When the Israelites conquered Jericho, God told them not to take anything. Everything in the city was to be destroyed and set apart for God. Achan must have assumed no one would notice if he kept a few things for himself. The cloak was beautiful, and he sure could use some pieces of silver and a bar of gold. No harm, no foul. Right?
Achan sinned against the Lord and faced a grave punishment. So what is the lesson for kids in this story? Is it “Don’t steal,” “Don’t disobey God,” or “Don’t lie”? Is the message that if we avoid sin, we can avoid punishment?
In the book Creature of the Word, LifeWay Vice President Eric Geiger describes the differences between offensive and defensive children’s ministry. The focus of defensive children’s ministry, he says, is “primarily on protecting children from influences in the world and pulling out great character traits that must already be within the child.”
This type of theology is flawed, Geiger points out. The Bible does not say we are pure from birth; we are born guilty, sinners from conception. (Psalm 51:5) Kids need God’s salvation.
Geiger quotes Puritan pastor Richard Baxter, who spoke on the duties of parents for their children:
Understand and lament the corrupted and miserable state of your children, which they have derived from you, and thankfully accept the offers of a Savior for yourselves and them, and absolutely resign, and dedicate them to God in Christ in the sacred covenant.
Offensive ministry, on the other hand, “seeks primarily not to protect a child from the world but to help a child overcome the world as the child’s heart is changed by the gospel.”
If the lesson we give kids is “Don’t do this …” then what hope is there for the guilty? The lesson is not that we can avoid being like Achan; we are like Achan, As you teach kids the Bible story “Achan Sinned” from Joshua 7, help kids identify with Achan. We too have sinned and deserve to be punished. This is bad news! But there is good news: the gospel. God provided His Son, Jesus, as our substitute. Jesus lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again.
Consider making available copies of The Gospel: God’s Plan for Me. These booklets present the gospel story in kid-friendly language with applicable Scripture verses and information about how to respond to the gospel.