Raising Moral Children in an Immoral World

By Wayne S. Walker

Through the years, most of us who preach have undoubtedly presented many lessons, which a lot of brethren have surely heard, on the threat of secular humanism or at least on worldliness and immorality in general. We certainly need to understand how these godless influences have been eating away at the very foundations of our society, especially as they seek to leave their mark on our children through their control of the educational system. One would assume that the purpose of such lessons is not to scare people, per se, but to make them aware of the dangers that we face, warn them of problems ahead, and encourage them to fight the good fight of the faith.

However, some people may react to hearing this kind of information with an attitude of discouragement and despair, throwing up their hands and saying, “Well, if the world is as evil as you say it is, then there is nothing that we can do about it and, therefore, there is no hope for us.” It is almost as if they have fatalistically resigned themselves to a failure in trying to bring up their children with faith in God and a desire to please God. And that which people believe is impossible to do they will probably make little or no effort to accomplish.

Yet, as evil as our world is today, and there is no argument from this corner that it is pretty bad, the first century was surely no better than our time and perhaps may even have been somewhat worse in many respects. But despite the dregs of Roman and Greek culture prevalent in that day, a woman, with the assistance of her mother, but apparently without the help of her husband, was able to raise a son whose praise was spoken of among all the brethren of his time. That young man was Timothy, and he grew up in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation to be a faithful Christian and proclaimer of God’s word.

Paul wrote to him, “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, that without ceasing, I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (2 Tim. 1:3-5). This wonderful example shows us that raising moral children in an immoral world is possible. However, that does not mean that it will be easy. It is going to take some effort.

It Is Going To Take Teaching

God understood this fact and so gave commandments to the children of Israel regarding his words to them. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6.7). Have you ever wondered why so few Jews are ever converted? While Judaism today is not the same as Old Testament Judaism, most faithful Jews still follow some of the Old Testament principles, and one that they do follow is to teach, teach, teach their children what it means to be Jews in such a way that they lose a very small percentage, especially compared to the number of children growing up in homes of Christians who never obey the gospel or soon fall away. There are undoubtedly many reasons why we are seeing such a “drop-out rate,” but in a lot of cases (not all), it is most likely because the children were not taught sufficiently. The aim of parents should be to teach a child in such a way that he truly remembers his Creator in the days of his youth (Eccl. 12:1). Of course, this will not be accomplished solely by bringing children to two hours of Bible class and two hours of worship a week, and then attending two or three gospel meetings and perhaps a vacation Bible school each year. That is good, but in ad- dition to it there needs to be daily, constant teaching in the home about God, Christ, the Bible, and other important spiritual matters.

To illustrate the importance of this, remember Timothy. The faith of Lois and Eunice dwelt in him. How? These things did not come by genetic inheritance or mere osmosis, but by teaching he “learned them” so that Paul said, “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures” (2 Tim. 3:14-15). Parents cannot even hope to raise moral children in an immoral world without diligently teaching them God’s will.

It Is Going To Take Example

To illustrate this principle, consider Abraham. God knew that Abraham would command his children and his household after him to keep the ways of the Lord (Gen. 18:10). How did Abraham do this? Well, he certainly must have taught them. But how did God know that Abraham would continue to do this in the future? You see, Abraham had already established a pattern of reverence for, complete trust in, and obedience to God. When God told him to leave for a new homeland, he did (Gen. 12: 1-8). When God told him in his old age that he would have a child, he believed God (Gen. 15:1-6). And all of this occurred even before Abraham had any children. Then, when he did have children, he continued in the same way.

God told him to take his only son Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice, and Abraham did (Gen. 22:1-12). What kind of an impression must this have made on Isaac when he saw that his father obeyed God implicitly regardless of any personal feelings that he may have had in the matter? Not much is said of Isaac in the Scripture, but what is said seems to indicate that he followed his father’s example of faithfulness. And it is for this reason that Abraham is used throughout the New Testament as an example for us (cf. Rom. 4:16-24; Heb. 11:8-19; Jas. 2:21-23). Abraham was a worthy example for his own family and so is a good ex- ample for us. It is not enough just to tell our children what to do. They will be the very first to detect any hypocrisy between what we say and what we do. Raising moral children in an immoral world also requires that we show them the difference between right and wrong by our example.

