What is the most important aspect of rearing children? Is it ensuring that their physical needs (food, clothing, shelter, medical care) are provided? Is it teaching them skills necessary for them to provide for themselves and their family when they become adults? Is it learning social skills? Is it inculcating a good work ethic? Is it ensuring that they feel loved and safe?
All of these are important. And yet the most important aspect of a child’s upbringing has not yet been addressed. Namely, children are to be brought up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). All other aspects of a child’s upbringing pale in comparison to considerations of eternity. What good is it if a boy grows up to be the most educated, brilliant, wealthy, healthy, happy, family-man in the world, and yet does not have salvation in Christ? Will his 70-90 years of happiness on earth bring him any comfort in the eternity of hell? Jesus said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
A secular education at a government school may indeed provide children with the tools they need to have financial success in life. But, as we saw in the previous article, secular education also instills a worldview that is contrary to Scripture. It is not neutral. The primary purpose of secular education is to conform students to the ways of this world – the very thing the Bible warns us not to do (Romans 12:2; Jeremiah 10:2). Although there are Christian teachers within public education that do not share this goal, they are not legally allowed to openly oppose it or to train students in the way of God. The secular curriculum is the main teacher at public schools in terms of the information presented. It is this curriculum that will form a student’s worldview.
Jesus declared, “everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40b). Children have multiple teachers in their life: parents, grandparents, pastors, friends, television, school teachers, books, and curricula. All of these have an influence. Naturally, the greatest influence will be that which spends the most time with the child actively educating. A typical student spends about seven to eight hours a day every weekday being taught at school according to the curriculum. This is far more time than all the other active education sources combined. Most children are educated in a government school with a secular humanistic curriculum. So, if 90% of their education comes from a secular curriculum, wouldn’t we expect about 90% of them to become secular adults? Statistics confirm this. About 90% of students from Christian homes who attend public schools graduate with a secular worldview. Jesus was right.
And yet, many Christians claim that we should send children to be educated in a government school, or at least that such a school is a perfectly acceptable option. How can anyone justify giving to Caesar that which belongs to God? Before we look at each specific reason, I want to give a general answer that will cover all these objections. If you will permit a bit of sarcasm, anytime people offer a reason for why they should not follow the clearly specified biblical principles, I am always tempted to respond as follows, “Yes! That is indeed a great reason to do the exact opposite of what the Bible says. Surely, if God had thought of that, He wouldn’t have put all that silly stuff in the Scriptures about you bringing up your own children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Doing the opposite of what the Bible says will probably work out really well for you!”
Of course, there really is never a good reason to go against biblical principles. God instructs parents to train their children and bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. We saw in the previous article that the Bible allows some delegation of education, but only if that system (curriculum) is training the child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). When parents fail to do this, the overwhelming majority of children become secular and walk away from the church.
Salt and Light
One reason some Christians send their children to public school is so that those children may be a good witness to others, sharing the Gospel with their classmates. Such parents might say, “Public school students may never hear the gospel unless our children share it with them. After all, the Bible says we are to be salt and light, and to love our neighbor.” Of course, the Scriptural references are out of context because none of them are regarding the education of children. When Jesus spoke of being salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16, He was teaching His disciples and the crowd (Matthew 5:1-2). You are salt and light. Jesus is not telling people to throw their children into the lion’s den to do their job. Rather, children are to be brought up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord so that they will become adults who share God’s Word as salt and light. Spiritual warfare is for the spiritually mature, just as physical warfare is not for children (e.g. Hebrews 5:13-14). Would you send your untrained, unarmed, eight-year-old child alone into the battlefield?
This is not to say that Christian children can never share the Gospel. Of course, they can. They can even join their parents in evangelizing in order to learn how to do it properly. Young children are easily influenced by their peers and their teachers (1 Corinthians 15:33; Luke 6:40). That is why God commands fathers to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Yet, most children are placed in a public school – an environment where they are constantly surrounded by immature, primarily unbelieving peers, and where they are inundated with secular education. Yes, they might have a positive influence on others. But others will certainly have a negative influence on them.
Children will become like those around them. Throwing an immature child into a secular system hoping to help other children is a bit like throwing a good apple into a basket of bad apples, hoping to turn them into good apples. Proverbs 13:20 states, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Likewise, 1 Corinthians 15:33 states, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” Rather than being salt for others, nine out of ten children lose their saltiness when brought up in a secular system. They become secular.
Indeed, when we read Matthew 5:13 in context, we see that Jesus is actually warning people about losing their saltiness. He says, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” Matthew 5:13 is a warning about losing our effectiveness as believers in the world by becoming like the world. This is exactly what happens to 90% of Christian children who are brought up in a secular curriculum. It is ironic that many Christians try to use this verse as justification for sending their kids to be trained in a secular system when it is actually warning about the consequences of becoming worldly – the very problem with secular education!
Likewise, in Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus warns us not to hide our light under a bushel. Yet this is exactly what a secular curriculum seeks to do. It conceals God at every point in every subject. It teaches children that God either does not exist or is completely irrelevant to art, history, science, grammar, language, music, mathematics, and so on. Christian children in secular schools are trained to hide their light by becoming worldly in their thinking. Again, it is ironic that the “salt and light” verses are used to argue for placing Christian children in a secular environment when these verses are actually a warning of the consequences of doing something so foolish.
