“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
~Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV).
A necessary condition of doing life better together is the passing-on of The Code—the salvation way. It is actually a Proverbial construct (Proverbs 1–9ff) to instruct our children firmly; to establish within them understanding, prudence, diligence, discretion and a host of other tangible virtue.
Getting the Message Wrong
Many people read the above verses wrongly I’m sure. Indeed, I’ve often thought of these supporting verses to the commencing commands (not shown here) as compelling me to speak about them incessantly to my children. That never really made sense to me; I’d quickly bore them.
Was it just my children who I think were like this? I don’t think so.
It’s human nature to be ‘compelled’ or impelled forward to things that naturally allure or otherwise inspire. God is inspirational. Speaking about how good and great God is, ad nauseam—and without good context, however, often comes across as fake, boring, genteel, and not anything at all resembling the glory, power and grace of the living Lord. And then we wonder if we’re the only ones without the passion to ‘speak powerfully for God,’ but I think the devil is deluding us.
‘Speaking’ Through How We Live Our Lives
Real virtue and the honouring of God is done through word and deed—both aligning.
Analysing the modus operandi of the Shema’s initial verses (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) is about placing the passage within the context of our family lives and moulding our family activities around it.
The Import of the Heart
Firstly, we’re to own the love of God—our central faith—and brandish it on our hearts. Further, and deeper, we’re to make the love of God ‘heartfelt,’ “penetrating the seat of the will.”
God is to be our life, our vitality, and we’re necessarily single-minded about life; our devotion is to be complete. This always commences in our hearts.
A heart such as this leads directly to obedience. There is literally no better connection between what lies within and how that converts to what we do without—our acts in life. Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 12:34-35 and elsewhere.
This has a calamitously powerful effect on us, naturally, as people—even more so as parents!
‘Speaking,’ herein, is not really about our words at all, or certainly it’s not limited to what we say. It’s more about what we ‘say’ via our actions—these emanating from our hearts which inform our minds which decide what we’ll do and how we’ll do it.
Practical Methods of Living this Faith-Life
The heart as it manifests itself—driving a joy-filled, ardent and otherwise complete obedience—ushers in some salient forms of ‘speaking’ the Shema into our children’s lives without ramming it down their throats.
We must be joyful examples of living life, come what may. Our conversations do need to be permeated and sprinkled through with biblical wisdom and the commands of God. There needs to be a connection made for our children between right living and blessing; wicked living and cursing. Our relationships throughout society are to be marked in love and a model example on how to deal maturely with conflict, including forgiveness and grace, when it arises.
We can see here that the verses atop are really speaking about how we engage with our kids in everything we do with them.
Beyond some pretty embarrassing faux pas’ that every one of us parents will fall for, we use all of our acts and words, both right and wrong, as humble examples—object lessons—of how to operate in this life.
Our failures will at times be even more powerful in speaking for this faith-life of truth and how it works, because God is blessing it. We have no fear, but fear of the Lord!
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
 J. G. McConville, Deuteronomy – Apollos Old Testament Commentary (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 2002), p. 142.