At bedtime each night, my oldest daughter likes to ask questions. She is curious and wants to know everything: How do you make plastic? Why do we have eyebrows? How big is a baby blue whale?
I want my kids to learn, but some things are more important than others. They probably won’t need to know how to make plastic from scratch, but there are some things that everyone really needs to learn at some point in their lives.
Here are the most important things I want my kids to know:
1. I Love You
Maybe this one seems obvious, but it’s not always obvious. Kids long to know that they are loved by their parents.
Even God, when talking about His own Son, made it a point to say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). What son or daughter wouldn’t want to hear that? How many people spend decades of their lives trying desperately to earn a parent’s approval? And how many bad decisions are born out of having to look elsewhere to find that love?
Don’t make your children have to wonder whether you love them. Say it. Show it.
This is important partly because it helps your child better understand the next point, which is:
2. God Loves You
Because God is our heavenly Father, our relationship with our earthly parents usually influences how we think about God and His relationship to us.
God loves us so much that He send His Son to die for us (Romans 5:8). There is no greater love (John 15:13).
Because God loves you, He wants what is best for you (Romans 8:28). You can trust Him.
3. All People Are Made in God’s Image
You were intentionally made by God (Psalm 139:13-16) in His image (Genesis 1:27). And that is also true for every person you meet.
You, and all the people around you, therefore have immense worth in God’s eyes (Luke 12:6-7). People who look differently than you, are a different size or age, or have different abilities, are still made in the image of God. They have just as much value as you do.
That doesn’t mean that all the people you meet are following God, of course. You can be made in God’s image and still reject Him (Romans 1:18-23). But God cares about them.
4. All People Have Sinned
All people—including you—have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:32).
Sin is anything we think, say, or do that does not please or honor God. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2), because a perfect, holy God cannot condone or excuse sin. And all sin leads to death (Romans 6:23).
5. You Can’t Be Good Enough for God on Your Own
Sometimes people think that they can do enough good things to make up for the bad things they’ve done. People might assume that if they do more good than bad—or reach some high standard, like 99 percent good and only one percent bad—then that will be good enough for God to overlook their relatively few sins.
However, any good things you do don’t at all make up for the bad (James 2:10). God has given you everything you have, including your very life. So, even if you use your life to serve Him, it doesn’t mean that God owes you anything (Job 41:11). It doesn’t pay for your sins.
The only way to pay for your sins is with the penalty of death. That’s the bad news. The good news is:
6. You Don’t Have to Be Good Enough for God
Because God loves us, and because He created us and knows we can’t be good enough on our own, He made a way for us to be made right with Him—not through what we do, but through what He’s done (Titus 3:5).
Because the penalty for sin is death, God sent His Son, Jesus, to die in our place so that we could have the gift of eternal life (John 3:16).
Jesus is the only human who never sinned. So, when He died on the cross, it was to pay the penalty for our sins, not His own.
Instead of working to try to be good enough or having to pay for your sins yourself, all you have to do is accept Christ’s payment on your behalf. It’s a gift, and you don’t pay for gifts you receive. If you did, they wouldn’t be gifts (Romans 4:4).
When someone talks about “trusting in Jesus,” it means trusting that He has paid for your sins, instead of trusting in yourself to be good enough.
7. You Are Here for a Reason
You don’t have to earn God’s love, and you can’t do anything to make Him love you more.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do good things. God doesn’t need your help to accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 46:9-10), but He graciously lets you play a role. Right after Ephesians 2:8-9, which says that grace is a gift and you can’t be saved by works, comes Ephesians 2:10, which says that God has created you to do good works and has prepared those works for you to do. It doesn’t earn you salvation, but it is how you live out what God has created you to do.
8. You Can Trust God’s Wisdom
Everyone will face troubles in this life (John 16:33). Some of those troubles, such as illnesses or natural disasters, cannot be avoided. They are just part of living in a broken world. Some troubles come because you follow God, and you can actually rejoice in those (1 Peter 4:13).
But many troubles come as consequences of making bad decisions (Galatians 6:7-8). These are problems you can avoid by staying away from sin and making wise choices.
There is a lot of wisdom to learn from in God’s Word (like the entire book of Proverbs, for instance). And you can learn wisdom from God’s people.
Because your parents love you and God loves you, they all want you to make good decisions. That’s the motivation behind any rules or discipline: it’s not to keep you from having fun, but to keep you from harm (Proverbs 3:11-12).
Trust God’s Word and listen to your parents when what they say lines up with God’s Word.
How to Teach These Things
These things are important to teach to your kids, but how do you teach them?
You can get creative if you want, but you don’t have to. Just try talking with your kids about them. Talk about them at home or in the car, at breakfast or bedtime (Deuteronomy 6:7). Take advantage of teachable moments that come up or the questions that your kids ask. Repeat them as many times as needed; even as an adult, I sometimes need to be reminded of these truths. And maybe most importantly, make sure you are demonstrating them with your own life so that your kids can follow your example (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Want help in training up your children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6)? Come to the Uncommon Parenting Conference, this November 10-11! You can learn all about it and register here.