More than once, I’ve listened as parents elaborate on their decision to refrain from taking their children to church or teaching their children about God. The logic usually goes like this: “I had God shoved down my throat when I was a kid. I want to let my child make his own decision when the time is right.”
It is certainly true that every person eventually has to decide on ultimate questions about God on his or her own. However, it is naïve to assume that our children grow up in a neutral world that accommodates such a choice. Your children are being trained to think about the world every single day, no matter your intentions, and the training being received is usually atheistic.
Consider this: Human attention is a great way to measure what a person values most. If we value something, we will devote time and resources to it. We will give it our attention. We all intuitively understand this. However, it also works the other way. When we give a certain thing a lot of attention—sometimes by no choice of our own—we typically learn to value that object. When I was in elementary school, I did not value education. However, after spending decades pursuing education, I now value education very much.
How do your children spend their attention? This question is extremely important considering the relationship between attention and values. Most of us would answer that question very similarly. We would list activities such as school, sports, social media, music, video games, and entertainment. These are the activities most shaping the values of our children simply because these are the activities our children spend most of their time pursuing.
The activities in that list are all value-neutral. In other words, none of those activities is morally right or wrong. Going to school or playing sports does not make one a better or worse kind of person. However, consider this: How many times do your children hear about God from their teachers at school? How often do their sports coaches lead them in prayer? Do their video games reference God? What about social media? How often does God come up in conversation with their friends?
Every single day, your children are being trained to think about the world and everything in the world without reference to God. The world is not neutral when it comes to God. The world is oriented toward atheism. If you make no effort to seek God or to know about God, if you just exist in the world that God has made and take your cues from the examples around you, you will naturally drift toward atheism.
It’s not that God has not made himself known. To the contrary, human beings are without excuse for their lack of faith precisely because God has so clearly manifested himself in creation (Rom. 1:18-20). The world isn’t the problem; human culture is the problem. We want to live without reference to God because we would rather be gods than worship God. We would rather do our own thing, so we write God out of our stories. The pervasive atheism of secular culture reflects that desire.
Our children do not grow up in a world with two equal choices. Our children grow up being discipled by the world to be atheists. That’s a huge problem. In fact, it puts them at quite a disadvantage: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). Without God, our children are being trained to live as fools.
God-awareness is not going to come from culture. The public school system, regardless of rating, is not going to train our children to fear God. Wisdom about life in God’s world does not arise naturally from Billie Eilish, Instagram, or Fortnite. If your children are going to know about God and his ways, it’s going to have to come from you.
Right after we learn the necessity of fearing the Lord for knowledge in Proverbs, we read this, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” If we want our children to make an informed choice for God, the onus is on our shoulders to show them that there’s an alternative way, a better way, a way that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).
Read the Bible to your children. Pray with your children. Have daily conversations on your way to school and sports practice that relate those activities to God. Finally, show your children that God is worth valuing by giving attention to worshiping him in the context of the church. You may be their only source for God-knowledge.