Last Sunday, our elementary age students learned about the Tower of Babel in their classes. A story many of us are familiar with, we can probably recount the message: don’t build yourself up with pride. Ok, good. But is that all we should hear from that story?
Teaching kids about the Bible may not seem terribly difficult. After all, it’s full of good, moral examples of characters who obeyed God perfectly and were rewarded, right? Not really.
It’s difficult for adults to understand many of the stories and how they are relevant to our lives. So how do we teach it to our kids? Should we even try?
The Bible is the sacred text of the Christian faith, the way the Creator of the Universe has chosen to reveal himself to us. It is masterful, beautiful, powerful, and his very word to us. God’s word is powerful, active, and at work in the lives of his people, and he uses it to shape us and transform us (Heb 4:12; 2 Tim 3:16). It is not only worth it to teach the Bible to our kids, it is necessary for them to know and love God.
There is however a danger present whenever we attempt to teach the Bible to our kids. More often than not, we take stories in the Bible and teach our kids to behave in one way or another. We read about heroes of Old Testament stories and teach that we should have faith like Daniel or a heart like David’s. We read about Jesus in the New Testament and teach that we should love others because that is what Jesus did. Are these wrong? No! Of course not. We should desire great faith, a heart after God, and to love one another as Jesus loves us. But are they the whole story?
The danger of teaching kids a moral lesson from each Bible story is that we offer an empty hope. We present to them that faith in Christ is about trying to be good, honest, moral, and loving. We teach them to modify their behavior without ever reaching their hearts. This is a weight too great to bear. If we hope in our ability to obey well or live rightly, we will be disappointed and devastated by our failure over and over and over until we give up or fall into despair.
Again, don’t hear what I’m not saying. We should teach our kids right behavior. We must teach them to love and respect one another. These are good things and part of our job as their family. However, if we stop there, all we will do is raise good, moral children who behave well. We won’t raise Christians.
The hope of the gospel – and of every Bible story – is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. On our own, we will always fall short of perfect behavior, right motives, and good morals. We need a change that runs deeper than our behavior. We need a change of heart.
The story of the Bible is one of a fallen and broken humanity in need of rescue, and that God in his great mercy provided that rescue for us. It tells us that our hearts are broken – we need a repair in order to work properly.
So what do we take away from the Tower of Babel? Our hearts are like the people of Babel’s. We desire our own fame, glory, and recognition. We don’t desire to worship God for who he is. We need someone to change our hearts. The only way we will recognize and honor God rightly is if he changes us. Because of Jesus’s perfect life, his death in our place, and his resurrection and defeat of death, we can change. He gives us his power to live well and obey God when we trust in him. And when we fail, he forgives us again and again.
The Bible tells one big story – that God created everything to be good, and we have broken it. But he doesn’t leave us in our brokenness and promises to redeem and restore everything in his good world again. He does that by sending his son – God as a human – to be the perfect human and take our place. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells this story. Of God rescuing and redeeming the world he created through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son.
This is more difficult than teaching kids that they should change their behavior. It is harder to understand, and there are fewer quick takeaways they can color on a craft and take home. But it is necessary and so so important. There are lots of resources for teaching kids the Bible, and we’re grateful for the two we use now and the way they help us tell this story: The Jesus Storybook Bible for Pre-K ages, and the Gospel Project for elementary ages. Adults and kids alike, Jesus is our only hope.