For most Christian families, keeping the commandment, “I am the Lord thy God, thou shall not have any gods before me” doesn't seem like a difficult task. We tend to explain to our children that idols are false gods that people worshiped in the Old Testament long ago. And as long as we believe that we have only one God then we have that commandment pretty much covered. But idolatry isn’t just a physical worship issue; it’s a heart issue.
Simply put, Idols are the things that we prioritize over our relationship with God. They can also be the things we turn to for fulfillment rather than turning to God. Often times, idols start out as wholesome, positive interests -- the things that bring us happiness or that even spread that happiness to others. It can be our work, hobbies, marriage, or even our kids. If these things take priority over Lord, we have turned something that can be a very wonderful into something that hinders our relationship with God.
Teaching our children to identify idols early on is very important. For kids, idols can come in the form of friend relationships, their most prized toys, screen time, professional athletes, or other public figures. These are just a few examples of many things in this world that may grab our child’s attention, and adoration.
How do you help your kids identify potential idols in their life? Here are a few questions that may help:
God wants to be first in all of our lives. It is up to us as parents to make sure our children understand how important it is to put God first. We can set the example by identifying our own idols, and then turning away from those idols.
It is important to also teach our children that these things that may have become idols are not necessary bad things. The idolatry of these things is the sin, not the object/person/concept itself. The sin of idolatry can be a sneaky one. It shows up in unexpected places. It presents itself to people who do truly love God, and are usually well intentioned in what they are doing. But, as that idolatry grows, it pulls us away from God, and it keeps us from living the fullest Christian life possible.
Since children are naturally visual and hands-on learners I found another great “experiment” that I wanted to share. This exercise illustrates how idolatry effects our relationship with God.
(Credit: Children’s Ministry Magazine)
Preparation: Pour a cup of water for each child. Hand each child a rock and a marker.
Ask the children to think about what takes up a lot of their time and attention. For example, TV, video or computer games, soccer practice, or playing with friends. Have the children write or draw those things on their rocks.
Use a red permanent marker to draw several large hearts on the pitcher, and place the pitcher on the tray. Hand each child a cup of water.
Say: This pitcher is like an empty heart. Let’s fill this heart with God. When it’s your turn, pour water into the pitcher and say, “God deserves first place in my heart because…” Then tell us something about who God is. For example, as I pour my water in, I’ll say, “God deserves first place in my heart because he is my creator.”
Let each child have a turn until the pitcher is nearly full. Check out the following passages for more of God’s qualities: Psalm 104:24 and Proverbs 3:19.
Say: Our hearts are full of the goodness of God, but sometimes other things try to crowd into our hearts. Each of you may now tell us what’s drawn on your rocks and then place your rock into the water.
As the children add their rocks, the water will over-flow. When they have finished, ask:
Say: God’s second commandment is “You shall not make any idols.” Sometimes things we love become like idols, crowding God out. But God wants and deserves first place in your life.
"Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen." -1 John 5:21
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