Haven’t read Part 1? Check it out here: Where I realize that my children can’t be kept from sin, but they must be taught how to respond to sin.
Knowing my children have a sin nature, from the moment they are conceived, is an important part of teaching them the gospel. The first part of understanding the gospel is seeing that we are indeed sinners in need of a Savior.
I often get very frustrated with modern parenting that operates from a standpoint of the idea that the child is a blank slate. They are sinless, and if we can juuuuuust get things right, they’ll improve the human race. This thought, however innocuous it might seem, at its core sees man as a Savior. Not Jesus. It assumes the if the children can be raised properly, man can save itself. And I am ashamed that I used to believe this, wholeheartedly.
“But I don’t believe THAT!” I had once said to myself. In word, I didn’t, but I was inadvertently teaching my kids this. When we discipline our children, we tell them a LOT about themselves, ourselves, and their relationship to God. I am far far FAR from a perfect parent, and I have a lot of mistakes to undo in this area.
Take for instance, a popular cartoon, Daniel the Tiger. I recently watched an episode with my children on “sharing.” There were lots of pretty songs about sharing blocks, and how we’ll all be happy if we just share! But the premise of the episode was clear, and repeated over and over and over again. Share, because if you do, it’ll feel GOOD.
Sounds great, right?
Nope. Not so right. Without realizing it, we often teach our children that doing good feels good. And that We ought to do good for the sake of feeling good, or if there is something in it for us.
But is this scriptural? Is doing good about feeling good, or is it about something bigger?
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Jesus is clear here, doing good is about giving God glory, not fulfilling our own desires. At its heart, selfishness is the root of all sin, putting ME first, making ME God. It is at odds with Jesus’ own commands.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40, ESV)
I used to say this kind of thing to my child:
“If you share with Emma now, she’ll share with you later! Or, what about a trade! You give her what she wants, and she’ll give you something you want!”
We are teaching children that good is only worth it, and is only good, if they feel good.
But this is a selfish premise, we are feeding our children’s selfish sin nature. We are teaching them that their feelings, their wants, are more important than what God says is right. We teach them that feelings, and their satisfaction, ARE God.
And, crazy as this sounds, I was also feeding my own sin nature. I mean, it is MUCH easier to have Ava bribed into stopping the crying. Hand everyone the toy they want, and nobody gets hurt, right? Well… sort of. There is that moment where Ava’s selfish desire can NEVER be sated, because it isn’t about the toy, it is about ME, about how I feel, or what I want.
See what I was doing here? By feeding this selfish nature, I was feeding a beast, one that just got bigger, badder, and all around worse. For the convenience of today (less screaming) we are sabotaging the character of tomorrow, and losing a very important teachable moment to share the gospel.
I now do this instead:
“I’m sorry, but that is Emma’s property, you may not have it unless she says yes.”
Oh good. There is an out, Emma could say yes!
But Emma says “No.”
Uh oh. Cue the tantrum.
Yes, this does mean more work for me, but which is more important, an easy, fun, confrontationless time with my child, or teaching them right from wrong? Teaching them to follow Christ’s commands: To love the Lord your God, with all your heart, your mind, and your soul, and your neighbor as yourself? Christ neatly summed up all the laws in the Old Testament in this little nugget. My job is not to teach my children to love themselves (selfishness) But to love God, and those made in his image, more than self.
In part 3, we’ll get into how this kind of teachable moment often does lead children straight to the gospel.