Children ask questions. Lots of questions. And when you have lots of children, as in my case, the questions grow exponentially. In my most recent estimation, I believe I am asked a question by a child of mine every 2.7 seconds I’m around them (my wife clocks in at about one every 1.9 seconds). Now, I would be lying if I said that I remain patient and kind as I am bombarded by their questions. Some of them are downright silly, and others are just annoying (sorry, kids!). But many are very important. Whatever the issue, the Holy Spirit usually nudges me to give clear, timely, and careful answers to my children’s questions, whether or not they seem vital to me. The last thing any Christian parent should want is for his or her child to stop asking questions because he or she is not receiving answers.
According to several Old Testament passages, the LORD is very interested in having parents answer their children’s questions. One example is in Joshua 4:21-23. The children of Israel had just been delivered across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. Following the example of Moses, Joshua said these words to all Israelite parents: “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?'” the you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.'”
There are several important lessons in this text concerning the questions of children:
- Children ask questions in order to learn. When they observe something new, the natural instinct of a child is to ask: “What’s that?” or “Why do we do that?” or “What does that mean?” or simply “Why?” Joshua knew that Israelite children would see a very unique pile of stones at the Jordan River and instantly wonder what they were doing there: “What do these stones mean?” Since they would have no reference point to come up with meaning on their own, they would need an authority to speak to the issue. Then, they could learn the truth!
- Children want to question their parents first. Generally speaking, children trust their parents. They have a relationship with their parents. They believe that their parents know pretty much everything in the world. So Joshua tells parents: Answer the question! “YOU shall let YOUR children know…” While children certainly will ask questions of Sunday School teachers, school teachers, grandparents, etc., they really want to learn the important things of life from their parents.
- Parents need to give their children the right answer. When a child asks as “meaning” question, they need to hear the truth. “Where did we come from?” “Where do people go when they die?” “Who created God?” “Why did Jesus have to die?” These sorts of questions demand Biblical answers, not human speculation. Joshua not only told parents to answer their questions, but he told them WHAT TO SAY! Parents need to know God’s Word in order to give truthful, Biblical answers to these vital questions.
- Parents shouldn’t just rely on the professionals. Joshua could have said, “When your children ask you questions about the LORD, just send them to me…or the elders…or the Pastor…or the Sunday School teacher. After all, I/they know much more about the Bible than you!” Over my nearly 20 years in ministry, I have had many a child ask me a theological question because his or her parents wouldn’t answer it, for whatever reason. I know how difficult it is to answer all of your child’s questions. But if you don’t know the answer, ask your Pastor, search the Scriptures, seek the answer, then ANSWER YOUR CHILD’S QUESTION!
- Parents must give their children reasons to ask questions. The stones gave the children in Joshua’s day a reason to ask a question about the LORD. Are you giving your children the opportunity to be inquisitive? There are plenty of things that go on in the life of the church that will provoke questions: “Why do we eat little pieces of bread and drink little cups of juice?” “What did that sermon mean?” “Why do we sing those songs?” But what about in your home? Do they see you reading the Bible, or praying at bedtime, or hear you talking about world events? Do you do things differently than the neighbors? Are you reading books together or watching media together that demand “meaning” sorts of questions?
Parents, let’s encourage one another to patiently and thoughtfully answer our own children’s questions, not leaving them to find the wrong answers from other sources!