Talking To Kids About Their Sin Nature without Damaging Their Self-Esteem
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In this episode of the Foundation Worldview podcast, host Elizabeth Urbanowicz answers a question that many Christian parents and educators may have: how do we teach young children about their value and worth to God while also discussing the concept of sin? She discusses the importance of teaching children the whole truth, which includes the fact that they are valuable image bearers but have also been corrupted by sin. Elizabeth also clarifies the secular concept of self-esteem and suggests focusing on teaching children the truth about who they are and how God views them. Using scripture, she explains that while no one is inherently good, the solution to sin is found in Jesus. Tune in to this episode for helpful insights on how to approach this important conversation with young children.
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 God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter so they can understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm a thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Now, today's question says, "how do I begin to teach my four and a half year old daughter about her value and worth to God while balancing the sin nature conversation? I want her to understand but don't want to damage her self-esteem or think that she's bad or unworthy of God's love. Is she too young for this concept? Basically, how do I have the, 'you're not enough, but that's okay' conversation with a little one." Such a good question and so relevant in this current cultural context in which we find ourselves.
So we're going to dive into the answer to that question today, but before we do, if you found this content beneficial, we'd ask that you consider liking and subscribing to make sure that you don't miss any future episodes. Also ask that you would consider writing a review and sharing this content with those who are in your sphere of influence so that we can equip even more parents and educators and church leaders to get our kids thinking critically and biblically.
Now, when we think through this concept of how do we have this conversation with a little one about his or her value and worth and also inherent sinful nature, we need to make sure that we are teaching the whole truth, that our children are valuable image bearers, but they have also been corrupted by sin. And we need to make sure that we don't tilt the scales in one direction or the other because in this current cultural context, it's really easy to focus mainly on the image bearing part without talking so much about the corruption of sin.
And then sometimes within the church, when we want to balance out the culture, it's a lot easier to just tip the scales in the opposite direction and focus so much on sin that we lose the recollection of the truth that we are image bearers who are incredibly and inherently valuable.
Now, before I answer how to have this conversation, I just wanted to take a moment to pause to address a few of the words that were used in this question because I think that there's a few assumptions here that need to be cleared up. Now, the first thing that I want to address is just the word self-esteem, because self-esteem is a secular concept that's really designed to help us as humans get rid of the guilt that we all inherently feel because we have all sinned against a holy God. We all have this sense of guilt.
We know that we're not measuring up to who we should be. And so secular psychology has invented this concept of self-esteem that we're supposed to have this high esteem for ourselves so that we get rid of this guilt. And so we want to make sure that with our children, we're not talking about self-esteem because it's not that we're wanting them to falsely get rid of this guilt, but we want to instead focus on the question, what is the truth? How does God view me? Because that's what we want to teach our children. We want them to understand what is the truth of who they are, how does God view them? Because the truth is what matters most here. So I would encourage us as Christian parents and educators and ministry leaders, not to use the terminology self-esteem, but to focus on the concept of truth. What is the truth about who I am?
The second thing that I just want to address is that this question talked about making sure that our children don't think that they are bad or unworthy of God's love. Now, my question is, is that true? Is it true that we're not bad and that we're worthy of God's love? Well, in scripture, Jesus directly said that no one is good but God. Not that no one ever does good things. Not that no one ever has skills of something or that they can't do something that is morally good, but no one is inherently good but God, because the fall of mankind, Adam and Eve's sin we inherit. And so we are born with a sin nature, and then we choose to sin every day. And so we are not inherently good, so in a sense we are bad.
Now, does that mean that we should walk around depressed and thinking negatively of ourselves? No, that's not what scripture says at all, that we are to look to the solution for our sin and that is sound only in Jesus. And the next thing we need to think of, are we worthy of God's love? Well, let's think about what scripture says.
A passage that I think is very helpful in speaking to this is in the second chapter of Ephesians, and we're going to look at Ephesians chapter 2 verses 2-10, and in that chapter, Paul writes, "and you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind and we're by nature, children of wrath like the rest of mankind. But God being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace, you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, for by grace, you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
Now, when we look at this passage, the beginning of it shows us that we are by nature children of wrath, that we are under God's just condemnation for our sin so that what we do deserve, why we do feel this sense of guilt, is because we are under God's wrath. But then because of who God is, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, God has made us alive together with Christ.
So even though we are worthy of condemnation, we are justly under God's wrath, through Jesus, we can be reconciled to God. Now, I know that if anyone is listening and is not a Christian and does not understand the biblical worldview, that what I just said probably sounds incredibly discouraging and condemning, but the question is not, is this discouraging? Is this condemning? It's is it true? And for those of you who are listening and watching who are Christians who have been reconciled in your relationship to God and do trust that the Bible is God's authoritative word, we do believe that this is true, that we all have this inherent sense of guilt because we are all guilty and worthy of condemnation.
