If you’ve raised children, you’re familiar with this innocent, yet sometimes dreadful, question. Before becoming a parent, I thought I would always have reasoned answers to my kids’ “But whys?” We’d engage in thoughtful conversations on human development and the science behind why brushing one’s teeth was a good idea and giving your sibling bangs with safety scissors was not. And I certainly would never answer a “But why?” with “Because I said so!” I’ll let you imagine how that has unfolded.
Children asking “why” is as ancient as human history itself. In fact, Moses not only experienced this question, but he also included it in one of the most important excerpts of Scripture: The Shema.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words…You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
…how were the Israelites to answer? With a story.
The Israelites were on the edge of the promised land, and Moses didn’t want them to repeat the mistakes of their parents. He earnestly implored them to go beyond lip service, to actually love God, and their children, with their actions, not just their words. Then he gives the why:
When your son asks you in time to come, saying, “What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your son: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; and the Lord showed signs and wonders before our eyes…Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers.” (20-23)
Did you catch it? Moses knew a day would come when their children would ask, “But why?” So, how were the Israelites to answer? With a story. But not just any story. A redemption story. This is the key to the transmission of faith from generation to generation. Our children will inevitably question the faith they were raised in. When they ask why, may our lips and lives tell a story about a promise-keeping Savior who brought us from a long way off. A Savior whose promises are for them too.
Angelo is pastors in Gainsville, Florida and is an adjunct instructor with ARISE. He finds great joy in ministering with his family and would be happy to welcome you the next time you pass through.