A couple weeks ago we made our first trip to the pool. I was thankful to have my Mother-in-law with me as the thought of keeping tabs on two toddlers who cannot swim gives me an anxiety attack. The pool in her housing complex has a wonderful children’s area with fountains and buckets that rain down water from above. This kiddy pool is at max 2 1/2 feet deep. Perfect for my little ones.
Of course both children have different temperaments. One is daring while the other is cautious. While one was splashing his way into delirium the other was tiptoeing around the beachy incline. After a little while our cautious one finally waded his way into the “deep” water and seemed to be competent and timid enough to keep himself out of trouble. I took a moment to sit on the side of the pool to watch their interactions with the other children around them. Suddenly, with one misstep our little Hudson dove head first into the water.
In a moment that seemed like an eternity I watched with horror as he fought to regain his footing. There is nothing that compares to the feeling you get as a parent watching your child squirm in terror, futilely gasping for breath under water, unable to raise themselves to the surface. There is nothing that can describe the emotion that goes through your heart even after you have rescued them, even after you have calmed their shivering, traumatized bodies. The moment replays over and over again in your mind–the vision of them struggling for life, completely helpless and in need of saving.
As I think about the purpose of teaching the Word of God to our children, I think of this picture of Hudson drowning underwater (helpless) and in need of salvation. I think about how each of our children are born into this world bound to chains of sin (Psalm 51:5, Psalm 14:3, Ephesians 2:1). I think about how desperately they need to be guided to the Savior, how vital it is that we, their parents, shepherd them toward the only hope they have for complete, and lasting joy–for eternal salvation.
It can be so easy to see our precious children and little babes through the eyes of sentimental motherhood. These little ones are a gift. They are beautiful works of God’s creative hand, and yet because of their family heritage, because of the rebellious decision their ancestor’s (Adam and Eve), they, these most precious of creations, have inherited natures that are bent toward sin and away from our Heavenly Father (Romans 5:12-13). We have the immense privilege to be the peacemakers in their lives, constantly directing them to the one who can liberate them from their sin and can give them fullness of joy.
This is our goal when teaching even the littlest of children the Word–to teach them about our God and their need of salvation. And yes, this process begins far earlier than you may think.
In the earliest of stages, our children are developing rapidly in many ways: They are physically changing every moment, their social relationships change with each new stage of development (slowly moving from a very mom-centered life to a larger, broader circle of relationships), their brains develop by leaps and bounds, and their ability to communicate miraculously goes from nothing to complete sentences within a few short years.
All the while our children are also developing spiritually. The lessons we teach them, the Word we instill in them, and the example we set for them are constantly influencing their view of the Living God. The foundations for a Christ-centered life begin at the nursing breast of a mother-not at the moment you are able to carry on complete discussions with your four year old.
Tedd Trip says this in “Shepherding a Child’s Heart:”
“[Your child] is developing spiritually. That development may be shepherded along the lines of knowing and loving the true God, or it may be ignored. Both produce spiritual development. Because [your child] is a spiritual creature, he either learns to worship and rely on Jehovah God, or he learns to bow before lesser gods.”
By giving our children a Biblical framework for life, we are leading them to the Savior. By neglecting to teach them the Word of God, we are inadvertently teaching them to find satisfaction and purpose in other, lesser things. Consider these quotes on the topic of human affections:
“The human heart is a factory of idols… Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.”
“An idol is not simply a statue of wood, stone, or metal; it is anything we love and pursue in place of God, and can also be referred to as a ‘false god’ or a ‘functional god.’ In biblical terms, an idol is something other than God that we set our hearts on ( Luke 12:29;1 Cor. 10:6), that motivates us (1 Cor. 4:5), that masters or rules us (Ps. 119:133), or that we serve (Matt. 6:24).” –Ken Sande
For our little ones, idols usually come in just as simple of forms as they come for us. They come in the form of self (most commonly) as they throw tantrums and fits of rage over not getting their way, as they willfully disobey their parents (which is disobedience to God) and instead obey their own desires (thus worshiping themselves as functional gods). The idol may come in the form of a toy that they simply cannot live without or the attention of a parent that is being temporarily denied. If we are honest with ourselves, we will see the same struggles in our own hearts as we too battle against idol worship and seek to set Christ as Lord over ever aspect of our lives.
By teaching them the Word of God, we are not only teaching them how they must obey and worship Christ, but we are teaching them of the only means they have to do that–by trusting in the sacrificial work of the Savior to free them to worship in Spirit and in Truth.
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19 ESV)
We teach them the Word because it is the testimony of Christ! Our entire Bible (from the account of creation, the fall, the election of Abraham and his descendants, to the placement of Israel’s kings and the exile of the Jewish nation, and on) is telling the story of God’s miraculous plan of redemption which our children desperately need, just as my little Hudson so desperately needed my intervention in that kiddy pool.
They need to be taught the Law of God because it reveals the very nature of God himself andshows them their utter inability to live up to his perfect standard. So, as it reveals the character and standards of God to them, it also reveals the miraculous salvation found through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Elyse Fitzpatrick says this about the Law and Gospel:
“We are commanded to [teach our children God’s law] but not to make them good. We are commanded to give them the law so that they will be crushed by it and see their need of a Savior. The law won’t make them good. It will make them despair of ever being good enough, and in that way it will make them open to the love, sacrifice, and welcome of their Savior, Jesus Christ.
Yes, give them God’s law. Teach it to them and tell them that God commands obedience. But before you are done, give them grace and explain again the beautiful story of Christ’s perfect keeping of it for them”
And so, in teaching them the Scriptures we teach them both their need for salvation (in effect we show them their own perilous state before a holy God) and at the same time hold out to them the beautiful invitation to experience the goodness of the Savior who’s sacrifice can relieve the burden of sin and guilt.