So we in and of ourselves are not worthy of God's love. But you know what? That is an incredibly freeing truth. Because if God's love for me is based on my worth, I am going to need to perform in a certain way to ensure that God will continue loving me. But this passage teaches just the opposite, which I know to those who are not believers is going to sound incredibly offensive that we are under God's just condemnation and that we deserve his wrath. But you know what is so freeing about that? Is that God's love for me is not based on anything that I have done, can do, or will do. That God's love for me is based on my, I'm sorry, it is not based on my character. Make sure that's clear. It is not based on my character, but God's love for me is based on his character, and so am I worthy of God's love?
No, I am not worthy of God's love, but I am the eternal recipient of God's love because of who God is, and this brings such incredible peace and comfort because whether I have an amazing day where I think say and do the things that God has commanded, or whether I have a terrible day and I consistently sin Gods love for me does not change, this should be an incredible encouragement for both us and our children. So how do we teach this to our children? How do we get them to understand who they are and how God views them? What is the truth about who they are? This is where I would say even with little ones, we can take them directly to scripture.
Read Genesis one, read Genesis 1:26-28 that talks about God creating humans in his image and then the responsibility that he has given us to rule and reign and steward creation. And talk with your kids, "okay, what does this say about who you are? Who we are as humans, that we bear God's image and we have responsibilities on this earth?" Then read Genesis 3 about the fall of mankind and ask, what does this tell us about who we are? It tells us that we are sinful humans. Then go to Romans three, which talks about how we all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory, that we are all under God's wrath. Then read that passage in Ephesians two that I just read through. Now, this doesn't all have to be in one day if you're talking with a four-year-old, because a four-year-old does not have an attention span that long. This could be a whole week where you say, "this week we're going to learn truths about who we are."
If you have gone through or you are currently going through Foundation Early Childhood Worldview Curriculum, in the fourth unit of that, we look at the question, who am I? And we systematically go through these passages of scripture talking about being image bearers. Talking about how God has made us purposely male and female, talking about how all of us miss the mark, how we're all sinful, but talking about how God, because of his great love for us, sent Jesus to reconcile us to himself. So we specifically go through this. And even if you don't have that curriculum, you can go through these passages with your children.
Then the next thing that I would encourage you to do is to directly teach God's attributes to your children, because as they learn who God is rooted in the biblical understanding, rooted in scripture, they will understand that God's love for them is not based on who they are and is never changing. As I record this podcast episode, I'm actually actively writing our next curriculum at Foundation Worldview, and it's again for that early childhood age range, that four to eight year old age range, and it's actually an Attributes of God curriculum.
And so two attributes that we do focus on in that curriculum that I would encourage you to directly teach your children are God's immutability and his infinitude, that he is infinite. And so immutability means he cannot change that God is unchanging. And so we want our children to understand that God never changes. We are constantly changing as humans, both through our growth and our development and our aging, and just through our moods and our emotions. Sometimes we're really happy and then we're really sad or angry or disappointed or discouraged or cheerful or joyful. We're constantly changing, but God is immutable. God never changes.
And then God is infinite, meaning that God has no limits. We as humans are limited in every way. We could be more limited than we are, but everything that who we are and everything we can do has some kind of limit to it. God is infinite, God does not have limits. And so because God is immutable, meaning he's unchanging, and because he's infinite, meaning he has no limits, that means that God's love for us will never change no matter what we think, say, do or feel. God will not stop loving us because he is unchanging. It also means that God's love for us has no limits because God is infinite. He has no limits. And so we want our children to understand that as they are thinking through how does God view them, how God views us is drastically different than how we as finite changing humans are viewing ourselves. And even our little ones can have this understanding of who God is and how he views us.
And so that's what I would encourage you to go directly to scripture with your little ones, to teach the whole truth about how we are God's valuable image bearers. Yet we have been terribly marred by sin, and because of that we are not inherently worthy of God's love, but God because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were still in this sinful state, he sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin that Jesus bore God's wrath on our behalf so that we would not have to. And now when we repent of that sin and we trust in Jesus, we are reconciled to God and brought into his family that God loves us and that God, our immutable, infinite God, his love for us will never change, and that should be of great, great, great encouragement to us.
Well, that's a wrap for today's episode. If you have a question that you would like us to answer on the Foundation Worldview podcast, if you go to FoundationWorldview.com/podcast, you can submit your question and we will consider it to be answered on a future Foundation Worldview podcast.
As always, as we leave this time together, my prayer for you 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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