A young child may reason that a cookie will make her happy. The desire for the cookie overrides the command from mom not to have the cookie till after supper. On the surface this appears to be a simple matter of behavior. The desire for the cookie wins out over obedience.
However, on the heart-level, complex patterns are at work. We are born with a nature that is at war with God. Romans 1 also tells us that this sinful nature actively suppresses the truth of God. The unseen and often unperceived heart battle goes something like this:
“I want that cookie. I will not submit to God’s law or what mom wants. I deserve to have that cookie because it is my right to have it. I will not let God tell me what to do!“
In this light, simply addressing the behavior surrounding a misappropriated cookie misses the mark and plays right into the hands of the enemy. The reality of spiritual warfare is disregarded. The problem is not wanting the cookie, the problem is wanting what the child wants as opposed to what God wants!
The child may not fully grasp the complexities hidden in her desire for the cookie. But a close examination of Romans 1:18-21, shows that this is exactly what is transpiring at the heart level. Understood this way, just saying no misses the opportunity to address the deeper heart issue.
Part of helping your child to reach maturity is to help her be aware of this spiritual warfare. She is not just satisfying her desire for a tasty cookie. She is training her heart to dismiss the truth of God. She must become aware of this battle in order to ultimately win this inner battle.
Here is one possible response to the girl who has taken the cookie:
“Heather, when you disobeyed mommy and ate that cookie, you were also disobeying God. Remember, we have talked about how sin always lies to you. It is never just about what you want. Wanting the cookie is also disobeying God. This is why you can never trust what you want, unless you know it is also what God wants.”
This is how Heather will begin to learn the value of self-awareness. Over time she will learn to be increasingly aware of the spiritual war within. She will have the awareness to trust the Spirit’s Word and be wary of the flesh. And that will be a good thing.
Teach your children to always ask this vital question: is what I want what God wants?