Should We Teach Our Children About Hard Things?

by Dave
Have you ever read any children’s books about the Flood? Throughout the last few years we have accumulated quite a few books that recount biblical tales for children, and several about the Flood. Here is one such retelling in a small Dalmatian Press book we have called “Noah’s Ark”:

God told Noah to build an ark with one window and one door. Then he told Noah to put two of every kind of animal on the ark. God sent the animals to Noah two by two. There were two elephants and two mice, two toucans and two lions, two giraffes and two pandas, two tigers and two kangaroos, two hippopotamuses and two penguins, two rhinoceros and two zebras, and two of every other animal. Two by two the animals went aboard the ark. Then it started to rain. It rained and rained until all the earth was covered with water. After forty days the rain stopped and Noah sent out a dove. When the dove returned with an olive branch, Noah knew there was dry ground. Finally Noah opened the door to let all of the animals off the ark. And there in the sky was a rainbow, a sign of God’s promise that a flood would never again destroy the whole earth.

Does that seem like a good summary of Genesis 6-8? I think I know why they created this book. It is important for children at a young age to begin thinking about the different types of animals. And if you are going to teach them about animals, why not use a Bible story to get the message across? Kill two birds with one stone. Besides, the themes of sin, judgment, destruction and redemption are a bit too heavy for 2 and 3 year-olds, right?

I am going to suggest that we are actually doing a disservice to our kids by making the Flood into a fun animal tale. It is totally fine to use the Noah story to describe different kinds of animals, but I think it is best to also include the sin/judgment/destruction/redemption aspects of the story as well. I believe this for two reasons:


1. Our Kids Need to Struggle with the Hard Questions

Over and over again I have encountered many adults who, though they grew up in church, reject Christ because of the problem of evil. They will ask the questions like: “How could there be a God with so much evil in the world?” Or, “How could a loving God send people to Hell?” These are actually good questions, ones that need to be addressed. Our children need to know how to think through these questions biblically. Why would we not teach them how to do that when we are still a huge part of forming their worldview? And if we are defining their worldview from a young age in minor matters, such as to to think about and treat animals, why not address more weighty matters?

You might say, “But they won’t understand.” Of course they do not understand, that is why we teach them. Most people start reading books to kids when they are babies. Do you think they know what a giraffe is at six months? No! They learn what a giraffe is because we read them books. In the same way, our kids do not understand judgment, but they need to. Tedd Tripp said it well in Instructing a Child’s Heart, “We give our children big truths they will grow into rather than light explanations they will grow out of.” They need to learn that actions and thoughts have consequences. They can learn this from the story of the Flood, but not when it is told in the way I have cited above. In fact, if one of our kids were to bring up one of these hard questions and we mention the Flood, I can only imagine the bewilderment on their face. What in the world does a story about cute animals and a boat have to do with evil in the world?


2. Our Kids Need to Relate the Bible to Their Lives
Further, one of our goals as parents is to teach our children to relate the Bible to their lives. Consider disciplining your children. When you child has sinned you want them to recognize their sin as an offense against God, understand that this is serious, help them to see the end results of disobedience, and ultimately call them to repentance and trusting in Jesus for forgiveness of sins. Is this a message that is found in the Genesis Flood? Definitely! God did not destroy the world just because he wanted something different, he destroyed the world because “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). God destroyed the world because of sin. Sin is both serious and it results in death. But did God destroy everyone? No! Because Noah sought him the Lord spared Noah’s life and the lives of his family members. All who were on the ark were saved. In the same way, we are sinners, who deserve death, yet all who are seeking refuge in Christ will be saved. The story of the Flood actually is a great reminder that sin has consequences and the only way that we can be saved is to seek salvation from God. 

So, I propose some slight adjustments to the retelling of Noah’s story that I printed above. A while ago Stacey added some words to our copy of the book that I have put below in red:

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:8). So, God told Noah to build an ark with one window and one door so he could destroy mankind and save Noah. Then he told Noah to put two of every kind of animal on the ark. God sent the animals to Noah two by two. There were two elephants and two mice, two toucans and two lions, two giraffes and two pandas, two tigers and two kangaroos, two hippopotamuses and two penguins, two rhinoceros and two zebras, and two of every other animal. Two by two the animals went aboard the ark. Then it started to rain. It rained and rained until all the earth was covered with water and every living thing on the earth died. After forty days the rain stopped and Noah sent out a dove. When the dove returned with an olive branch, Noah knew there was dry ground. Finally Noah opened the door to let all of the animals off the ark. And there in the sky was a rainbow, a sign of God’s promise that a flood would never again destroy the whole earth. Instead, “by the same word the heavens and the earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:7). So, “since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people out you to be in lives of holiness and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11). Just as God destroyed through water because of man’s sin, God will destroy the world through fire because of man’s sin. But just as God saved all who were in the ark, so God will save all those who are in Christ.

This does not significantly extend the length of the child’s book. We would not need to add in scary pictures of bloated floating bodies. But with just a few extra words we can both teach our kids some fun animal names, and get across the main point of the story of the ark. We read this book with the new additions to the kids often. It has stirred some good conversation and I pray these conversations will continue for many years to come! 

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Author: David M. Hare

Dave is currently still engaged in language learning and analysis of the Kwakúm language. His focus is grammar and discourse analysis. The Kwakúm language committee is planning to begin translating the Bible in the summer of 2019. At that point Dave will focus on translation.

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