I am a huge believer in encouraging children to memorize Scripture. Hiding God’s Word in your heart and meditating on it day and night are essential for growing in Christ-like maturity. But there is one verse that has come to mind over and over again in the past months—one that I don’t recall encouraging my children to memorize, but now seems to be a must-know verse…
Romans 1:21—For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Why would I consider this a must-know verse for children? Because in one sentence, it summarizes and explains so much of the world in which we live. It answers a myriad of difficult and confusing questions regarding why people act as they do apart from Christ. Why would a boy think he’s really a girl? Why do people riot? Why does my teacher think we evolved? How come some people think it’s okay to kill unborn babies? Why does my classmate say it’s okay to cheat as long as you don’t get caught?...It goes on and on.
In commenting on this verse, John Piper said the following:
…Paul says, “Even though they knew God, they did not honor him [literally: glorify him] as God.” That is the fundamental problem with the human race. We do not acknowledge, value, treasure, savor, honor, or make much of the greatest value in the universe: the glory of God. That is our wickedness and our disease and our great mutiny against God.
…Futility means vain, empty, useless—and that is what the mind becomes when it is no longer used to know God and love God and treasure and honor God. It doesn’t matter if you are the most brilliant scientist or artist or engineer. Everything you do with your mind, minus God, is futile and empty and vain.
(The First Dark Exchange: Idolatry,” ©Desiring God Foundation, desiringGod.org)
How could you explain the meaning of Romans 1:21 to children? Here is a concrete illustration:
Give your child a hand mirror, or take your child to a wall mirror. Place a beautiful object in front of the mirror. What does your child see? Point out that our minds and hearts are to be like mirrors that reflect the greatness and worth of God (the beautiful object) in our lives—honoring, trusting, thanking, and treasuring Him most of all. Next, use something to obscure the reflection on the mirror. Draw on the mirror using dark-colored erasable markers, washable paint, or tape a dark piece of fabric on it, etc. Hold the beautiful object in front of the mirror again. What has happened? What changed?
The mirror is now “futile” in doing what it was made to do. It would be “foolish” to think that it’s okay the way it is. It has become “darkened.” That is a bit like what darkened, sinful, minds and hearts are like. Yet people will go on and act as if they are all right and even wise apart from God (Romans 1:22). We should not be surprised by this. Everyone is born this way. Apart from Jesus saving us and giving us new hearts, we will be like that darkened mirror.
After talking about this illustration, consider ending by praying that God, in His sovereign grace would act.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)