My deepest desire is not that my kids will obey the 10 Commandments. It’s that they will love the Commandments with the same terrified delight as they might love standing on the seashore and watching a tsunami hit the beach.
Getting your kids to follow the commandments isn’t that hard. Showing them why they are lovely – that’s another thing entirely.
When Israel stood on the verge of the Promised Land, God re-iterated the blessings and curses of the Covenant He had made with them. He also revealed to them the judgement they would face and why.
Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart… therefore you will serve your enemies… (Deuteronomy 28:47-48)
If we in the west wind up being slaves of a Muslim nation, you’ll know why.
Motivation matters. And, while we can’t judge another person’s motives (what would we know?), the Bible does tells us what those motivations ought to be.
The issue for Israel was not obedient service. It was joy and gladness in serving.
The reason this matters to us is that it matters to God.
It was love that motivated God to send His only Son (John 3:16), and it was joy that motivated His Son to endure the cross (Hebrews 12:2).
Just do your duty!
God is not looking for duty-driven children. He is looking for those who obey Him with a glad heart (Psalm 100:2).
John Piper once illustrated the point this way. So, you arrive home from work and have brought your wife a bunch of flowers. Rather than enter the front door, you knock.
You’re wife answers, “What are you doing standing out here knocking on your own front door?” You pull the flowers out from behind your back. “Oh, honey, you shoulnd’t have!” “Ah, but it’s my duty and I am a husband who does his duty.”
Bzzz… Thank you for playing.
The husband who does this has not understood his wife and should not expect any reward for his duty-driven gesture. How about this instead?
“Oh, honey, you shouldn’t have!” “But, my darling, nothing makes me happier than buying flowers for you.”
God’s commandments are given for our joy, our happiness. The way to cultivate these glad and joyful motivations to honour God in our lives and the lives of others is by seeing that the commandments are in fact, lovely.
Is it not lovely to live in a street where you can leave your bike out in the yard and find it there the next morning?
Is it not lovely to know your wife only has eyes for you?
Is it not lovely to have a neighbour who will not seize your ass?
God calls us to delight, love and rejoice in His commandments because He knows that nothing will make us happier. They are delightful because they truly are beautiful. They are not a rod for the backs of children. They are a proclamation of life over death, joy over fear and a love that compels us to glad obedience.
And we need eyes to see this.