In Deuteronomy 6:1–2, we read what God said through Moses to the Israelites about teaching His commandments to future generations:
Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged (NKJV).
The Bible suggests here that parents’ responsibility is incomplete until they have raised their own children and then taught them well enough to instill this knowledge in the next generation—their grandchildren. Indeed, children and grandchildren are a message we send to a time we will not see. For most children, grandparents are second only to their parents in terms of influence and importance.
In the only passage in the Bible that mentions a grandparent by name, Timothy describes his grandmother as a key person in the spiritual chain that reached through his mother and finally to him (2 Tim. 1:5). Paul speaks of Lois’s “sincere faith,” which is the essential requirement for grandparents wishing to influence their grandchildren.
Grandparenting styles have changed dramatically over the years. The time-honored image of Grandma baking cookies and Grandpa sitting in a rocking chair is now an inaccurate picture. Grandparents in the twenty-first century are, in many ways, more active and in better health than their parents were. In fact, a lot of them still work. What an opportunity!
In our transient society many live far away from their grandchildren and thus don’t enjoy the unusual privilege my wife and I have had of having all three of our married children and seven grandchildren living in the same city and going to the same church. For those not so uniquely blessed it means greater effort. When distance separates us from our grandchildren, we must call or e-mail regularly to maintain the relationship and to express our spiritual concerns and prayers. Grandparents should take advantage of tape recordings and videos, which may be cherished for years—especially after we’re gone.
Time has proven that if we keep open vital lines of communication, grandchildren usually enjoy sharing their worlds. Our experience has demonstrated the strong impact we can have in the lives of these little ones. For years we had a different grandchild stay overnight every Saturday so we could read Bible stories, pray, and reinforce spiritual values in their impressionable minds.
Being a grandparent, like being a parent, never really ends. James reminds us that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16). That includes grandparents. This relationship will often result in their seeking their grandparents’ counsel on such important matters as dating and marriage. This happened with our children and their grandparents, and it’s now being repeated in the third generation.
For some, the role of being a grandparent is simply to have fun with the kids and to shower them with material things with little or no thought of spiritual training. However, for the dedicated Christian grandparent, this is a God-ordained role. In some notable instances, children have been influenced far more by their grandparents than by their own parents. How much better when both generations bring that needed influence to their lives.
Grandparenting can be one of life’s richest joys as we watch the Lord use us to impart spiritual truth. We can say with John, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children [and grandchildren] are walking in the truth,” (3 John 4).
For those who have failed to impart spiritual values in the next generation, it is never too late to do right. Begin now to share about past failures. Then commit yourself to continued prayer. Being this kind of a grandparent can be one of life’s greatest gifts—both to your children and your grandchildren. After the inheritance is gone (if there is any), it will be the spiritual impact that lasts a lifetime and counts for eternity.
After forty years of pastoring, Roy Knuteson (ThM, 1958) now serves as interim pastor at Pleasant View Bible Church in Aurora, Nebraska.