Moses encounters God at the burning bush.

Telling the stories of the Bible to our children is a vital part of passing on to the next generation our faith in Jesus Christ. We know from the Old Testament that Israel drifted away from God when the forgot all that they had down for them. Fortunately, children are wired to love stories. More importantly, they remember them. The difficulty for us comes not in the telling of the stories, but in helping our kids understand what these stories mean.

That is why it is important that we as parents properly understand the purpose of these Bible stories. We Americans are a practical people and we tend to approach the Bible in the same way. We read looking for some principle some truth that we can apply in our lives right away. Consequently, we handle the Bible like an Aesop fable looking for a “moral of the story” tacked on at the end. What was the point of the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? Slow and steady wins the race. What’s the point of the story of David and Goliath? God can do big things through little people. The story of Joseph? It’s never a good idea to brag, you might get sold into slavery and never see your mother again. It’s bad for parents to play favorites. When you are faced with temptation, run away! If you are faithful to God, God will bless you.

Now there is a kernal of truth in these Bible story applications. That’s not the problem. The problem is that none of things I mentioned are the central point of these stories. Here’s what I mean. At the end of the gospel of John, John reveals to us why he wrote his collection of Jesus stories.

“But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

Did John want his readers to be obedient to God? Absolutely. But what was the purpose of his book? The Gospel of John was written so that we might have a deeper trust and faith in Jesus Christ. Why? Because John understood that we don’t obey God because we don’t trust Him. That’s why the Bible is not so much a book about what we do, it’s a book about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. We must remember this as parents. The goal of Bible stories is not teach our children to behave, it is to inspire them to a deeper love and trust in Jesus Christ.

Let’s take the example of Joseph. The point of the story comes at the end. “You [Joseph’s brothers] intended to harm me [Joseph], but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) The real story is that despite Joseph’s pride, Jacob’s lousy parenting and the treachery of Joseph’s brothers, God used these failures to put Joseph in Egypt at just the right time to save his family from starvation. Do you think you can trust a God who can do that? Do you think this God can save you?

This leads us to the central question in every Bible story. How does this story point us to Jesus? Just as God used the sin of Jacob, Joseph and his brothers to bring about their salvation, God used our sin, our rejection of Jesus, and our nailing him to the cross, to bring out about our salvation.

May our children see Jesus in the stories that we tell.