Why Should Children Be Taught the Ten Commandments?

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Consider these words by Sally Michael from the preface of the curriculum, The Righteous Shall Live By Faith: A Study for Children and Adults on the Ten Commandments:

…studying the Ten Commandments is not old fashioned and need not be legalistic or boring. The Ten Commandments have much to teach us about our great and glorious God. They reflect to us the perfections of God and His heart for His people. They are the foundation of God’s moral law. They show His children how to “walk in all His ways.”

The Ten Commandments have been part of the religious education of Western countries for hundreds of years and have often been part of the public school curriculum. It is only recently that they have been considered “outdated.”

We are in great need of moral absolutes in the 21st Century. The Ten Commandments stand as God’s great moral absolutes to a confused and troubled world. The Ten Commandments are as relevant today as they were when God gave them to Moses on Mount Sinai.

But the Ten Commandments are not only pertinent to our moral instruction, they can also be an instrument of conversion. For it is in God’s perfect law that we see our depravity. Understanding the requirements of God’s law serves as a mirror to show us our total inability to meet those standards.

A drowning man must first see that he is drowning before he can appreciate a life preserver. John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has said that you must see your plight before you can recognize the rescue. The Ten Commandments show us our plight. Faith in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross is our rescue.

“In days gone by, children learned the commandments before they learned John 3:16, because only then did John 3:16 have real meaning for them. Likewise, John Eliot’s first translation work among the Indians was not of John 3:16 but of the Ten Commandments, and he preached his first sermon on them. Did John Eliot think the Indians would be saved by the Ten Commandments? Of course not, but the commandments would show them why they needed to be saved—they were law-breakers, and they needed a law-keeper to be their substitute.” (Ernest C. Reisinger. “Whatever Happened to the Ten Commandments?”, copyright © 1999, page 5)

So rather than a study in legalism, the study of the Ten Commandments is refreshingly freeing from legalism. It shows us that we can never gain heaven through works of righteousness, and it points us to grace—the grace of God to undeserving, inadequate, depraved sinners! There is no greater news than this—and there is no greater freedom from legalism than the perfect righteousness of Jesus freely given to those who trust in Him.

The Ten Commandments become the mirror of our soul and then our expression of a redeemed heart. The redeemed heart—the heart of flesh that Ezekiel says replaces the heart of stone—overflows in its love of God and expresses itself in walking in the ways of His commandments.

“I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”—Psalm 119:32

Did you know that along with a curriculum on the Ten Commandments, CDG also has a corresponding Family Devotional Guide which you can find here?

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Children Desiring God.

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