The Danger in Teaching the Bible to Our Children
Let me say before I go any further . . . I have not lost the faith. And I have not completely lost my mind.
I have occasionally lost a couple of my kids but that’s a different story.
Let me also admit to and apologize for sensationalizing the title of this writing. I knew the shock value of the statement would get your attention.
Now, that I have your attention, let me state that I do think there is an unperceived danger in using the Bible to teach our children about God.
I need to begin by telling you a story from the books of Deuteronomy and Judges in the Old Testament.
When Moses was 120 years-old, God told him that he would soon die. He had spent 40 years leading, protecting, motivating, mediating, chastising and learning to love the people of Israel, but he would not enter the Promised Land with them. He prepared them to complete the journey with Joshua as their leader.
Moses wrote down all the instructions that God had given to the Israelites and gave them to the temple priests. He told the priests to read the instructions to the people of Israel routinely so they would remember that they belonged to God and keep the covenant they had made with Him.
“Call them all together,” the Lord instructed, “—men, women, children, and foreigners living among you—to hear the laws of God and to learn his will, so that you will reverence the Lord your God and obey his laws. Do this so that your little children who have not known these laws will hear them and learn how to revere the Lord your God as long as you live in the Promised Land.” (Deuteronomy 31:12-13)
The priests of Israel took the laws of God which Moses had given them and carried them into the Promised Land to be kept in the Tabernacle and in the Temple which were, then, the houses of God. Year after year and generation after generation, the priests of Israel read God’s instructions to His people so they would learn to revere Him and obey his laws.
But as the years passed, the nation of Israel repeatedly rejected God and ignored the laws He had given to Moses.
“They did many things that the Lord had expressly forbidden, including the worshiping of heathen gods. They abandoned Jehovah, the God loved and worshiped by their ancestors—the God who had brought them out of Egypt. Instead, they were worshiping and bowing low before the idols of the neighboring nations . . . How quickly they turned away from the true faith of their ancestors, for they refused to obey God’s commands.” (Judges 2:11-12)
In the 500 or so years between Moses and Samuel there was only one generation of people that consistently remained faithful to God, one generation of people who declared from birth to death that He was their God and they were his people. That was the generation following Moses and Joshua, the generation that still included a few of the people who had experienced the escape from slavery. They still had access to living witness of the miracles of God along the journey to freedom and to people who saw God working to protect them and to bless them..
“The people had remained true to the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime, and as long afterward as the old men of his generation were still living—those who had seen the mighty miracles the Lord had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:7)
You probably see where I am going now. I hope so. Because questionable comments about the Bible can be very offensive to Christians. That is because we consider the words of God to be holy and sacred.
So did the people of Israel. The Old Testament laws of Moses were hallowed by the Jewish nation. And yet they were not enough to stir the hearts of the Israelites and inspire them to walk with God. But the prophet Samuel, the last of the judges of Israel and probably the writer of the book of Judges, said as long as the old men who witnessed the miracles of God after the exodus from Egypt were alive to tell the stories, the people of Israel remained faithful.
So, what about our children? Do we take the words, laws and instructions of God that are written in the Bible and read them to our children? Do we teach our children to read them for themselves?
Well, of course, we do. We teach our children to read, study and memorize them.
But here is the danger in doing that. In our excitement to teach the Bible to our children, in our passion to introduce them to the abundant life described in its pages, in our fervor to instruct them in the laws of God, we can overlook the fact that there is no power inside the book. The words, in and of themselves, are just words.
Our children need to know that God resides outside the pages of the book. They need to know that we see him in the sunset, that we hear Him whisper in the wind.
Our children need to know that, although unseen, He is as real to us as they are. They need to know that He protects us and blesses us and sometimes asks hard things of us.
The Old Testament generations that only knew of God through written words and distant history abandoned Him. Our children are likely to do the same. We can’t depend on Bible studies and Awana scripture memorization to open the eyes of our children to the person of God.
Like the old men of Israel, we need to introduce our children to the God we know and tell them the stories of what we have seen of Him.
Then, when our children read the Bible, they will recognize God there. He will give its instructions significance for them. He will cause them to love its words. He will give them the abundant life described in its pages. He will give power to the book.
Note: Although the Old Testament doesn’t mention the old women of Israel who witnessed the exodus and lived to tell the stories, we know they were there. If they had not been there, who would have corrected the details in the old men’s stories?