In my last post, I shared some thoughts about how to add Bible study to our children’s school day. As I was finishing up that post, however, I realized I didn’t touch on much of the why. Whether we do it as part of our school day or not, why should we desire to add regular teaching from the Bible to our children’s lives?
As I said there, those who regularly attend church generally know that teaching our children the Word is what we’re “supposed” to do. We also know, however, that just because we’re supposed to do something doesn’t mean we’re going to be motivated to do it. After all, our children are supposed to do their schoolwork and their chores, and yet most of the time we have to breathe down their necks to make sure they actually get them done. It is always best to have a true internal drive toward something, a definitive reason for our striving, rather than being compelled by guilt or fear of consequences.
This thought was in the back of my mind as I was doing my personal Bible reading the other day. Then in the second chapter of Mark, I ran into a familiar story and suddenly realized I’d found the perfect illustration.
It was the story of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic. I’ve often heard and tend to look at this story from the perspective of the lame man’s friends. In my mind, these men have carried the cripple from who knows how far away for one purpose: to see if Jesus will heal him. When they arrive, the crowds are so great, they can’t even get close to the Healer. So they go to the extra trouble to hoist their friend up onto the roof, dig open a hole, and slowly, precariously, lower him down into the room. Jesus looks at the helpless man, up at his friends, and then back again. “This is it!” his friends think. “He’s going to be healed!”
Instead, Jesus smiles at the man and says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
“Uh . . . what?” I imagine his friends thinking. “I mean, that sounds great, too, I guess, . . . but isn’t it obvious that this man really needs healing?” Compared to their expectations, Jesus’ reaction might have sounded rather anticlimactic and unhelpful.
Of course as the story goes on, the faith of these men is rewarded with what they expected: their friend walks away an able-bodied man. But I think Jesus’ initial answer is telling. Though the paralytic’s friends thought his greatest need was for physical healing, Jesus knew his true greatest need was spiritual.
We often think like the paralytic and his friends when it comes to our children’s education. We want them to achieve competence (and ideally excellence) in their studies. We want them to get along with their siblings, to learn good manners and social skills so they can behave properly in public. Ultimately, we want them to grow up to be productive citizens and be successful at whatever occupation they choose. These seem like the basic necessities of education, of great importance in our children’s lives.
But as the above story shows, these are not the most important thing. Our children’s greatest need is to know Jesus, to have their sins forgiven, to understand that He is the true source of abundant life. I think most of us probably realize how much they need His salvation first and foremost, but the need for spiritual teaching doesn’t stop there. And as their primary teachers, we ought to be the chief ones to pass on these truths to our children.
As a bonus, many of the other things our children need will often come as a side effect of a relationship with the Lord and a study of His Word. They will learn that they are not to be selfish, but to look out for others and put them first (Phil. 2:3-4). They will learn that all their work (whether studies or occupation) is to be done wholeheartedly, as if being done for the Lord (Col. 3:23-24). And they will learn that fulfillment in life ultimately comes not from academic or economic success, but from trusting and delighting in God (Psalm 37:3-6).
Regular Bible study with our kids may not always be an easy habit to establish, but it comes with many benefits. He has promised it: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [the necessities of life (v. 31)] will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). I’d say that’s a pretty good motivator. wouldn’t you?
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