These ideas for teaching children the First Commandment from a Christian Science perspective are supplemental to my previous post and to my book “First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume One: The Ten Commandments,,” found elsewhere on this site. These suggestions are for both parents and Sunday School teachers.
FOR VERY YOUNG CHILDREN:
Have them memorize the First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
Point out the word “me.” Explain that it refers to God. He is talking about Himself here. He is asking that we put Him first. He is to be the number one power in our life. He is the only power.
Explain that God is good. There is no badness in Him. So, if we put God first, we must put good first. We must love to be good, say good words, do good deeds, and love the goodness in others.
Point out the words “other gods.” These are the voices and thoughts that would tempt us to do bad things or say bad words, or think bad thoughts about ourselves or others. “Other gods” can also be certain things or activities that we love more than God. They might “tempt” us to disobey our parents, or be unkind to others, or have a tantrum, if we are not allowed to do what we want to do. These “other gods” love for us to disobey God and listen to them instead. But we must listen to the voice of God and his angel messages which tell us how to obey God and put Him first.
Do some role-playing with your children. Pretend to be in an everyday kind of situation, such as playing with others, helping Mom, getting dressed to go to day care, eating dinner, or getting ready for bed. What might an “other god” (or as the book of Genesis calls it: “the serpent”) whisper to us? Teach them how to be alert to the voice of error suggesting false beliefs and actions to mortal mind.
The youngest kids, of course, won’t give a hoot if they are being disobedient to God when it comes time to finishing their favorite TV show or computer game. So, this takes patience, and a level of expectancy that is not too demanding, yet optimistic! That’s the beauty of repetition and consistency. If you keep reminding them where those suggestions of disobedience come from, and that they have the power, even at their young age, to turn off the insubordination,
eventually it will sink in.
Just keep asking them the question, “Who said that?” Or, “Did God tell you to sass me back? I don’t think so.” “It is wrong to hit your sister, and you know it! Don’t let error tell you otherwise.” “You are good because God made you that way, and we’re going to put God and good first! Agreed?” “Let’s not break the First Commandment. We’re going to obey God by turning away from this belief that you can be hurt. God doesn’t make accidents to happen. Let’s be quiet a moment and see if His angels have a better message for us.”
When you are having a bad day yourself, it doesn’t hurt to confess that you are having a hard time, and maybe need to take a break and talk to God for a while, to remember who you really are: a spiritual idea who cannot be separated from divine Love, the source of all goodness. You can admit to your kids when you have broken the First Commandment, “I guess I was just putting myself ahead of God just now; maybe I need to back off and reconsider what the best thing might be for all of us.” Give them examples of how to humbly stand aside, and give God a second chance to be our number one Mind.
Other things to say that are in the spirit of the First Commandment, as you challenge your children in their words and action: “Is that a good thing or a bad thing? What would God think?” “Is that loving or hateful? Would God like what you just did?” “That was a nice thing you just did. You were being the kind of child God created you to be.”
Also, “We can’t let the bad thoughts have power over us. We must stop listening to them! Let’s try to focus on the truth of God right now. God is more powerful than error. The voice of Truth is louder than the voice of error, if we tune into Truth.”
And some children’s favorite response to error: “There is no spot where God is not!”
FOR OLDER CHILDREN:
Later, as your children learn to read and build their vocabulary, you can introduce them to the seven synonyms of God, as revealed to Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, and found in her textbook “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” You can show them the names of God in the textbook on page 465: Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, and Love.
As you teach them what these terms mean, explain that man reflects these aspects of God through spiritual qualities. For instance, because God is Love, man is loving, patient, tender, unselfish, forgiving, brave, thoughtful, and kind. Because God is Mind, man is intelligent and wise. Because God is Truth, man is honest, truthful, faithful, and trustworthy.
With this enlarged concept of God, the children can expand their use of the First Commandment. I will not go through all the ways in which this can be done, but as you grow in your understanding of the synonyms, you can share this with your child. For instance, if God is Life, what would have more power: the belief in aging and dying, or the truth that Life is ageless and eternal? What idea should we entertain in thought — that of Life or that of death? Should we fear death? Or can we trust that God, being eternal Life, will forever hold His children in perfect immortality, co-existent with Him? If Life is first, and we want to obey
the First Commandment of having “no other gods” before Life, we will live each day with joy and vitality, no need to be depressed. Expression is the opposite of depression, and to be obedient to God, putting Him first, we will express the qualities of Life, not lay about in a stupor mesmerized with suggestions of depression. Get up and live!
