The Psalmist said that God’s word should be more desirable to us than gold, silver, or fine food (Psalm 19:10; 119:72). Peter called the words of Jesus the very words of life (John 6:68). Jesus said that God’s word was absolute truth (John 17:17). God’s word is how God speaks to us (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Too often, we rob our children and teens by taking God’s word and turning it into a morality lesson. Instead of teaching them how everything fits into God’s redemptive plan, with Jesus as the main focus, we teach them to be brave like Daniel, faithful like Abraham, and a good friend like Jonathan. God’s word becomes a Christless Bible story.
Recently, I ran across some children’s Sunday School literature that was using Noah to teach the virtue of faithfulness. The lesson highlighted how others scoffed at Noah for being faithful with his ark building, and how others will scoff at us when we follow God. It is true that Noah was faithful to do what God asked him to do by building an ark, gathering animals, and taking along his family, and that he faced ridicule for doing so. However, that is not the main point of the story.
The point of Noah’s story is that it falls into the grand narrative of Scripture that exalts God’s sovereignty, his goodness, and HIS faithfulness. The ark pointed to a day when God would rescue his people from wrath via the sacrifice of his Son. The fact is, Noah, though faithful to do what God told him to do, was a sinful human like us. He wasn’t looking to be faithful, God simply showed the sinner favor (Genesis 6:8). Likewise, the last thing we hear about Noah was about his extreme unfaithfulness, getting stone drunk after the ark landed, and committing some type of sexual taboo that caused him to curse his own children (Genesis 9:20-28).
You won’t see that on any of the Sunday School Bible coloring sheets! But, it is still part of the story, yet we refuse to teach it. Why? Not because we think it’s too risqué for children, but because it doesn’t fit into our narrative of what we’d like Scripture to say. We’d love the Noah story ending with a rainbow and everyone celebrating, but that’s not reality. Reality is that children and teens need to know that, though often virtuous, humans have a sin problem that only Jesus can cure.
The same could go for any of the leading “Bible characters.” Most of the time the Bible is faithful to give the gory details of how each one failed God and fellow man miserably because of sin. Good King David? Murderer, adulterer, coward. Wise King Solomon? Polygamist, manically depressed, lustful. Father Abraham? Pimped out his wife to save himself, former sun-worshipper. The list could go on and on.
Jesus? Sinless. Son of God. Redeemer. Messiah. Lamb of God. True lover. King of Glory. Sin-eater. Savior of the world.
It’s fine to highlight the noble characteristics of people, their faithfulness and obedience under trial and pressure, and how God used them despite themselves. Even the Bible does that (see Hebrews 11). But, that should never be the main point. We should never be the main point of Scripture because God never intended for us to be the main point of the redemption narrative! Jesus is the center of God’s redemptive narrative. He is the hero of the story.
By not teaching that Jesus is the center of God’s word, as Jesus himself did, we are robbing our children and students of their riches. We’re taking the sweet honeycomb out of their mouths and replacing it with the sour outer edges. We are suppressing the truth that will save their souls. We are hiding the treasure that God says rightfully belongs to them.
I didn’t write this blog at the behest of The Gospel Project. What am I but a part-time student minister in a rural mill village? However, after reviewing the materials online, and watching the promo clips and reading the blogs over several months, I can say that Lifeway has hit a home run with this curriculum. The main point of TGP is that the lessons focus on Jesus, and not us. Children, teens, and adults can finally have in their possession a labor of love that interprets and applies the grand narrative of Scripture by turning attention to the good news that God loves us and sent his Son to redeem us, and how this is demonstrated time and time again throughout the Old and New Testaments.