One of the highest compliments I ever received as a teacher came in the form of a complaint. One of my third-grade Sunday school students saw me in the church hallway and said, “Oh no, it’s you!”
I laughed and replied, “It’s good to see you too, Samuel. Why aren’t you happy to see me this morning?”
“Well, seeing you means you’re probably teaching our class. And I don’t like it when you teach!”
“Really? Why not?”
“Well, in Sunday school I usually just say, ‘Jesus’ for every answer. But you don’t let me do that. Every time I say ‘Jesus’ you make me explain why. You always make me think, and I don’t like it. Church isn’t the place we’re supposed to think. School is the place for that!”
Though this exchange made me chuckle, it highlights the sad state of most of our Bible instruction. Rather than encouraging and equipping our children to critically think through the Christian worldview, we train them to mindlessly respond with “Jesus.” We, in turn, take a deep breath, relieved that they got the right answer. And we proceed to reward this easy answer with a smile, a pat on the back, and a Tootsie Roll.
Friends, we cannot maintain this type of Bible instruction. If we do, we are setting our children up for failure. Here are three key reasons why we must stop settling for the Jesus answer.
1. The Jesus Answer Promotes Intellectual Laziness
When we simply let our children give “Jesus” as the answer to every question, we fail to engage their minds. And we promote the false assumption that Christianity does not encourage thinking. Scripture is clear that Jesus is the creator and sustainer of every aspect of reality (Col. 1:15-20). So, He may, in fact, be the correct answer to the questions we ask. But why is He the correct answer?
We must develop the habit of asking our children to explain, support, and defend their answers. Doing so promotes critical thinking and requires our children to engage with and wrestle through the questions we ask. The next time we receive the Jesus answer, instead of pulling out the jar of Tootsie Rolls, let’s follow up by asking “Why is Jesus the answer to this question?”
2. The Jesus Answer Encourages Blind Faith
Hearing the Jesus answer usually gives us a feeling of success. Our children got the right answer, so now we can move on and cover more material. However, settling for the Jesus answer encourages our children to have blind faith. Rather than pushing them to critically think through how the Christian worldview lines up with what is real, we are teaching them to believe that just saying Jesus’ name is enough to get them through life, or at least Sunday school.
Please do not misunderstand me. There is incredible power in the name of Jesus (Phil. 2:9-11). And we want our children to understand that! But to develop that understanding, we must help our children see that the Christian worldview explains every aspect of reality. So, the next time we receive the Jesus answer, let’s follow up by asking, “How do you know this is true?”
3. The Jesus Answer Fails to Prepare Our Children for Lifelong Discipleship
When we settle for the simple Jesus answer, we fail to prepare our children for the secular culture in which we live. At best, our society teaches that faith in Jesus is a subjective, personal belief system. At worst, it screams that Christianity is a hateful religion that should be scorned and silenced. When our children give the Jesus answer out in the world, they won’t receive pats on the back. Instead, they will receive questions, scoffing, and ridicule.
Rather than settling for the Jesus answer, we must equip our children to understand and articulate the evidence supporting the Christian faith. We must help them recognize why the Jesus answer is the true answer! When we do this, we prepare them for a lifetime of faithful discipleship in a hostile world. So, the next time our kids give us the Jesus answer, let’s respond by asking, “How would you explain your answer to someone who doesn’t believe the Bible is true?”
Our children will undoubtedly continue giving us the Jesus answer. Afterall, old habits die hard. But let’s begin viewing the Jesus answer as an opportunity – our opportunity to develop critical thinking, encourage biblical, evidence-based faith, and prepare our children for lifelong discipleship.