Teaching kids the basics about God can be easy—at least compared to other subjects.
For instance, even a young toddler quickly can learn the answer to “Who made you?” And after that, they just as easily can learn the answer to two related questions: “What else did God make?” (Everything.) “Why did God make you?” (For His glory.)
But if you raise children to think biblically and even theologically, pretty soon they’ll toss a curve ball your way and you’ll be left speechless, not sure how to respond in simple, kid-level language.
“Dad, who is Satan?” my 3-year-old son asked a few weeks back.
I know the “adult answer.” But the “kid-level answer”? I was speechless.
No doubt, my son knew Satan was bad—his books and DVDs certainly implied that—but that only got him so far. That’s because we’ve taught him that a lot of people in the world are bad and that there are “mean people” who would harm him. Satan, though, is far, far worse than your everyday “bad” person. And he’s technically not even a person. So what do you say?
My first answer? “He’s the embodiment of evil.” Thankfully, my wife intervened and gave me some tips—well before I confused my son. And then I read my favorite theological resource (Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”), added some verses, and boiled it down to four points to share with my son:
1. Satan is God’s enemy—and evil. He’s not just “really bad” or “really, really bad”—although that may help kids understand the definition. No, he’s much worse. He’s God’s enemy. The Bible calls Satan the “evil one” (1 John 5:19), the originator of sin, a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies (John 8:44). He’s also an angel who fell from heaven (in case your child asks about that, too). It’s wise to reserve a word specifically for Satan. My children sometimes act “bad,” but never “evil.”
2. God is more powerful. God created the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets, the mountains, the oceans, the rain, the snow, the sunshine, the sand, the dirt, the trees, the grass, the elephants, the giraffes, the dogs and the cats. In other words, God created everything my kids and your kids already love.Of course He’s more powerful. And when He was done with all of that, He created us. And what did Satan create? Sin. When you look at it that way, there’s no contest.
3. Satan wants you to do bad things. And he will tempt you all of your life. Just ask Adam and Eve, David and Solomon, or even Peter and Paul. But my son already knows all about temptation, as does his Daddy and Mommy, and as does every 3-year-old in the world. If he had his way, he’d grab his sister’s toys, his brother’s toys, and then go in a corner and play by himself. Oh yeah, and he’d stop in the kitchen and grab a big spoon and the half gallon of ice cream, too. He knows all of that is wrong, but he’s no different than the rest of us. His temptations simply are a bit simpler. And funny.
4. God gives you the power to overcome it all. My son knows the Gospel message by heart, and he knows he has a choice to do right and wrong. He simply struggles with the decision. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Jesus overcame temptation from Satan, and then later in life He told his disciples: “He has no power over me” (John 14:30). What does that mean for my son? It means he has hope—as a 3-year-old, as a 33-year-old and as a 73-year-old. It means that if he believes Jesus is Lord, then He’s not lost in his sins. It also means He can overcome temptation. And it means he has the power to share his toys.
Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes college football, midnight debuts of Star Wars movies and pretty much any 80s group that involved big, wild-looking hair. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public). Also, check out my video section.