“Why Care About Teaching Our Children?”Categories: Sermons
For our congregation, this is the time of year when we pay the most attention to teaching our children. There have been women meeting in the building for weeks working on various aspects of our upcoming vacation Bible school, and the week after that, we’ve got a quarter change coming up, with all the work that entails.
All this is quite demanding for those involved. It’s demanding for our teachers and resource-preppers, and it’s demanding for our parents too. Parents are the ones who have to clear their schedules to get their kids here for every night of VBS. Parents are the one who have to get their kids up early on Sunday morning and put them to bed late on Wednesday evening so they can be here for Bible class. We all know very well that given these stresses, it would be much easier not to help and participate.
Why should we participate anyway? What is it about the result that makes all this effort and stress worthwhile? In short, why should we care about teaching our children?
There are several Biblical answers to this question. The first, and in some ways the most important, reason that I want us to consider has more to do with us than it does with our kids. We should care about teaching them because IT REVEALS WHO WE ARE. Here, let’s look at Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This is a familiar text, but I must admit that until recently, I didn’t understand it as fully as I should have. I read it flatly, as a list of commandments. Commandment One was to love God. Commandment Two was to keep these words in our heart. Commandment Three was to teach them diligently. And so on.
However, that doesn’t reckon with Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22 that the whole Law depends on this commandment, along with the commandment to love our neighbor. We can’t understand Deuteronomy 6 as a laundry list of commandments. Instead, we need to connect every other commandment in this reading back to the commandment to love the Lord, and we need to understand each one as an expression of that love.
In other words, if we truly love the Lord with all our heart and soul and might, we won’t have to go down two verses and say, “Oops! Now we need to remember to diligently teach our children!” Instead, we will be diligently teaching our children already, because diligently teaching children is one of the things that people who love the Lord do.
To put things a different way, our devotion to teaching children is a litmus test for our devotion to God. If we don’t care about it, if we are unconcerned with telling the young about Him, that’s a serious heart problem, and it indicates the presence of a much more serious heart problem. Conversely, if we are filled with love for teaching children about God, it indicates a love for God too. Deuteronomy 6 does not allow us to separate those things, either in our families or in our churches. If we are the people we ought to be, teaching children will be important to us.
Additionally, this is an important matter because IT GUARDS AGAINST APOSTASY. Consider the sad tale of Judges 2:6-7, 9-11. This is the story of three generations. The first generation consisted of those who stood with Joshua and conquered Canaan with God’s help. The second generation was made up of those who were children at the time and saw all of God’s great work. The third generation, though, comprised those who had no direct experience of God’s deliverance. Once the elders who did have that direct experience died, the third generation that did not know God began to serve the Baals instead.
It’s interesting to note that since the Restoration, trouble has arisen in the Lord’s church on about this same time scale. 70 years after the Restoration, about the turn of the 20th century, a brotherhood-wide split occurred over the issues of instrumental music and missionary societies.
I don’t think this is coincidence. Instead, I think it’s the same pattern repeating itself. You have a generation that goes through some great conflict, a second generation that doesn’t participate much but sees it happen, and then a third generation without direct experience. The founders are faithful; their heirs are apostate.
The only cure for the disease is to make sure that children know the Lord. Even now, I see signs of failure in this. There are all too many young people around the country who are “raised in the church” who don’t know why we do what we do. They assume it’s a matter of human tradition rather than divine commandment. They don’t understand the importance of doing all in the name of the Lord because they have not been brought to encounter Jesus as Lord. Unless we are diligent to teach them with all the passion that Deuteronomy 6 implies, either history will repeat itself, or something even worse will happen.
Finally, investing ourselves in teaching matters because IT GLORIFIES GOD. We see how we ought to conduct ourselves when serving the Lord in 1 Peter 4:10-11. Whatever we have been given, we are to use it to serve one another, and we are to use it as well as we can. Only then will God receive the glory that He deserves.
Among other things, this should warn us against the dangers of apathy. It’s all too easy for us to go through the motions of doing the right thing without truly investing ourselves in it.
We see this problem unfolding in the first chapter of Malachi. There, the returned exiles are offering to God blemished sacrifices that they never would dare to give to their governor. In response, God expresses the wish that someone would shut the doors of the temple rather than allowing such halfhearted service to go on.
Today, we know all too well what it looks like when parents and Bible-class teachers are going through the motions rather than giving their best. In situations like this, no one is prepared. The children haven’t done their lessons, and the teacher is frantically rummaging around in bins in the resource room 15 minutes before class starts trying to piece together a craft.
No adults involved have put much thought into the class. They’ve acted like it’s not important, and from this, the children involved will draw the conclusion that it shouldn’t be important to them either.
That, brethren, is what a blemished sacrifice in the classroom looks like. Sure, the lights are on and everybody’s there, but the zeal that should animate each participant is absent. In a time as troubled as ours is, our children need more from us than that. In any time, God deserves better from His people than that.
If we want our classes to be effective, we have to give them our best. This doesn’t mean that every Bible-class teacher has to be the most wonderful teacher in the world. We all have our limits. It does mean, though, that we will be pushing those limits. If we do, our effort will communicate the importance of God to the children we teach more clearly than anything we say.