Explaining Mature Themes in the Bible to Kids
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In this episode of the Foundation Worldview podcast, host Elizabeth Urbanowicz tackles a complex and delicate question from a parent seeking guidance on explaining the concept of prostitution or harlotry, as seen in the Old Testament, particularly in minor prophets like Hosea, to children aged between four and ten.
Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.
Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "as we are studying the Old Testament, especially the minor prophets like Hosea, how can we explain the idea or concept of prostitution or harlotry to young kids like four to 10 years old?" Now, I love this question simply because I'm really passionate about equipping children to read, interpret, and apply scripture. And I know that so many Christian parents and educators and church leaders would not even take children through the minor prophets like Hosea. So just the fact that this parent is asking questions about how can I take my children through the concept of prostitution or harlotry as we read through Hosea, I think that's such a wonderful question.
Now, before we dive down deep into this, I would just ask that you would consider liking and subscribing to this podcast if you found it beneficial to make sure that you never miss a future episode, and also ask if you would consider writing a review and sharing this content with those within your sphere of influence so that we can equip as many children as possible to understand the truth and goodness and beauty of the biblical worldview.
Now, as we think through explaining more difficult concepts to little ones, I think one of the first things that we need to make sure we do is don't freak out that when we encounter concepts in scripture such as prostitution or harlotry, it's really easy for us to get really nervous and embarrassed and choked up and not sure what to do or what to say. So the first thing is just don't freak out, okay? Stay calm, keep calm and keep reading.
And I think especially as we're thinking through more difficult concepts in scripture, and particularly those related to sexual sin, it's important for us to think through these concepts ahead of time before we're reading about them in the text with these children that God has placed in our care. Now, if we do that, then we can come up with a game plan. If you find yourself not even realizing that something's going to come up in the text and you're just reading through it and you're thinking, "oh my goodness, I haven't thought through this. I didn't realize this was coming up." One thing that's always easy to do is just to say to these children that God has placed in our care, "you know what? This word that we just covered or this thing that the story is talking about, I'm not really sure how I can best explain it to you right now. I'm going to need a few minutes or maybe a day to think through how to explain it to you, and then we'll come back together and we'll talk about it." Just make sure you don't wait several days or a week because that gives kids plenty of time to ask others to Google things where they might come up with responses that are either A, inaccurate or B, give detail that's just not appropriate for their age level.
So if you encounter something like this and all of a sudden you're thinking, oh my goodness, I haven't thought through this ahead of time, it's okay to take a step back and say, "you know what? I don't know how to explain this well right yet, but in a few minutes or tomorrow, I'll know much better how to explain it to you and we'll come back together and talk about that." And usually kids are not phased by that.
Now, as we think through talking through just difficult concepts in scripture, I think there's a few questions that we can ask ourselves in any situation that will really help us know how do I best explain this to the children that God has placed in my care? Now, the first question that I think is really important for us to ask ourselves is what does my child need to know in order to understand the story? Because there's going to be some times where we're not going to go into all of the detail about a concept, especially if we're talking with a four or a five or a six-year-old. So this first question, what does my child need to know in order to understand the story, is an important one? Because then we can think through, okay, what details should I give? What details should I leave out?
So as we think through this first question, we'll use Hosea, the book of Hosea as an example because it was mentioned in the question. So in the book of Hosea, if you've never read the book of Hosea, Hosea is a prophet to the, I believe it's to the northern kingdom in Israel, right before they're taken into captivity. And God uses Hosea's life as a picture of what he is doing with the nation of Israel. Hosea is told to go and to take an unfaithful wife to go marry a prostitute, and he's going to love her and he's going to take care of her and she's going to leave him and be unfaithful to him, and she's going to go away off to lovers who don't really love her, but who she is attracted to, and they're going to abuse her and mistreat her and abandon her.
And she's not going to come back to Hosea on her own, but Hosea is going to have to go out and buy her back. And this is a picture of what God was doing with Israel, that Israel had prostituted itself out to the gods of other nations and to had just really completely abandoned God, and God was the one who loved them and who had grown them and who had cherished them and taken care of them, and they were not returning to him, and he was going to let them go off and be sold off into prostitution with the nations that were coming to conquer them. And God was saying that he was going to remain faithful to them.
