Explaining Sin to a Child

IMG_9742.jpgI know that many of you have thought through how to explain the gospel to kids. These posts are to help those who struggle explaining salvation or to affirm what you’re already doing. In no way are we suggesting these are the only definitions.  Share your own ideas in the comments.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

The first thing we need to do (when presenting the gospel to kids) is define sin. So often a parent or teacher will start talking about the yuckiness of sin without once stopping to define what it is.

When our son was a toddler, he thought sin was something you sat on.. Well, sort of. He loved his Sit and Spin, but always called it his Sit and Sin. (Remember those discs kids sat on and spun around until they were crazy-dizzy?) He mispronounced it so often, we all started calling it the Sit and Sin. That’s about as clear a definition as many kids have.

A word that most kids do understand, however, is disobey. So a good way to introduce sin is by saying using the word disobey.

Sin is saying, thinking or doing anything that disobeys what God tells us in His Word, the Bible.

But wait a minute! That brings up another problem. That’s a great definition and is similar to the definition found in many curriculums – but … we still need to do more explaining! If we’re talking about kids who know nothing about God’s Word, they won’t know what His Word tells us about disobedience.

We have to tell them and show them what God’s Word says.

We can start with the basics.  When you ask a group of younger kids what wrong things their friends do, pushing seems to be one of the first responses. Older kids, especially girls, will add “being mean.”

Here are five sins that seem to have top billing in a child’s life

#Not being kind … which includes pushing and being mean!  (Ephesians 4:32) Kids have a fairly good sense of what kindness is all about.

#Lying. (Colossians 3:9a) Many kids don’t know lying is wrong because they hear their parents lie all the time – whether it’s hearing dad make an excuse for not attending church so he can go golfing, or hearing mom lie to her boss about being sick.  Kids also experience parents making up stories to get their kids to do something. “If you aren’t good, Santa won’t bring you any presents.” Or, “We won’t be able to go until you clean your room,” but the child and parent both know they’ll leave anyhow.

Another thing that happens with kids is they tell fantastical stories about events. They truly aren’t trying to lie, they haven’t been taught the difference between making up a wild story just for fun and lying to get out of something. We need to explain the difference.

#Stealing. (Ephesians 4:28a) Stealing is another sin that kids don’t always understand. A young couple brought their “delinquent” five-year-old in to see my dad (their pastor) because their child had taken some candy from the store. They were sure he was headed for a life of crime. In talking with the child, my dad discovered he had no idea he wasn’t allowed to take the candy. He encouraged the parents to explain why stealing was wrong. Once parents and son had their talk, he was fine and that was the end of his “shoplifting career.”

#Obedience to parents. (Ephesians 6:1) Obedience is not only doing what you’re parents ask you to do, but doing it with a great attitude.

Obediance also means not talking back to the parents. (That’s a big problem for some kids.)

#Using acceptable language. (Colossians 4:6) Even little kids today use the Lord’s name inappropriately (and yes, they often pick up the habit from their parents). We can gently explain to them what words are not okay. (In a parent/child situation – you can tell the child that they can say the word to you once and you will tell them if it is right or wrong. If it is wrong, you don’t want them to say it again.)

Unacceptable language also includes not calling people names, gossiping and saying something untrue about someone else.

Include other explanations as needed, but start with the basics. Give the kids a good understanding of right behavior.

Explain that all of us have done (and do) these things. That is why we fall short (are separated from God). (We’ll talk more about that in another post.)

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