You’ve heard a lot about the importance of family devotions. You’ve probably even made a few attempts at starting them in your own home. However, they just seemed to crash and burn because of babies crying, toddlers circling the room in their underwear or sibling rivalry ramping up the minute you open the Bible. In a frustrated huff, the Bible is closed and people scattered their own way. What is the point? Is it really necessary?
All parents seeking to be faithful have asked these questions at one point or another. Be encouraged, it is worth it! I would like to offer several reasons why it is not just good—but imperative—to read the Bible to your younger children.
1. Nowhere does God’s command to parents to train up their children have an age limit. Check out the most quoted passages, Deut. 6:4-9, Psalm 78:1-10, Psalm 127:3-5, and Ephesians 6:1-4 and you will not see an age limit. In fact, you find just the opposite! The little ones were included where the Word is being ministered (Neh. 8:1, Acts 2:14-41). In other passages where the church is meeting in homes, it would push the edge of reason to conclude that the littlest among them were not present, hearing the word (Acts 2:42, 46, Col. 4:15, Philemon 1:2).
2. God’s word is powerful. God’s own word is what God promises to bless (Isa. 55:11, 1 Cor. 2:5, Heb. 4:12). If God’s word is strong enough to create out of nothing (Gen. 1), then it is strong enough to work in the hearts of the youngest among us. God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:8). You do not know how the Holy Spirit is using the passages you read to supernaturally work in your young child’s heart.
3. What are you trying to get them to understand? Is it to amass Bible facts? Or is it to come to know God? Little kids understand basic concepts such as love; good and evil. Any passage you read will feature either information about man’s sin, or information about God’s grace, both of which give the opportunity to talk about those basic truths on the simplest levels. They can come to know God in a way that is on their level if you are reading to them with that intention of making those simple things clear. It is possible to do that and also explain the deeper things to the older kids.
4. There is far more to be gained from reading the Bible to your youngest children than merely amassing facts. Consider these additional benefits:
a. They learn that reading the Bible is valuable and are more likely to continue the practice as they grow older.
b. Reading the Bible teaches them that their father and/or mother are their spiritual leaders.
c. They learn to sit still and listen…so that they can stay in the worship service or small group meeting.
5. Finally, and perhaps most important of all—reading the word is one way of showing that you love the Lord. Is reading the Bible something that YOU enjoy? Reading the Bible—seeing Jesus through the gospel—is a critical part of how we grow in our love for Jesus. Including the youngest children in a regularly scheduled family Bible reading time is one way for them to grow up watching you demonstrate your love for God through a passionate pursuit of His Word.
It is hard to fool kids. We can say what we want. But what they believe will likely be the result of what they see us do. Our example is incredibly powerful—one way or another.
As one final word of encouragement, please consider again, Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
God’s redemptive purposes are not thwarted by our parental inhibitions, imperfections and the craziness that is often family Bible time. God’s word is itself powerful. Through his Spirit, He will do his work. We just need to be his willing instruments.