The one Verse that changed our Parenting


Recently in a conversation with a young man in our church, he mentioned Jordan Peterson’s book as the most formative place to find direction. For him, it was a functional bible, a source of truth where he learned things like cleaning your room and having good posture. I asked him why that book hit him so hard. His response was telling of our society: “I’ve been told all my life what not to do yet never told what to do or how to do it. That book gave me categories and steps to become a man. That book changed my life.” 

That conversation got me thinking: What book has ‘changed my life?’  What has impacted my wife and me in our thinking about the formation of our kids?  There are a myriad of places to start. There are so many influences, ideas, podcasts, books, etc… There are so many areas of development to consider: sports, friends, education, respect for others,  love for family, and so on. Where do you start?  And, beyond the initial starting, how do you continue to maintain, build, and develop? 

It isn’t one book but one Bible verse that has radically changed our approach to not just where we start raising little men in the making, but it’s been ongoing categories that we keep coming back to. 

Before I share the verse, mind you, please know that nothing has re-parented me back to God than parenting my sons. Very few things have shown me the love of God than seeing my love (and lack of love as compared to God’s perfect love) for my boys. In other words, before I share this verse, know that this verse is more about you than children! It’s more about your relationship with God as Father first and centrally. I’ve heard the saying a lot: “Hurt people hurt people.” Well, if that is true, and sadly it is, this line should give us hope and direction: “Loved people love people.” This starts with being loved by God so that you can love others through God, namely, your children.

Now, the verse: “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52. It seems simple, but its implications are profound.  A few things that stick out from this short verse:

First, “Jesus grew.”  The God of the universe, the One whom every knee will bow before the throne of worship, grew (See Rev 7:9). In His humanity, He humbled himself to come into the world as a man who grew up in a world broken yet beautiful. He grew! This means Jesus was a toddler, a tweenager, and a teenager. He understands each phase, and Christ lived each phase perfectly. 

Second, God gives us four categories of life, areas to raise your children in Luke 2:52:  Jesus grew in these four categories: 

mentally (wisdom)

physically (stature)

spiritually (favor with God)

socially (favor with man)

We want our children to be smart, good at school, do their homework, engage people well, and be good thinkers. This is the first category of wisdom/growing mentally.  We want them to be good athletes,  good friends, and good members of our church family, and society. These are the other categories, strong physically and socially. What about the spiritual element? 

If we are honest, we talk to them about all those things far more than that one piece in the middle. Jesus grew up in a relationship with God (favor with God). How many times in the last week have you encouraged your kid with sports compared to scripture or friendships over prayer? How much coaching and teaching do we give about their relationship with Jesus? 

Third, spiritual growth isn’t just one of the categories; rather, it’s the most central category of them all. The life of Christ points us to this reality (see Matthew 6:33, Luke 4:18-19, Mark 1:38).  The spiritual category, one’s relationship with God, is central to every other arena. If you miss this, it doesn’t just impact them spiritually but impacts them in lack of holistic development mentally, physically, and socially. 

If you look at your week’s schedule, what does your schedule say about what you value? Daily, I’m talking to the kids about school, sports, and friends. My first thoughts often are about every other area. Am I teaching them how to walk with God over other areas? Am I teaching them about how to walk with God in those other areas? 

What I’m not talking about, and what this verse is not talking about, is doing spiritual things, going to church, taking classes at church, or doing daily prayers or devotions. Those are fine events, but that’s not what this verse is primarily talking about.  Jesus grew not in being religious activities but in ‘favor’ with God. The word ‘favor’ means grace, kindness, and gratitude.  In other words, Jesus grew relationally with His Father and not religiously with spiritual duty in a way to find favor with God. He already had it, and out of that, He grew relationally with God. 

Friends, we do religious things not to get grace from God, but rather, we do things out of His grace, which has been given freely. Growing in favor with God starts with realizing that He has favor with us based on the good works of another, namely Jesus. We and our kids can grow in favor with God when we realize that He has given us favor with Him through His Son, a free gift for any who would call on Him! 

May God’s favor to you and your kids change you forever in every area of your life!