My wife and I share the responsibility of reading an age appropriate devotional to our children each night. She reads to our older boys while I read to our 8 year old daughter. Then we switch the next evening, and so on. It’s a pretty good set up and it promotes the Biblical principles we’ve sought to instill in our kids since they were born. From time to time, though, we have both noticed slight error, if you will, in some of the devotionals. I would not call these books heretical, but what I do find is cause enough for me, as a father and pastor of my home, to jump into corrective action for the sake of my children’s sponge-like minds. Consider this blog an encouragement for parents to exercise greater caution over what our children both hear and read, even when it comes to Christian material.
Weaving humanistic thinking into Biblical doctrine is dangerous and confusing for children and young believers. It’s truly a pet peeve of the highest degree in my book. It’s like the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” and “God will never give you more than you can handle.” It’s flat out unbiblical, and yet, it’s close enough to the truth that you find Christians uttering such none-truths every day.
Don’t forget about the saying, “A half truth is a whole lie.”
But what about people and ministries who are truly in it for the right reasons? They’re heart is to minister the truth to a demographic that is most vulnerable to having their minds swayed by false doctrine. These groups are held to a higher standard than the rest.
Jesus said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Serious words in order to make a serious point. Basically, the warning is this; don’t be the cause of young ones stumbling.
Children’s devotionals and curriculum are one avenue that humanistic thinking, perhaps mostly unknowingly, can be spread. The goal of these ministries is to take truths about God and make them understandable to children (not always an easy task), all the while encouraging children to embrace faith in Jesus and to love and grow in Him. But if this is done at the expense of God’s true character or the truth about human nature as revealed in the Bible then aren’t we working in opposition to the purpose of true discipleship? Paul told Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Teach only what lines up with the Bible, the whole Bible, beginning with our Children.
The other night, in the devotional I read to my boys, we found a story about a child walking barefoot along a shoreline. He stepped on a shard of glass and badly cut his foot. He was angry at the person who left the glass there so he chucked it into the woods. The moral of the story came when the boy realized he was doing the very thing he was angry at the first guy for doing. Great story, right? Good opportunity to teach about anger and hypocrisy? Maybe the golden rule too?
Here’s the text the author chose to drive home his point.
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds,and the animals of the wild,the birds in the sky,and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.” Psalm 8:4-8
Do you see the application for the story of the boy in this text? I couldn’t. Let me quote one of the book’s application points. The author said, “These verses remind us how much God trusts us.” Whoa! Wait a minute. Where does this text about the authority of man over beast and the wonder of God’s grace toward us, despite how small we really are, say anything about God trusting humans? To my great delight, though, my oldest son spoke up. He, too, knew this thinking was not right, or at least that more explanation was needed. So I, respecting the author, explained what I thought he was intending, that God has given us all jobs to do and that our God-given authority can be used to take care of this earth; case in point – Don’t litter. I told them that living this way will teach you to think before you act so as to not cause unnecessary harm on others.
But if the last thoughts in my son’s minds before sleeping is that they should be thankful for how much God trusts them, it could, over time, unravel some important truths they simply cannot afford to lose. I want my children to have a big view of God; the biggest one possible. But the humanistic-Christian view is to teach about a big God while trying not to suppress their self-esteem. The result of such teaching is that God ends up looking smaller than He really is and humans get to feel a little better about themselves. “Wow! God trusts me!” The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus is that all things flow from His grace. Man deserves nothing, not even the air he breaths, yet here we are because of His faithfulness. What is the reason God is mindful of man? Well, it’s not because we are trustworthy. It’s because He is. It’s because God has a perfect plan that includes saving sinners, changing the lives and minds of otherwise rebellious people and rerouting their priorities. God has placed all things under our feet (hopefully not glass things) because we, unlike the rest of creation, are created in His image, not because we are somehow more trustworthy than angels. See my point?
I say all this to tell you, as parents, to pay attention, both to what you read and hear as well as what your children read and hear. Teach and be taught only what accords with sound doctrine. Don’t settle for teaching that is mingled with humanistic and watered-down ideas. Go for the real thing and ask God for the grace to explain truth to your kids. Promote carefulness of thinking in their minds too. Teach them to listen with an ear for what does and does not line up with the Bible, not so they can be finger-pointers, but so they can rightly divide the truth as they grow. Next time you read a devotional to your child be sure to keep your ears peeled, and be careful what you give them the freedom to read on their own.
Now, if I may, here’s a plug for what my wife and I consider one of the best children’s Bibles on the market today. It’s called the Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. This book covers Genesis to Revelation, highlighting every major story and character in which the gospel of Jesus is plainly evident. It is clear about the issue of sin and rebellion and our need for a Savior. It’s clear about God and His grace. It makes very clear that Jesus is trustworthy and that He alone is the solution for this world’s problems. We have been brought to tears many times reading it, and more importantly, our kids love it. I recommend that you all go buy one for your own family and then another to give away. http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Storybook-Bible-Every-Whispers/dp/0310708257/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1456257769&sr=8-1&keywords=the+jesus+bible+storybook