You may think that this post is a bit silly. After all, the 10 commandments are pretty straight forward aren’t they? Some of you may even know them all by heart. They may seem simple, but if we just view the 10 commandments as a daily to-do list, I am afraid that we will miss the very point of why God included them in His word in the first place. Let’s look at them with fresh eyes and think about how they can influence our parenting.
What are the 10 Commandments?
The 10 Commandments are listed twice in the Bible: in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Before God lists them, He makes this statement: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” In other words, “I am yours. Remember what I have done for you in the past.” Only then does He go on to tell us who we are in relationship to Him and what He expects based on all that He has done for us.
Here’s a helpful chart to use with young children if you are trying to communicate the 10 Commandments in a simple, kid-friendly way. (You may want to point out that the first four commandments have to do with our relationship to God and the last six have to do with our relationship to others.)
|3||You shall have no other gods before me.||Don’t let anything be more important than God.|
|4-6||You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.||Remember that God is greater than anything you can imagine. He is not like us or anything on the earth.|
|7||You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.||Don’t use God’s name unless you are talking to or about Him.|
|8-11||Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.||Set aside one day of the week for God – rest up and spend time with Him.|
|12||Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.||Obey Mom and Dad.|
|13||You shall not murder.||Don’t kill.|
|14||You shall not commit adultery.||Be faithful to your husband or wife.|
|15||You shall not steal.||Don’t take things that are not yours.|
|16||You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.||Don’t lie.|
|17||You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.||Don’t want what other people have.|
Why did God give us the 10 Commandments?
Does God really expect us to follow all these rules all the time? Isn’t that a little unreasonable? Even if you think you can follow the last six pretty well, consider what Jesus said about them in Matthew 5:21-37. He doesn’t just want you to follow them on the outside, but on the inside too. Did God just set us up to fail?
From the moment sin entered the world, God was on a mission. Everything He did from then on became part of His plan to point everyone to the salvation available through His Son. The 10 commandments are no exception. They are like a mirror. When we look at them and then compare them to who we really are, they show us that we can’t do it on our own. They put us in a position of longing for a Savior to pull us out of the situation we are in. Like Paul, we can say, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24)
The 10 Commandments are not a laundry-list of do’s and don’ts. They are a gift from our gracious Lord who does all He can to save His people because He does not wish “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Implications for Christian parenting
We all have rules in our homes. Rules that will be broken no matter what we do. There is no parenting technique that can erase the sin in our children’s hearts. But we can use those rules the same way God used His – to point our children to Christ. When we parent with a focus on the heart rather than behavior, we will have ample opportunities to do so.
Using rules to parent the heart
Here are some tips to help you use the rules in your home to point your children to Christ.
1) Establish rules. You can’t use them if you don’t have them!
2) Enforce your rules. They aren’t really rules unless you stand by them.
3) Train, don’t punish. Many of us have to change our mindset. Instead of seeing broken rules as an opportunity to “get back” or punish our kids, we need to focus on training instead. This shift in mindset will also help us avoid one of the pitfalls of Christian parenting: fear that misbehavior is a reflection on us as parents. Let’s view mistakes as teachable moments that provide opportunity to share the gospel instead of evidence of our shortcomings as parents.
4) Share the salvation message every day. Here are some examples:
- “We all make mistakes. The mistakes remind us that we need a Savior to blot out our sins.”
- “When you are ready to ask for forgiveness, I am ready to offer it. And so is God through His Son.”
- “Let’s thank God that we don’t get what we deserve. He gave it to Jesus instead.”
You may want to check out our Heart of the Matter Parenting cards – they are a helpful tool in laying the foundation for discussions about the grace and forgiveness of Christ in the face of misbehavior. You can learn more about this original parenting tool here.
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