It is certainly true that we should love our neighbor. And placing children in an anti-Christian environment for them to be trained to ignore God in every subject, and in which 90% of them graduate with a secular worldview, is hardly loving. If we cannot love our own family, how can we love our neighbor? Furthermore, God has not authorized parents to use their children to train up other people’s children. Rather, God authorizes parents to train up their own children to become adults who love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and who love their neighbor as themselves.
“But apart from public education, how will my children learn to socialize?” Christian schools provide just as much “socialization” as secular schools, but in a much more positive environment. So, this objection seems to be primarily against homeschooling. Apparently, some people think that homeschooled children live in a bubble and have no human contact apart from their parents and siblings. However, Christians enjoy regular fellowship with other believers – that’s what church is. Church is a wonderful environment for young children to socialize with all sorts of people – most of whom will be Christians. It is a place where believers “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). It is a very positive environment for children to learn social skills. Remember, the Bible teaches that people become like those they are around (Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33). And children are particularly susceptible to this. Isn’t it wise therefore for children to spend most of their time around Christians? Many homeschool parents meet regularly with other homeschool parents, so that their children can interact, play games, and so on, all in a positive moral environment.
Contrast that with the “socialization” that occurs in a government school. In that environment, children are surrounded by other children of the same age who are just as immature. The majority of those children are not Christians. The few who are Christians are immature in Christ if for no other reason than their age. Children are foolish by nature (Proverbs 22:15). When they spend the vast majority of their time around children who are equally foolish, what is the result?
When was the last time you were around a large group of people in which you were all exactly the same age? Was it not school? That is a very artificial environment – a false socialization that does not occur in real life. Society is comprised of people from many different ages. The “socialization” at a public school does not prepare children for the kind of socialization they face in the real world. However, the church does. A healthy church has people of various ages and in various stages of life. At church, children interact with many people of all ages, and yet in a positive, moral environment. This is far better preparation for socialization as an adult in real society. Real social skills are learned outside the school classroom. Several research papers have shown that homeschool students graduate with substantially better social skills than students from institutional settings. These include better cooperation, higher self-control, better leadership skills, higher empathy, lower depression, higher family acceptance, lower substance abuse, less argumentative, and better communication skills.
There is another aspect of this issue, and it may be what some Christian parents mean when they refer to socialization. Some have the idea that it is good for Christian children to be around lots of secular children so that they will learn how to “fit” into the (secular) world. “We don’t want our children to be perceived as weird or to stand out or face persecution for being different.” Really? Then Christianity is not for you (2 Timothy 3:12). Yes, children at public schools do learn to fit in and become like their unbelieving classmates. They will undoubtedly lose their saltiness and learn to hide the light that distinguishes the Christian (Matthew 5:13-16). But is that a good thing?
Public school students learn from their classmates how to behave like immature, unregenerate children (1 Corinthians 15:33). They learn all the latest vulgarities and profanities. They learn how to feel better about themselves and to fit into their social group by mocking and hurting others. They learn to bully others lest they be bullied by others. They learn how to tell and laugh at dirty jokes. These are indeed valuable skills that will help them fit into a wicked society – if that is what parents truly desire.
Public school students learn about pornography from their classmates. The age at which the average student is first exposed to pornography is 11 years. A study confirmed that 10% of 12 to 13-year-olds self-reported that they were concerned that they were addicted to pornography. How many more either enjoyed their habit or were too embarrassed to admit it is anyone’s guess. Most of these habits are learned from their classmates. But some government schools even have pornographic or sexually perverse reading material in their own library! This is inline with the pro-LGBTQ+ agenda being pushed into the public curriculum by the political left. Certainly, there is nothing in the curriculum to deter such perversion. After all, the students have learned in their science class that humans are merely sexual animals that evolved by chance.
No doubt students in public schools will learn to imitate the unrighteous ways of their classmates and will feel more comfortable fitting into a pagan society. But isn’t this the exact opposite of what should happen according to Romans 12:2? How can they be salt and light if they are trained to think and behave like the world? Could it be that many Christian parents actually prefer that their children be conformed to the world rather than transformed in Christ?
We will examine additional objections in the next article.
 This is confirmed by the PEERS test administered by the Nehemiah Institute.
 I thank Israel Wayne for this insightful analogy.
 Jesus is not commanding His followers to be salt and light. He is saying that they already are salt and light and is warning of the consequences of losing their saltiness and hiding their light – becoming worldly.
 It is the student who becomes like the teacher (Luke 6:40), and not the other way around. Children are students of all because they know so little compared to their adult teachers.
 Some may ask, “What about learning to interact with unbelievers, especially unbelieving children?” Given the biblical principle that people become like who they spend time with, it seems wise to strongly limit a child’s interaction with unbelievers – particularly unbelieving children. A child should not be allowed to have a fool for a companion, because that child will suffer harm (Proverbs 13:20). Children will naturally encounter unbelievers as their parents do, and can learn how to interact in good, biblical ways by watching their Christian parents.
 Ray, B., A systematic review of the empirical research on selected aspects of homeschooling as a school choice, Journal of School Choice, 2017, Vol. 11, No. 4, 604–621 https://doi.org/10.1080/15582159.2017.1395638 <<accessed 3/2/2022>>