Explaining Application Without Teaching Moralism
Since the Gospel Project for Kids team is launching the second 3-year cycle, I’ve been gathering lists of key passages that we can use to help kids, preschoolers, and toddlers understand the gospel and hide God’s Word in their hearts. Have you ever looked up “best Bible verses for kids” on your favorite search engine? Try it.
I was expecting foundational verses that would help kids understand who God is and what He did for them through Jesus. I was expecting:
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Rom. 5:8)
“I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
Here’s what I found:
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and don’t reject your mother’s teaching.” (Prov. 1:8)
“Be kind and compassionate to one another.” (Eph. 4:32a)
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” (Eph. 6:1)
Both sets of verses are good. We want kids to be obedient to their parents. We want kids to be loving and considerate of others. As a mom, I teach my son God’s standard of right and wrong through the Bible. But if we take these verses out of context, we risk teaching moralism (legalism’s second cousin). Moralism is a false gospel. It teaches kids (students and adults, too) that what God wants is for us to get our act together—to be good, for goodness sake!
The Bible sets the record straight when it comes to moralism. The Bible says, “There is no one who does what is good, not even one” (Rom. 3:12). Even if we want to do good, “there is no ability to do it” (Rom. 7:18). In our own power, we are selfish, sinful creatures—and children are no exceptions. But when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit and we are radically changed from the inside out. The Bible says, “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).
As leaders, when we’re helping kids understand how the Bible stories meet them where they are, we need to make certain we don’t focus only on promoting good behavior. We can teach “Children, obey your parents” by reminding kids that Jesus obeyed His Father, even to the point of death on the cross. (Phil. 2:8) We don’t teach kids to be good for goodness sake, we teach them that God was good in sending us a Savior, and now we can be good in response. We need to help kids see that our good works are rooted in what Christ has done on our behalf.
Rachel Myrick is the Content Editor for Babies and Toddlers Gospel Project for Kids. Rachel has taught toddlers (her peeps) for fifteen years. She currently serves as Sunday School leader for 1s and 2s at Westwood Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Check out these links for more information.
What Is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?
Robin Williams and Holy Repetition
The Prodigal Son and Your Kids Ministry