It Is Going To Take Discipline

The word “discipline” in our English language literally refers to that which is necessary to make one a disciple. If a parent is faithfully serving Christ, then his goal should be to make disciples of his children (cf. Matt. 28:19). In the New Testament, the word “discipline” is translated from a term that means “the whole training and education of children.” It is the word that is rendered “admonition” in Ephesians 6:4, where Paul said, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Thayer’s Lexicon notes that this term relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment. Thus, everything that parents do in raising their children, including teaching and example, falls under this general category of discipline.

However, since the term does include reproof and punishment, there are contexts where it seems to be used with the more specific meaning of chastisement, yet still with the positive goal of correcting mistakes, curbing the passions, and increasing virtue. According to Hebrews 12:5-11, God chastens us as his children. We may not always know exactly how he does it, but it is justified on the basis that human fathers chasten their children if they wish to develop in them the peaceable fruits of righteousness. And the Bible has a lot to say about the need for chastisement — correction and punishment — of children. For example, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15).

Also, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Prov. 29.15). These and other such passages are not saying that parents should be beating their children silly and senseless, or should they be used to justify genuine child abuse. But they do teach that children, being young and immature, will make foolish mistakes, and it is the job of parents to use chastening, punishment, and correction to teach them the difference between right and wrong. Furthermore, when those children are quite young and most susceptible to this chastening, the thing that they understand best and is in the majority of instances the most effective is the pain of using the rod of correction. The outright rebellion of youth so characteristic in our society is proof positive that one cannot raise moral children in an immoral world without some form of loving, yet firm, discipline.

It Is Going To Take Love

Parents are going to make mistakes. We may miss a golden opportunity at some special point to teach an important lesson to our children and have to make up for it in some other way. We have our own faults and weaknesses, and may not always act before our children in the way that we expect them to act, even though we may try. We may fail sometimes at discipline, either being too harsh on one occasion or being a little too soft on another. But in spite of all our mistakes and failures, the glue that can still hold a home together and provide a place of joy and peace where children can find a sense of stability and security now and later on a good basis for establishing their own homes is love. “But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Col. 3:14).

This passage is not necessarily talking about the home but the church. Yet, whatever is true of the need for love in the family of God should be true in our own human families as well. In our homes, as we relate to each other, we need to “put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” How can we apply this practically? First, the husbands (and fathers) are told, “Love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). It has been said that one of the greatest things which a man can do for his children is to love their mother. When children see that their father truly loves their mother, that example alone will teach them untold lessons about commitment, dedication, and faithfulness.

Next, wives and mothers are to be taught “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers . . .” (Tit. 2:4-5). Brethren continue to argue about whether it is good, let alone right, for a woman to work outside the home under any circumstances, especially if she has small children. I do not wish here to go into all the pros and cons on that because each family must do what is best for it. But consider this. We assume that God wants men to love their children too, but there is no specific command to do so. Yet here, Paul tells older women to admonish younger women to love their children. Because of her nature, the mother is the emotional center of the home, and her being there for her children is necessary for their emotional development and well-being. How do mothers do that? It is by being “homemakers” or as the King James Version reads, “keepers at home.” It may well be that at least one of the reasons for all the problems in the past several generations has been the fact that mom has not been home! “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” If we expect to raise moral children in an immoral world, we are going to have to show true love in the home.


Everyone, except the most rabid humanists and feminists, agree that the home is important. God established it for the good of mankind (Gen. 1:28; 2:24). It is in the home that God intends for two loving parents to raise children who will be capable of taking their proper place in life when they grow up. Of course, children are free-will moral agents, so there are no absolute, iron-clad guarantees. There are other forces and influences in children’s lives which can counteract good teaching in the home or even make up for bad teaching in the home in certain circumstances. But God has a plan for the family, and when it is followed we can be assured that he will be pleased with our efforts. And the outcome will doubtlessly have a lot greater chance of being more favorable than rejecting or ignoring God’s plan and going our own way. “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul” (Prov. 29:17).