John speaks for the rest of the disciples to Jesus about their great concern that others out there were competing with their movement (vs. 38-41). Jesus shows no concern for this whatsoever, but He then speaks to what He is very concerned about and that is adults (including especially parents who have the most influence on children) being stumbling blocks to children (“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”vs. 42). This problem of being a stumbling block to children is so serious that Jesus follows this warning with the solution, which is being willing to take extreme (in our eyes) measures to overcome whatever it is in our hearts and minds that cause us to be stumbling blocks to children (“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off….”see vs. 45-50).
The disciples of course didn’t get this initially. Then in chapter 10 some Pharisees, who were largely responsible for creating this religious culture of unbelief and perversion, “tested” Jesus with His thoughts about what Moses said about divorce (vs. 2-4). Jesus makes clear in His response that the crux of the issue is the Pharisees’ hardness of heart and blindness to God’s original purpose and plan for marriage (vs. 5-9).
In someone’s house the disciples later ask Jesus for clarification of this discussion about marriage and divorce (vs. 10-12).
Then evidently in that same house, parents were bringing their children to Jesus so He might “touch” them and bless them (vs. 13). The disciples, still being rattled by Jesus being so direct and “in your face” with the Pharisees, rebuked these parents (vs. 13). Jesus grew very angry at their obsession with His possibly having offended corrupt religious leaders, and at their blindness re: the high value God places on children, and rebuked them for their hardheartedness (vs. 14). He tried to help them see that the kingdom of God belongs to children such as these, not to corrupt religious leaders - no matter what their title or importance in the eyes of man might be (vs. 14). He then further explained that the best way to learn how to enter the kingdom of God is to observe how children respond to Him and and to truth. Then He gathered them all in His arms and blessed them (vs. 15, 16).
Jesus deeply cares about every child on the planet. Jesus knows far better than we how much influence (for better or for worse) every parent has on every child. Jesus knows that only righteous and godly men and women can adequately and effectively parent a child. So Jesus wisely focused on helping every man and woman learn to walk in humility and righteousness. He focused on helping them learn to love God with their whole heart, soul, strength and mind. He focused on helping them give daily attention to the state of their hearts. He focused on helping them give daily attention to inner purity and cleanness rather than outer purity and cleanness that the Pharisees and Scribes focused on. He focused on helping them see their marriage as God sees it. He focused on helping them get free from the fear of man and pleasing man.
We have a wonderful Savior, Lord and Shepherd! He longs to teach us how to do life and family His way by His resources. May He open our eyes and ears so we can hear all that He is saying in these days, and so we can see all that He is doing. And may we allow Him to deal with the root issues in our lives and family relationships so that those relationships can become what He has always intended for them to become. God bless you and your family today!