Parents Represent God to Their Children
June 8, 2023 Blogs by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13 NIV84). “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13 NIV84).

Happy the child in whom such words as these awaken love and gratitude and trust; the child to whom the tenderness and justice and long-suffering of father and mother and teacher interpret the love and justice and long-suffering of God; the child who by trust and submission and reverence toward his earthly protectors learns to trust and obey and reverence his God. He who imparts to child or pupil such a gift has endowed him with a treasure more precious than the wealth of all the ages—a treasure as enduring as eternity (Education, p. 245).

By God’s design, parents stand in the role of God to their small children. Parents first act in the role of loving creators. Just as the Father, Son, and Spirit united in love to create human beings in their image (Genesis 1:26, 27), so also human beings are designed by God to come together in the union of marital love and create little beings in their image.

As Adam and Eve entered into Sabbath rest in loving relationship with God immediately after their creation, so also infants upon birth immediately enter into the loving arms of their parents, resting in their tender care, devoted nurturance, and constant protection.

Just as God provided a garden home for Adam and Eve as a place of discovery, learning, and insight, so also godly parents provide homes enriched with resources to nurture, inspire, comfort, challenge, intrigue, thrill, educate, and develop their children in balanced and harmonious ways.

Just as God filled the garden with foods perfectly designed for the health of human beings, so also loving parents provide nutrition designed for their child’s health and wellbeing.

Just as God brought the animals for Adam to name, so also parents provide opportunities for their children to apply themselves; even though the parent could do the activity better, the love of the parent, like God’s love for Adam, rejoices to see their child grow, apply themselves, and develop; and they share the glee, smile, laugh, and joy of their child’s new discoveries and every success.

Just as God provided useful labor for our first parents to develop and advance their skills, abilities, talents, and wisdom, so also godly parents provide age-appropriate, useful labor for their children, because loving parents know that without application, without exertion, without the investment of time and energy, there is no development.

Just as God provided the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil so that Adam and Eve could choose for themselves what they would know—not cognitively but by experience; for instance, would they know/experience love, loyalty, devotion, trust, faithfulness, maturity, reliability, or would they know/experience fear, selfishness, rebellion, guilt, shame, and terror?—so also godly, loving parents know that real love requires freedom and train their children to love and trust, but they also know that when age-appropriate, their children must be set free to choose for themselves what they will know in heart, mind, and character. Will they know good? Will they know Jesus and make Him their heart’s first desire? Will they choose to know God’s methods, or will they know evil; will they choose selfishness and know rebellion and lawlessness, with all its pain, suffering, guilt, shame, and turmoil?

Just as “the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:12 NIV84), so also loving parents discipline their children, teaching them right from wrong, healthy from unhealthy, and good from evil. But just as God’s discipline is always in love, never with loss of self-control or out of frustration and impatience, and never abusive, so also godly parents will discipline in love, patiently, thoughtfully, with the discipline specifically designed to be redemptive to their children, leading their children to humble repentance and development of their godlike individuality, maturing them to one day be self-governed individuals who carry the image of their heavenly Father in all that they do.

And just as God said, “Come now, let us reason together,” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV84) and wants His children to develop their individuality, their own ability to reason, think, weigh evidences, and “who by constant use [train] themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14 NIV84), so also godly parents teach their children how to use their God-given faculties to think, weigh evidences, make decisions, and discern the right from the wrong.

And just as Jesus invited His disciples into understanding friendship (John 15:15), so also loving parents do all of this so that one day their children will grow up to be understanding, mature, trustworthy friends of God and thereby be individuals who no longer need to be parented, for they have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and are self-controlled (Galatians 5:23).

Yes, parents stand in the role of God to their children—what an incredible privilege and responsibility, one that we can effectively do only when we know God for ourselves, are surrendered in heart and mind to Him, humbly seek His wisdom, and receive His indwelling presence, power, and peace.

If you are a parent or grandparent, carefully consider your actions, demeanor, and choices when dealing with your children and grandchildren, for you are standing in the place of God in their young lives.


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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and an international speaker. He served as president of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.