Anyone who has observed children for any length of time can tell you that the number one issue children struggle with is selfishness. This is the central reason why children often get into trouble in school, at home, in public, or at church. This should not surprise us, as it is the core of our sin nature. The sin nature is very evident in children, because they have not yet learned how to disguise it as some adults have.
The first sin in the Garden was motivated by self-centeredness. Satan was able to get Eve to focus on what she wanted to have, what she wanted to do, and what she wanted to be. Genesis 3:4-6 says,“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat”
A few key things in this passage point to the self-centered motivation behind this first, original sin. These are some of the very areas in which children (and adults) battle today. First of all, we can see Eve being duped in the philosophy that she needs to be “in the know” about everything. It is also evident that Satan is getting Eve to desire to be in control of her own destiny (pride of life). She also begins to desire something (a food) that is not necessarily nutritious or good for her (lust of the flesh). Eve also wants to have something that she has been told she cannot have (the lust of our eyes).
It’s funny how these are the same ideas being taught to children today. Our society teaches our children through television, movies, video games, music, and even through today’s educational system that they can “be whatever they want to be”, “do whatever they want to do” or “have it their way.” All of these ideas are very self-centered, humanistic philosophies and these only touch the surface.
Children need to learn that life is not about “me”. “Me” and “Mine” are two favorite words of the typical toddler! The two greatest commandments according to Christ are to love God and love others. In this, Jesus recognized the obvious natural self-love, and instructed that we put God first, and then others, and then yourself. It makes up the sweet acronym J.O.Y. – Jesus, Others, You. However, the opposite is true in today’s culture – me, my family, my friends, then maybe others, and no God. Me, me, me, me, me…it’s all about ME!
So what is the solution? A good understanding of why we were created is the perfect starting point! Teach children the reason God created them. No doubt, Adam and Eve forgot this when they sinned. We were all created for the glory and pleasure of God. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11).
Secondly, we need to teach our children to love God with everything in our lives. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). It is good to remember that children learn best by our walk and not by our words, so it is imperative that they see us (as adults, parents, teachers, etc.) live this truth in our lives!
Then, finally, we need to teach our children to love others. This begins as a toddler when we teach them to share, but it doesn’t end there! Teaching them to love others by showing the love of Christ is one of the greatest things you can do! Again, our walk speaks louder than our words! Teach them, “Others, Lord, yes others, let this my motto be, help me to live for others, that I might live like thee.” We can eliminate many sin issues when we teach our children in the early stages of their lives these proper views on life.