When you reflect on your own childhood, what do you remember your grandparent teaching you? Was it some particular skill, like how to make the best chocolate chip cookies or how to catch the most fish? Or was it a life lesson such as the importance of keeping your word or how to show proper manners when meeting someone for the first time? Although we might not have fully appreciated the input from our grandparents at the time, looking back, we see the impact their teaching had on our lives.
Now perhaps you are the grandparent. If so, it’s a helpful thing to ponder what you are passing on to your grandchildren. Yes, you surely have valuable practical skills and life lessons to pass along—maybe the same ones your grandparents taught you.
But of all the lessons we can pass on to the next generation, what might be most foundational? Where do we start? How about this? “Come, O [grand]children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:11).
Grandparents, start here
“The fear of the Lord?” That subject doesn’t usually pop into our minds when we’re considering what all we could—or should—teach our grandchildren. Yet, the fear of the Lord is not an obscure subject in the Bible, tucked into a couple of back closets of the Old Testament. Did you know that “the fear of the Lord” is found over 150 times in God’s Word? That doesn’t sound like it should be a minor issue in our lives as Christians nor a forgotten subject in what we teach the coming generation.
What are we talking about?
Kids can fear a lot of things—spiders, bees, the dark, a monster under the bed, or being rejected by their friends. So why would we add to their list of phobias? Why would any Christian grandparent in their right mind intentionally add the dread of a celestial bully to the nightmares of their grandchildren? Well, that’s not what we’re talking about.
Let’s be candid. Most Christians today are pretty foggy on the Bible’s teaching on the fear of Lord. Saying that the fear of God is merely having a respect for him doesn’t quite cut it. We could say the same thing about an elderly aunt or a school teacher or a policeman. But God’s greatness and goodness are greater than any aunt, school teacher, or policeman—infinitely greater. Jesus himself said it this way: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5). There’s something profound about the fear of God, something that grips our souls and changes our lives. Here’s my attempt at defining the fear of God: that overwhelming, soul-gripping awe of who God is and what he has done that profoundly affects the attitude of our hearts and the actions of our lives.
Why is the fear of God so important in the lives of our grandchildren?
Our grandchildren were born self-centered. I know. It’s hard for us grandparents to admit that about our sweet little grandchild, but it’s true. Was your two-year-old grandchild taught to grab a toy from another child and scream, “Mine!”? No? Why not? Well, because that grandchild acts that way very “naturally.” That grandchild got that sinful nature from his parent who got it from us who got it from our parents . . . all the way back to Adam and Eve. Our first parents, succumbing to the temptations of the serpent, decided that rather than obeying God, they would rather be God, charting their own course in life. And, ever since then, natural mankind’s view of God, himself, truth, and morality has been dreadfully skewed. “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good” (Psalm 14:1).
Sadly, the inborn self-centeredness that each person is born with—including our own grandchildren—is not only tolerated in our current culture, but it’s celebrated. Today’s children are encouraged to “decide what’s right for you,” “be true to yourself,” “find your own sexual identity,” and the deceptively innocuous sounding, “follow your own heart.”
So, what’s the antidote? The tone of the biblical book of Proverbs is set with this foundational counsel: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). If our grandchildren are ever going to understand anything truly, they must start with a God-centered perspective of life and not a self-centered perspective. God is not only the Creator of all things, but the “Definer” of all things. He gives the meaning to all of life and eternity.
Complimenting Proverbs 1:7 is Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight”. If our grandchildren are going to understand what is true and what is false, if they are going to understand what is moral and what is immoral, if they are going to understand what truly matters in life and what doesn’t, they must start by seeing God’s character and hearing (and believing) God’s perspective on life and eternity.
How do we teach our grandchildren the fear of the Lord?
The fear of God can be “taught” Psalm 34:11). The transformation from a self-centered perspective to a God-centered perspective is a work of God’s sovereign grace. God can use us grandparents in this process. Are our grandchildren hearing us bringing God’s Word to bear on the various issues of life?
The fear of God can be “caught.” Our words are so important as we pour into our grandchildren, teaching them from God’s Word, but our words will have little impact if our lives aren’t backing up our teaching. Do our grandchildren see us living daily life centered around God? Do they have the distinct impression that for their grandparent, “To live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21)?
Grandparents, end here
The fear of the Lord is not only the foundation—the starting point—of our interaction with our grandchildren, but it’s the ending point—the goal—as well. Ecclesiastes 12:13 reminds us, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Amen. Lord, please use us to teach our grandchildren the fear of you for your glory and their good.
GRANDPARENTING WITH GRACE: LIVING THE GOSPEL WITH THE NEXT GENERATION
In this practical and biblical resource for grandparents, Larry McCall helps readers confidently carry out their mission of gospel-focused grandparenting. Grandparenting with Grace explores how to build a legacy of a life worth following and how to faithfully pray for grandchildren.