There are so many important and necessary things that we teach our children. From the time they are babies, we spend countless hours saying “No” “Don’t touch” “Hold my hand” and “Don’t put things in your mouth.” We teach them to look both ways before crossing the street, to share with others, and to pick up their toys when they are finished with them.
But one of the greatest lessons we need to teach our children is that they are sinners.
Understanding sin, how it entered this world, how extensive and pervasive it is in us, and the only cure to sin is a foundational life lesson. In fact, it’s a life saving lesson.
Our Sin Problem
Our sin problem isn’t just that we sin from time to time. If that were the case, we just need to try harder not to sin. Our sin problem is not that we sin because we live in a bad environment or are influenced by the wrong people. It isn’t even that we hit others, don’t share, or talk back. Our sin problem goes all the way back to Genesis 3 when the first sin entered the world through our first parent’s, Adam and Eve. We call this Original Sin and it’s the moment when all the human race fell with Adam into sin. Ever since then we’ve all been born with a sin nature. So it’s not just that we commit sins but it’s also that we are sinners. Sin is infused into our very being, overflowing from our hearts to everything we think, feel, say, and do. Isaiah says that even our good deeds are like filthy rags (64:6).
Without understanding the severe nature and depth of our sin problem, our children cannot fully appreciate nor grasp the wonder of the gospel of grace. If we have a child who only sees their sin as the wrong behaviors they do from time to time, they cannot truly understand just how beautiful the gospel is. This is especially true for children who are perfectionists or who are fairly “good” kids in their outward behavior.
Teach Them About Sin
That’s why as parents we need to teach our children about sin. We need to teach them what happened in the Garden. We need to define sin in all its horrible, horrendous magnitude. We need to help them see how offensive sin is to our holy and righteous God. We need to help them see the effects of sin in all areas of life from our thoughts, to our feelings, to our actions, to even how sin impacts the very creation itself.
The catechisms are an excellent tool for teaching about sin. Another definition of sin that my children have memorized comes from a sermon by John Piper. It is extensive but helpful in that it opens our eyes to the magnitude of our sin.
“What is sin?
It is the glory of God not honored.
The holiness of God not reverenced.
The greatness of God not admired.
The power of God not praised.
The truth of God not sought.
The wisdom of God not esteemed.
The beauty of God not treasured.
The goodness of God not savored.
The faithfulness of God not trusted.
The commandments of God not obeyed.
The justice of God not respected.
The wrath of God not feared.
The grace of God not cherished.
The presence of God not prized.
The person of God not loved.
That is sin.”
As you talk about the problem of sin with your children, point them to their desperate need for a Savior.Teach them that though their sin is huge, God’s grace for them through Christ is greater. Talk about the amazing truth that through faith in Christ, his perfect life is credited to us. Talk about how he took the punishment for all our sins at the cross. And because of Jesus, we will one day live forever with God and sin will be no more.
We teach our children many things during their tenure in our care. May we not fail to teach them the bad news about sin and the glorious good news about God’s grace through Jesus Christ.