Several years ago a ten-year-old was shocked and dismayed at this list. "No one could be saved from this list!" she said. "There is no point for others to come to church because there is nothing to offer. The truth about God is not here."
A nine-year-old reviewed the list at the beginning of this article. His initial response was that it was truthful and biblical, but it was missing a whole lot of things. He could not find a way to get to heaven in it. It does not say sin exists, and there is no reason to stop doing wrong. This list makes you think life is perfect. Life must be all about me because God is not all that important here.
This child gladly gave up his play time with his friends for about two hours as his mother made pages of notes based on what he did not see included. At one point he said, "This is crazy, you can't leave these things out, there's so much wrong with this! You can do all these things, but there is no reason to do them. God is just a big teddy bear here. My sister (age four) knows a lot more than what this list is about."
Although this nine-year-old does not fully understand the ramifications of his observations, his understanding affects his attitudes and actions.
Some say it wastes time to present abstract things to those unable to learn them. What if we apply that thinking to language, which is abstract, and avoid talking in the presence of children until they speak in full sentences? While this sounds ridiculous, many wait to present spiritual truths until they think children can understand fully. The world does not wait to present its allurements.
Children are constant tape recorders listening intently for answers to life, even watching our attitudes and actions. Although they cannot express it fully, they know more about our real relationship with God than we realize. They even know when we say one thing and do something else.
I once taught a story from the Bible in Sunday School while a two-year-old was under a table across the room. Later, when I was teaching his four-year-old class, we reviewed some earlier truths. This child told the whole story he had heard from under the table before he could talk fluently. Children understand more than we realize.
We should give children as much truth about who God is as young as possible, including His holiness, righteousness, justice, and much more, one piece at a time with illustrations from Scripture and life. Help them understand that they are sinners and face punishment, but that Jesus Christ died to pay for their sin. God is not only holy and righteous; He is also merciful and gracious. Pray diligently for your child's salvation to occur as young as possible and allow the Holy Spirit to convict them.
Children are given to inexperienced parents and are a continual training program. As soon as we figure out one thing, a new challenge appears. However, the Creator's handbook for our children is constantly available, and He is our Creator, too. His Son is the Savior, and His Spirit indwells and helps believers understand what they need to know.
Read Scripture to your child and sing hymns to them even before they can talk. Ask questions about what you are reading such as who, what, when, and where. Answer the questions and begin to help them ask questions.
When they can read some words, open your Bible and have them open theirs. Help them read what they can. There is nothing more exciting and precious than watching their eyes open in excitement about God's truth. You are putting the tools in their hands for developing their own convictions based on something far bigger than Mom and Dad. Thankfully God's Word does not change based on our sin and inconsistencies.
Deuteronomy 6 says to diligently teach children about God throughout the day wherever we are. This includes whetting (sharpening) their appetites to spiritual truths. The end of Deuteronomy 6 says to remind children of what God has done when they question His laws.
Proverbs 22:6 is often taken as a promise for having children turn out well later in life; however, it is more correctly understood as a warning. If we do not train up our children in the right way to go, they will not turn from their sinful ways when they are old.
If you have as many questions as your child when you look at Scripture, be excited that you have embarked on a treasure hunt. The answers will take some searching as Proverbs 2 describes, but treasure is guaranteed. (Bible Gateway is a free on-line program where you can quickly look up words or passages. Enjoy the process with your child. A good commentary and Bible dictionary are helpful too.)
Teach children about Adam and Eve who were placed in a perfect world. The devil did not open Eve's mouth and force her to bite the fruit, but she was deceived. She thought she knew better than God, and she saw something good she might be missing.
Although Adam was not deceived, he ate deliberately. When your children try to hide or deny their sin, remind them of what Adam and Eve did. God knew where they were, called out to them, and provided a temporary covering with a blood sacrifice. God gave individual consequences and consequences for the earth.
Before being displaced from the garden, Adam and Eve were promised a permanent resolution. Satan, the great deceiver, was decisively defeated at the resurrection of Christ and is now awaiting permanent destruction.
Today, instead of having an accuser as Job did, believers have an advocate in the presence of God. Jesus Christ, our high priest, who took His own blood into the presence of God as the final payment for our sins. We have been bought with a price. The only requirement is that we repent and accept the free gift of salvation that was bought with the blood of Jesus Christ, God's only Son. Point your children to God's standards when they sin, to God's required punishment, and to Jesus' complete payment for sin.
Jesus could pay the price because He became a person like us. When He was tempted by Satan in every way we are (Gn 3:1-4; I Jn 2:15-16), He responded with the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (Mt 4:1-10). In holiness, He soundly defeated and dismissed Satan.
However, what happens when young children "invite Jesus into their hearts," and are "assured" of going to heaven in spite of prolonged "doubts" which may be well founded? Words do not assure the repentance of a surrendered heart.
Those who pray a prayer without repenting of sin do not convince the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised to send to those who repent and surrender to Him. People may try to sacrifice, pay penance for sin, blame the devil, or change their circumstances. To these Christianity seems impotent, and rightly so since without the Holy Spirit there is no life or power.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Puritans did not consider children as candidates for becoming believers until later in life. Children memorized the newly available Scripture and were regularly disciplined for disobedience. They were viewed as "little adults."
There is a balance between inoculating young children with a prayer and a promise of a heavenly future (as many have done in recent years) versus waiting until young adulthood to acknowledge true allegiance to God as the Puritans were inclined to do.
Luke 15:10 says there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who humbly repents of his sin and accepts God's free gift of salvation (Rm 3:23; 6:23). This is not "hope so" or temporary. Christ died once, and once was enough (He 9:27-28).
Children can respond to God's truth just as adults can. However, children can be immunized to God's truth in numerous ways. Adults can avoid, corrupt, dilute, doubt, ignore, or withhold the message of truth. While God's Word is mighty and powerful, we must be careful not to undermine its message in word or deed.
There is a fundamental difference in the way we approach life depending on whether we think we were born good or born sinful. If we do not accept the biblical concept of truth and sin, we must ignore Scripture.
Some teach that man is born good. When troubled by guilt, people are advised to increase the quantity of the guilt producing activity until it is no longer felt. This is like searing the conscience with a hot iron (1 Tm 4:2; Rm 1:18). Today drugs are also used to achieve behavioral changes even for children.
With Scripture set aside, ideas include: viewing truth as relative to the moment, this life is all there is, reincarnation is a future path. God may have set things in motion, or He may be part and parcel of everything. He is certainly not sufficient for (nor interested in) meeting our daily needs. He is neither available for nor interested in personal relationships with individuals. And very significantly God does not hold us accountable if man is born good.
A few hundred miles into its journey a ship was lost on a rocky shore along with most of its crew due to a slight compass error. To be on course we must constantly use God's guidebook to calibrate our compass and help our children calibrate theirs.
The list on "Something’s Missing, What Is it” comes from The World Is Me by E. C. Murphy, Elgin, Illinois: Cook, 1982, 62-64. It is focused on preschoolers, but it is also the content for older ages as prescribed by psychologists, sociologists, and curriculum specialists since the 1970s after the self-esteem explosion of the 1960s.
What is your response to this list now? What would be your child's response?
What are you teaching your children through your words and life that will prepare them for recognizing truth in contrast to the humanistic picture painted by this list. Wolves in sheep's clothing are plentiful and dangerous (Mt 7:13-20; 24:5). This list is another gospel, not God's gospel. And it is not just characteristic of preschool materials.
You can and must begin from where you are and take the next step in the right direction as if the souls of your children depend on it. The journey is both challenging and rewarding, with the promise of an amazing outcome (Rev 21-22).