Explain the idea of loyalty to God, and how important it is that God and other people in our lives can trust us to do the right thing, to be responsible citizens, even when no one is looking! God is always with us, and we are also always with our own reflection of the consciousness of God. Therefore, we cannot hide from Mind. We know when we are not being trustworthy, and that is all that counts — not whether or not our teacher or parents or the police will catch us. Our sense of self-worth is worth keeping pure and good, and we can do that by obeying the First Commandment.
Cultivate the love of God in your child by pointing out the evidence of God’s work in your daily life and in current events elsewhere. Magnify the good you see occurring. When bad things happen, explain to your child that that is an opportunity to deny that there is any other god or power besides God. Affirm that evil actions are not God’s will, that God is only good. It is not always easy to do this (in fact, it rarely is, until you get very, very experienced at handling “animal magnetism,” which is the term Mrs. Eddy uses to define mortal mind and its method of operation). We obey the First Commandment when we mentally insist
that no matter what the physical senses claim have happened, God is all-powerful,
ever-present, all-knowing, and all-acting, and therefore it is an absolute impossibility that anything else has taken place.
Think of how you might react if you heard that the best, most loving person you knew was accused of murder. You would instantly rebel at such an idea, swear that this must be a case of mistaken identity! Yet, how easily people point the finger at God when some disease or accident claims the mortal life of a child, and sadly say that it must be “God’s will.” We must be loyal to God, and come to His defense as easily as we would for a respected friend. How dare we believe that He would take the life of one of His children! The First Commandment asks us to be loyal to God. Your child can understand this.
Older children start taking an interest in the injustices in the world around them. To give them something to ponder with regard to the First Commandment and the idea of the oneness of God, have them study this paragraph from Science and Health found on page 340:
“‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’ (Exodus xx. 3.) The First Commandment is my favorite text. It demonstrates Christian Science. It inculcates the triunity of God, Spirit, Mind; it signifies that man shall have no other spirit or mind but God, eternal good, and that all men shall have one Mind. The divine Principle of the First Commandment bases the Science of being, by which man demonstrates health, holiness, and life eternal. One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, “Love thy neighbor as thyself;” annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, — whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed.”
Tell your children that God needs us as much as we need Him. We are His representatives, His manifestation. We put Him first when we express the lovely spiritual qualities that indicate our connection to divinity. Again, we “let our light shine,” and try to set an example as a good Christian.
We do not ignore the needs of others in our quest to put God first. It is the very unselfish deed we do in service to others that is God-like. We do not lose our common sense and care for others in our spiritual growth. Mrs. Eddy tells us in Science and Health: “The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus.” I think it is good to encourage our children to join service clubs such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and to seek out opportunities to do charitable work. They can also learn, then, that some of the best charity work we can do is to think merciful and true thoughts about the lives of others; to know that God blesses them and takes care of them. We should not dwell long in sympathy when it hits us, but take it up to the level of compassion. In other words, as Christian Scientists, we help others, but we do not get bogged down into believing in the reality of their situation. If God is all powerful, then the “other gods” of poverty, tragic circumstances, abuse, and prejudice cannot victimize God’s children nor keep them down. Truth and Love set free. This stance may sound odd to others, but it has proven to spiritually heal such situations by lifting thought above the physical picture to a sense of how God sees His universe. He is the only power and presence as the First Commandment indicates.
Your children can learn to turn to the one Mind for help in school. The belief in many minds separate from God is in disobedience to the First Commandment. We must claim to have the “mind of Christ,” the Christ consciousness that reflects divine Mind. Then we can be sure that the qualities of intelligence and wisdom will be ours to use when we need it. The ability to comprehend new ideas, perceive and intuit ideas, to remember just what we need for a test, to analyze, invent, observe, and to focus on the teacher — all will be seen as natural and
normal to everyone in school.
Remind your older children of the importance of rules. In elementary school, they will be faced with a number of rules that will help to keep everyone safe. There was a time when all these rules and regulations were not needed, but so many children have been raised without understanding how to behave in society, that the rules have had to be imposed for everyone’s protection. But, we can keep plugging away, trying to obey God’s commandments and the common courtesies of a polite society, and maybe one day all these rules in schools and businesses will be unnecessary.
These suggestions should give you an idea of how you might impart the spirit of the First Commandment to your children as they grow and are able to understand. The textbook, Science and Health, has a complete explanation of the nature of God. Encourage your older children to start reading the textbook a few pages a day. Some might prefer reading the Bible Lesson found in the Christian Science Quarterly. It comes in sections, and your child could fit in at least one section in the morning before school.
As mentioned in the beginning, there are many more lessons on the First Commandment found in my book elsewhere on this site.