Sunday Catechism: All Joy and No Fun

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Illustration by João Fazenda for the New York Times

Q: What does the first commandment forbid?

A: The first commandment forbids denying God or not worshipping and glorifying Him as the true God and our God. It also forbids giving worship and glory, which He alone deserves, to anything or anyone else.

Our discussion of this commandment in Children’s Church dovetailed nicely with our discussion of Jesus’ parable of the treasure in the field. The children noticed very quickly that while we often fail to treat God or His kingdom as the treasure worth any price, Christ sacrificed all to pay for us as His treasure.

Indeed, it is in the context of Christ that these commandments become truly poignant. He was invisible, unrecognized for who He truly is, and denied by all, even his disciples. He had to drive out moneylenders from the temple, and His life was sold for thirty pieces of silver. He was always in contest with a world of idolatry, not to Baal or Ashteroth, but to power, religion, money, prejudice, expediency, nationalism, and so on.

As Michael Horton points out in Ordinary, “excellence demands a worthy object and a worthy goal.” Our passions and pursuits are unsustainable and unfulfilling because they cannot stand up to the weight of investment and expectations we put upon them. Only One can, and He does not take lightly to any competition.

These posts are largely to parents, but we should, as parents, be careful that our own object of worship and glory is not our own children, or parenting itself. As a newly minted stay-at-home dad, I’m learning quickly how all-consuming this lifestyle is, and it’s so easy to make it your single purpose of existence.

I’m reminded of Jennifer Senior’s Ted talk based on her book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. She quotes Viviana Zelizer, who describes how, after the establishment of child labor laws and universal free public education alters American family culture by taking children out of the workforce, kids have become “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”

I urge you to watch the whole talk, or listen to the one she gave at the Philadelphia Free Library with the first commandment and the gospel in mind. It’s thought-provoking, and convicting.

FINAL NOTE: New City has graciously gifted Geena and I August off from Children’s Church duties, but I hope to continue these weekly posts as an encouragement to continue to teach the catechism to our families. Next month will largely focus on the second commandment.

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