Let me take you back to the garden. Back to the beginning. Back to the first lie ever told with massively destructive results.
The serpent said to the woman:
“Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die’” (Gen. 3:1-3).
The serpent laid his claim, and the woman almost answered him correctly. Almost – but not quite. Here’s what God had actually told the man and the woman:
“You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:16-17).
It might seem like not that big of a deal. God told them they couldn’t eat from the garden; Eve responded to the serpent that God had said that they couldn’t eat from it or touch it. Heck, you could even argue that Eve was going above and beyond what God required of her in her response – Not only am I not going to eat it, I’m not even going to touch it!
It was subtle; it was small; it was almost imperceptible, but she added to the Word of the Lord. And that’s a big deal. There is caution here for us in all of life – that we must know God’s Word, trust His promises, and understand them with clarity. But there is also a caution here for us as parents.
Our kids are inundated with messages at school, from the media, and in our culture day in and day out. And on the surface, many of these messages sound good. They’re about positive self-image, self-esteem, hope, and compassion. And yet behind some of them are subtle lies that we, as parents, need to be aware of and gently correct in our kids’ understanding. Here are three examples of what I mean:
1. Being nice is your top priority.
There is nothing wrong with being nice. In fact, there is a lot right with being nice. But niceness cannot be the paramount virtue in our children’s minds because niceness may actually be one of worst enemies of the gospel. It’s terrifying to consider the reality that there are many – very many – among us who are convinced their niceness is what will secure their eternity destiny.
The correction here for us as parents is to continually go for the heart. We must carefully remind our kids that niceness can be a mask for the wickedness of sin within us. No amount of good behavior can correct that.
2. You can be anything you want to be.
This one sounds really good. And there are some positive elements to this. We can, for example, use a phrase like this to emphasize the need for hard work and ambition in our children. But here, too, there is a subtle lie behind the phrase. It’s the lie of self-lordship and self-determination.
We must help our children see that hard work might indeed propel you to a certain status or a career, but we must do so under the direction of Jesus as our Lord rather than as the servants of our own dreams. The truth is that many “dreams” are a sly cover for self lordship and therefore a rebellion against the mastery of Jesus Christ.
3. Follow your heart and you will be just fine.
This phrase is everywhere. It governs career choices, relationships, and how we define success. And it’s not just in our children – many of us as adults are still “following our hearts” and being praised as courageous for doing so.
But here’s the problem: our hearts are liars. Our emotions are as corrupted as anything else by the pervasive nature of sin. We can – and will – follow our own hearts all the way to destruction. The correction here for us as parents is to help our kids see that we don’t need to follow our hearts; we need a new heart. And that only happens through the transforming power of the gospel.
Be diligent, parents. As far as is in your power, don’t take the easy way of allowing your kids to drift into these easy statements without countering them. And as we do, let’s pray for God to do what only He can and work the greater and fully true truth of Jesus into the hearts of our children.