The home is one of the best (and toughest!) places to make disciples. Parenting is a high calling whether you’re a Christian or not—but if you’re actively trying to make disciples of your kids, you’ve got a huge task before you. The good news is that Paul tells Timothy that all Scripture is useful for training in righteousness (2 Ti 3:16), which means there’s plenty of help for parents in the Bible.
Unfortunately, the Bible verses that would be especially helpful to parents are spread across all 66 books. That makes it a little tough to track them down. But parents should use the Word to make disciples at home, and this list is a good place to start.
I’m not a dad, so I sat down with my mother-in-law to see which Bible verses were especially vital to her as she raised (and homeschooled) five kids. We pulled together 10 passages to encourage, equip, and challenge parents.
10 vital Bible verses for parents
2 Timothy 3:15
And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, his protégé in the faith. Timothy’s Jewish mother had taught Timothy from the Old Testament since he was just a boy, and Timothy had a good standing in the church before Paul had even met him (Ac 16:1).
For parents, this verse is a good reminder to teach children the Bible: it’s able to make your children wise for salvation.
And remember, this isn’t restricted to the New Testament. Timothy grew up learning the Old Testament—the New Testament hadn’t been put together yet! Teach your kids the history of God’s relationship with Israel and the world. Memorize some of the Psalms with them. Read to them about Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and Esther. It was good for Timothy—it will be good for your kids.
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
You’re invested in your children’s future, but there’s a fine line between investment and worry. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages his disciples not to worry about food, clothing, or what tomorrow may bring. After all, if our heavenly Father feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies, surely we can trust him to provide for us.
About this time, Jesus sounds a lot like Bob Marley: “Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is gonna be all right.” But Jesus doesn’t stop here. He shifts our focus: instead of worrying about what we need now, our priority is the kingdom of God—the rest of our needs follow.
I like how Trevin Wax says it: “seeking first the kingdom comes after we have been sought by the King. The root cause of worry is not misplaced priorities. It’s misplaced faith. It’s a failure to grasp the gospel of a God worthy of our trust.”
What does that mean for parents?
When you’re tempted to worry about your child’s future, ask yourself, “How can my child and I invest in the kingdom of God today?”
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
These verses aren’t about raising children, per se. However, it’s a comforting promise parents should take to heart. The verses become even more powerful when you look at their context. The book of Lamentations was written when Israel was at an all-time low. They had turned their backs on God, pursued idols, and let injustice run rampant through their land.
And now God has judged them. An enemy army had just sacked the city of Jerusalem, razed the temple of God, and carried off most of the survivors as captives to a faraway land. Israel has nothing. No city, no temple, no land, no king—and it’s their own fault. At this point that someone (maybe Jeremiah) writes a small book of five songs we call Lamentations.
And still, in Israel’s darkest hour, they can confidently say that God’s mercies are new every morning, and his faithfulness is great.
We will fail—guaranteed. God’s mercy never will—guaranteed.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
This hits hard. There’s no leeway here—the surrounding verses don’t give us any exceptions or escape clauses. We should be anxious for nothing. Easy for Paul to say, right?
Probably not. Paul was in prison when he wrote these words.
Like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Paul doesn’t stop with a feel-good “don’t worry, mon!” message. He follows up with the instruction to pray—in a spirit of thanksgiving!—to God.
When you’re anxious, lay your requests at the feet of God, and thank him for all the times he has provided for you already.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
This may be the best-known parenting verse in the Bible. It’s easy to see why: there’s a clear-cut correlation between the way you parent and the way your sons and daughters turn out as adults. That’s encouraging for parents who think they have it all together. It can be condemning for parents who realize they’ve made mistakes.
But there’s a reason I haven’t mentioned this verse until now.
The book of Proverbs is filled with principles for making godly decisions and leading a godly life. However, it’s not a book of absolute promises. The Proverbs are general statements about how life works, and the Bible itself shows us a lot of exceptions that prove the rules.
Solomon, who wrote this line, is an example. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, was presumably raised to fear God and rule the country well. However, after Solomon’s death, Rehoboam’s hotheaded leadership splits the kingdom apart! (Granted, there are greater spiritual forces behind the scenes.)
You’re charged with training your children—no matter what happens afterward. And generally speaking, well-trained kids become principled adults. So train well!
For the LORD reproves him whom he loves,
As a father the son in whom he delights.
Discipline isn’t fun for any parties involved, but Solomon says that both God and the good parent will discipline the children they love.
This verse is encouraging, but challenging. It’s encouraging because it shows that parental discipline is a mark of love. It’s challenging because the way you discipline your children may influence the way your children think of God’s love and discipline.
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Moses gives this command to the children of Israel as they are about to enter the promised land of Canaan. He is about to give them a long set of rules for how to love and obey God in the land they are about to possess. The land is supposed to be an inheritance for Israel generation after generation, and so God’s law must be passed down through the generations, too.
Notice how Moses tells parents to talk about the Word of God. It’s not relegated to bedside prayers or after-dinner devotions. It’s something that should be intentionally talked about throughout the day.
What does that mean for parents?
Be intentional about talking to your kids about the Bible. Study it with your kids, and bring it up throughout the day.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
This one may sound like it’s calling dads out, but Paul has also just told children to obey their parents in the Lord (Ep 6:1). But why is Paul giving parenting advice?
When we zoom out and look at the book of Ephesians as a whole, we see Paul telling the church at Ephesus how to walk in a manner worthy of their calling (4:1). He later encourages them to follow Christ’s example of walking in love (5:2).
Paul addresses friendships, marriage, and work relationships in this part of the letter, and in the middle of it all, he takes time to talk to fathers and children. This is how parents and kids will walk in love with one another in Christ. Children obey parents. Parents don’t exasperate the kids.
But there’s another nugget in here: Paul tells kids to obey their parents in the Lord, but how will they know what the Lord wants? The parents should be teaching them. Paul says that parents shouldn’t just foster loving relationships—they should be raising kids in the ways of the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
This is a sister verse to the one we looked at in Ephesians. Here, Paul tells us why it’s important for parents not to provoke their kids: they will discourage them.
But what does Paul mean by “provoke?”
In this sense “provoke” means to challenge, or to irritate. An example would be the so-called “helicopter mom,” who “hovers” over her kids at all times. Another example would be the father who is never satisfied with his son’s performance in school, sports, work, etc.
This verse cannot be taken too seriously. When Paul says, “discouraged,” he literally means “to lose heart.” Training children is important—but needs to be done in a way that does not cause them to lose heart.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb a reward.
If you have kids, you’ve been blessed!
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