So in this book of Hosea, our children, if they're going to understand this book as we read through it with them, they're going to need to know that harlotry or prostitution is unfaithful between a husband and a wife. They need to understand that harlotry or prostitution is unfaithfulness between a husband and a wife because if they don't understand this, they're not going to have any idea of what's going on in Hosea's what in Hosea's life, and they're not going to have any idea of the lesson that God is trying to teach the nation of Israel through it. So that's the first thing, "what does my child need to know in order to understand the story?" In order to understand the story of Hosea, our children need to know that harlotry is unfaithfulness between a husband and a wife.
The second question that I think is important for us to ask ourselves is what level of detail is age appropriate? The person asking this question asked, how should I do this with a four-year-old through a 10 year old? The level of detail you're going to give a four-year-old is a lot different than the level of detail you're going to give a 10 year old.
And so with this example of Hosea, if we're working with children who are seven and under just an age appropriate level of detail for them to know is harlotry is breaking the marriage vows or promises that harlotry is breaking the marriage vows or promises. If we're talking about children ate on up, we can go into a little bit further detail and we can say that Harlotry is breaking the marriage vows by becoming one flesh with someone who is not your spouse. So that second question, what level of detail is age appropriate? For kids seven on down, they just need to have that picture it's breaking the marriage vows, it's breaking the marriage promises. When they're eight on up and they understand more about sex and sexuality, we can include just a little bit more detail and say that it's breaking these marriage vows by becoming one flesh with someone who is not your spouse.
So the first question is, what does my child need to know in order to understand the story? Second question is what level of detail is age appropriate? And then the third question I think we need to ask ourselves is, how can I explain this using age appropriate vocabulary? So when we think about explaining to kids seven on down what harlotry is, the way I explained it before is that harlotry is breaking marriage vows. That might not be super understandable for a seven-year-old or a four-year-old. So I would think, okay, what words could I use to explain this to a child that's four. And I could say, "okay, harlotry is a husband or a wife breaks the promise that they made to stay with their spouse forever. Okay? Harlotry is when a husband or a wife breaks the promise that they made to stay with their spouse forever."
If that's, you think that's too difficult, you can say "harlotry is when a husband breaks the promise that he made to his wife to stay with her forever" or "harlotry is when a wife breaks the promise that she made to her husband to stay with him forever" and then explain instead of staying with their spouse, instead of staying with their husband or wife, they live with another man or another woman that they like. Okay, so it's not just leaving the spouse, it's leaving the spouse for another person. So just think through, how can I say this in words that are easy for my four-year-old or my five-year-old to understand when we're thinking about, okay, how can I explain this to an eight-year-old, a 10 year old in language that they can understand? The way I described it, when we looked at what level of detail is age appropriate, we said that they're going to need to know that harlotry is breaking the marriage vows by becoming one flesh with someone who's not your spouse.
So a way to explain this to an eight year old, a nine year old, 10 year old, we can just say harlotry is when a husband or wife breaks their marriage promise by having sex with someone who is not their spouse. Again, harlotry is when a husband or wife breaks their marriage promises by having sex with someone who is not their spouse. So when we think through these three things, what level, what do they need to know in order to understand the story? What level of detail is age appropriate? And then how can I explain this in developmentally appropriate vocabulary? We can have a game plan moving forward for any concept that we're going to encounter in scripture so that they can understand it.
Now, another thing to think through is if you are a parent who has kids of multiple ages and you're reading, like let's say you're reading through the book of Hosea with your four-year-old, your six-year-old, your seven-year-old, and your 10 year old, when you're all together, you're going to explain everything. You should explain everything in the version for kids seven and younger, so that way your little ones are not exposed to too much. And then when you're working with your 10 year old or any child that's over the age of seven, you can say, "okay, you know what? When we talked before you know about harlotry is when a husband or a wife breaks the promise that they made to stay with their spouse and they live with someone else together. You might not have understood this, but what I was talking about is they're actually choosing to have sex with a person who is not their husband or not their wife. And so that's a sin against their husband or their wife, and it's a sin against God." And so you'll just have that conversation with the older children when they're on their own.
Again, I just really want to affirm for the person who wrote in with this question that this is a wonderful question because we should be thinking, how can we take our kids through the entirety of scripture so that they understand God's big story? And I think with just a little bit of preparation ahead of time, we can make sure that as we're reading through different books of the Bible, what we're doing is developmentally appropriate so that our kids can understand the big story, yet they don't have more detail than is necessary.
Well, that's a wrap for today's episode, but as always, my prayer for you as we leave this time together is that God would richly bless you as you continue to faithfully disciple the children he's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.
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