Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)
The temptations which ensnare little minds are subtle. Toys seem so innocent. Fieldtrips seem so educational. Activities and lessons seem so helpful.
Fellow moms, we are called to do more than just avoid leading our children into sinful pursuits—we’re called to avoid leading our children into any pursuits, any passions, that aren’t in pursuit of God.
Think of what motivates your child. What do they really enjoy? What is their room filled with? What puts a smile on their face? What makes them throw a temper tantrum if you take it away?
In our house, multiple children love Minecraft. It’s a very innocent, educational kind of game, and at first, I was like, yeah, go play. But then it slowly became clear that it was—for our kids—too much of a struggle of addiction. They were mean to their siblings, squabbling over whose turn it was on the tablet, neglecting their responsibilities, and gradually turning into negative, whiny little people. We uninstalled Minecraft.
Another child loves to read. And I love that characteristic of her. It can be a very godly pastime. But other times, the book gets its teeth in her and she starts whining about when she has to stop for a moment, or she starts obsessively talking about the plot to random people instead of engaging in more profitable conversation—it becomes a sinful distraction. As much as it irks me to do so, sometimes we make her put away the books for a while and regain her focus on the outside world.
Ask hard questions.
There aren’t easy answers to the question of when a worldly thing has a hold on our children’s hearts. We can’t keep them away from the world. But we can think about what things motivate and excite them, and consider those things in light of these questions.
- Is it a thing of earth or a thing of heaven? We are commanded in Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Sometimes we have to deal with things of earth, but our minds should be occupied elsewhere—with heavenly things. This, again, is true even for children. Obsession with an earthly thing, theme, activity, etc., is incompatible with a mind on heavenly things. Titus 2:12 commands us to “renounce worldly passions.” 1 John cautions us, “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world… is not from the Father.” Friends, the things of the world—ALL the things of the world—are wrong to love. Dangerous to love.
- Is it self-indulgent? Self-indulgence is perhaps not one of the greatest sins that leaps to our modern minds, but 1 Timothy 5:6 says the self-indulgent person “is dead even while she lives.” Dead. Indulging ourselves is a sin, whether we be adults or children.
- Is it something that makes the world seem like a friend? Does it make a sinful lifestyle seem normal, appealing, or “safe”? Does it make those whose lives are not dedicated to glorifying God seem like friends? They aren’t. James 4:4 reminds us that “friendship with the world is enmity with God.”
- Is it pleasing the flesh? 1 John cautions again against three specific things: desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and pride in possessions. Paul also talks about this tension in Romans between the things our flesh desires and the things of the Spirit within us. Things that are just “fun” and pleasing to our human self are fleshly, not godly. Colossians 3:5 says, “put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” We have to teach our children also to put these things to death.
- Is it part of our duties as soldiers in Christ? 2 Timothy 2:4 reminds us that “no soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” Matthew 24:42 commands us to “keep watch, because you do not know the day on which your Lord will come,” and 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us to “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Moms, the devil is trying to devour our children. Neither of us has any time to do anything apart from glorify God. This soldiering business is full-time. We don’t go off and engage in civilian pursuits, much less get caught up in them.
- Is it teaching them to love man’s glory? Jesus cautioned against people who “loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:43). Is the activity teaching them to earn man’s praise? Is it teaching them to value a thing because other men praise it? Does it teach them that only God’s opinion matters?
My son, beware…
Ecclesiastes is a great book about what pursuing worldliness looks like, and coming up empty. Solomon concludes with this absolutely fantastic piece of advice:
The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Ecclesiastes 12:11-12 ESV)
We need to catch that little phrase in the middle: beware of anything beyond these (the words of the one Shepherd). There are too many books, too much study—if they aren’t from the Shepherd, they’re worthless. Don’t study them. Solomon makes it even punchier, “for God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). We are going to be held to account for every single thing we do. Every single minute. And our children are going to be held to account for every single minute of how they spend their time.
Beware of the fun tablet games. Beware of the good books. Beware of the family-friendly television shows. Beware of the ballet classes. Beware of the Disney princesses. Beware of the parties, the playgroups, the plays and performances. Beware of the exciting vacations, the beach trips, the talking toys, the stuffed animals, the books, the favorite Netflix show, the beloved aunt. Does it teach your child to love God? Or does it teach them to love the world? We have to keep coming back to this—about everything. Why are we doing this? Why does my child think we’re doing this? Why does my child enjoy it? Is the enjoyment because the activity is heavenly, or fleshly?
I was reading a book a few weeks ago and it was talking about how to teach children to talk effectively and powerfully. And one of the major points it made is to teach children to turn their conversations, their stories, their answers toward the subject of God. To teach them to share freely and enthusiastically about what God has been teaching them, how He’s leading them, blessing them, whatever. To teach them to actively be on the lookout for opportunities to bring this into every conversation they have. That struck me really hard. Even in our conversations around the dinner table—or when an inquiring relative asks them about their schoolwork—they can be either earthly-minded, or they can be heavenly-minded. Worldliness has inundated even our conversations, and I want to take it back! I don’t want my children to bounce into the room eager to tell me about their new toy or how much fun they had at such-and-such an activity, or how they are just dying to go to the thing that all their friends are doing. I want to see their eyes light up over God, and His things alone. I want Him to have a grip on their hearts, and everything else—I want to see that they know it’s all worthless and fading away. My heart aches in fear for their souls when I see them excited about worldly things.
Why does it matter?
This may seem legalistic to you. “Innocence of childhood” and “time to be a kid” and all that. But, please, consider the parable of the sower. You know the story, man goes out, sows some seed, some of it takes root, some of it grows, some of it withers… the seed is the Word, and our children’s hearts is the land. Look at this part:
As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
Moms, this is terrifying. We can preach the Gospel day in and day out to our children, we can live perfect examples before them, and yet—we can let in the thorns. “The cares of the world.” Moms, Jesus says this chokes the word. You can sow the truth till the cows come home, but if the thorns of the world are growing in your little one’s heart—how much worse if you’re the one encouraging the love of a non-heavenly thing—then all the truth-speaking and Gospel-preaching in the world are going to prove unfruitful.
It’s so subtle, so innocent-seeming… and so utterly lethal. Worldliness undermines our family worship, our Bible studies, our pleading with them over Scripture—it undermines everything.
Don’t let your children love the world and its pleasures and things.
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.”