What is it about the fact that once a person says “don’t do [insert action],” it’s like every fiber of your being all of a sudden wants to do that action? Our family recently received a children’s story called Don’t Push the Button! that seeks to engage that familiar feeling. When the reader does give in and push the button, all kinds of silliness ensues.
Sometimes we think of the Ten Commandments as a giant “don’t” from God and that He really must be keeping us away from all the fun. However, when it comes to the Ten Commandments, the result of giving in to the temptation to break a command is not silliness and fun but hurt. The truth is that God’s Law is a gift to protect you from the hurt and pain that comes from sin. As you seek to apply the Ten Commandments in your family, keep these thoughts in mind:
- Truthful paraphrasing—It is absolutely okay to use more child-friendly language to explain the Ten Commandments. In fact, it’s a sign of good understanding on your part to be able to rephrase a concept (correctly) in your own words.
- Focus on what you can do—Living as God’s children is an active way of life, not just a life of passively trying to avoid sin by not doing something.
Talking Points for Applying Commandments 4–10 (All About Loving Your Neighbor)
Number 4: Honor your father and your mother.Parents are a gift. Take comfort in the fact that there is no authority except from God (Romans 13:1). The authorities we do have on earth, including our father and mother, are a gift from Him. Consider how your parents and other authorities help you to live a longer and more prosperous life.
- Children, it seems, are in a constant state of being reminded to listen and obey. You can talk to your children about how God gives them parents (or grandparents, guardians, etc.) to take care of them and teach them what is right and good.
- Teens are exposed to additional authorities as they become involved in more activities: teachers, coaches, bosses, youth group leaders, etc. When your teen becomes frustrated with an authority figure, such as the teacher of a class in which he or she earned a poor grade, talk about how your teen can show respect toward that authority, even while feeling wronged.
Number 5: You shall not murder.Life is a gift. This command is all about your neighbor’s physical well-being. Avoiding murder is the obvious application. But Luther also explains that living as God’s child means intentionally helping and supporting your neighbors in their physical needs.
- Children often hurt others as a gut reaction to feeling hurt themselves. Model and teach calming techniques like deep breaths and counting to help little ones gain control. You can also talk about ways to help friends by offering hugs, comfort, and friendship to be intentionally kind.
- Teens are surrounded by messages from a worldly point of view concerning the value of life, including abortion and suicide. Help your teen by engaging together in conversations about these important topics. Encourage your teen to be intentionally supportive of life by supporting a local pregnancy center or offering prayers and words of comfort and hope to a neighbor in need.
Number 6: You shall not commit adultery.Marriage is a gift. Not everyone gets married, but everyone is able to respect and support the gift. No one can live this commandment perfectly; it’s still okay to teach your child what is right according to God’s Word.
- Talk to children about God’s design for families. Families are a special gift to show God’s love. God makes boys and girls, and both are special and important.
- Talk to teens about what God is protecting through His design for marriage. Consider the benefits of living within that design versus making choices that step out of it. Help your teen navigate discernment when it comes to human desires. (We don’t always desire good things. In fact, our sinful nature always desires things that will hurt us and others.) Teens can practice faithfulness now by treating family members and friends with love and respect.
Number 7: You shall not steal.Your possessions are a gift.
- Children own nothing and think they own everything. Talk to them about not only the obvious concept of not stealing but also the idea of being active in helping take care of other people’s things.
- Talk to teens about the possessions they do have. Encourage them to actively use what they have to help others.
Number 8: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.Your name is a gift. God protects your reputation.
- Talk to children about using kind words and being understanding of others.
- Talk to teens about upholding others’ reputations. God uses us all to protect others in this way. Luther explains that as we live out this command, we are to defend our neighbor, speak well of our neighbor, and explain everything (to and about our neighbor) in the kindest way. This includes both in person and in online platforms. Here is where Jesus’ Golden Rule is so helpful. Before you say anything about anyone else, ask if you would want others to say or write that about you.
Numbers 9 and 10: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.Sin is more than just things we do. It is also what we think. God’s command not to covet is a command to not desire or yearn for things God gave to someone else. Instead, thank God for the things He chose to give you.
- Teach children that God gave them their toys, books, games, and clothes, and help them say prayers to thank God for such things. When they want things God gave another child, remind them to talk to God about that in prayer. Surround them with Bible stories, songs, and prayers that help them to think about and desire what is good.
- Talk to teens about how easy it is to get tired of the possessions we have—especially when we see the nice, new shiny things others have—and forget that God gave them to us. Encourage them to ask God to give them thankful hearts. Thoughts affect our attitudes and lead to actions. Help them to practice thinking about things that are true, honorable, and praiseworthy, and to listen to, read, and watch things that fit those descriptors.
God’s commandments truly are a gift. I pray that you would be strengthened in your own faith as you study them. May you see your own sin, turn to Jesus, and take comfort in the fact that His love covers a multitude of sin, including yours. May you be inspired to go, strengthened in Christ’s forgiveness, and live as God’s holy children.
Teens need devotions centered on God’s Word that are written for them.