I operate under the assumption that what we do in life is rooted in the priorities that we have. Without even realizing it, we are answering a question about what is important just by the direction of our life. For example, if I take time to help someone with a project they have, I have demonstrated that service is important to me. That message speaks loudly to others, especially to my children.
We have reasons why we do what we do. Sure, the motives aren’t always the right ones, but a reason is a reason. The answer is never ‘because, that’s what we do” ; at least not if we are honest. Life needs to be purposeful, not wasteful. The reason being that we are operating on such limited time. Our life is only so long, so what is it going to be about?
When people are asked for reasons for something they do, they will either give an honest answer, a dishonest answer, or no answer. (a.k.a. the lazy answer)
Honest and Dishonest Answers
If my kids ask me why I am spending an entire day in the hospital with a student I can answer them by telling them that this person appreciates my company. I can tell them that I can bless them and encourage them in their hardship by being there. If someone has done something wrong and are being questioned about it, the answer can be harder to give. The honest answer is the straight forward approach. The dishonest answer is obviously the opposite of that.
The Lazy Answer
This is what parents tell their kids when they ask seemingly ridiculous questions. Why do I have to brush my teeth? Why I do need to close my eyes in order to sleep? Why do I have to clean my room? “Because” This response doesn’t actually answer the question, in fact it just shuts the communication process down. It says that the person is not willing to honestly engage in the discussion, or is just too tired to actually give an honest answer.
Another common lazy answer is the answer which says, “Stop asking me, you don’t have a choice.” This pulls rank on the unsuspecting person, but doesn’t answer their question. I often get the question, “Why do I have to go to school?” I could just say, “because you do, so get ready”. But, that doesn’t answer the question, it just shows my annoyance with the question. A better answer is, “because learning is an important part of growing up and something you will need as you get older.” That answer might get lost as it enters an ear, but at least the answer is honest.
The tragedy of not explaining it
The problem is that when parents are unwilling to answer the questions their children pose, even the routine ones, they risk resentment or confusion. If I constantly shut down my son for asking me why he has to go to school, all I am doing is distancing him from me and from the school. That is not helpful. If a friend has asked him to go to some get together and we don’t let him go, there is always a reason. The reason might just be that we don’t want to take him there, but it is still the reason. We have had things fall on Sundays and have said no because we try to set that day aside as a day of worship and family. Explaining that honestly, I believe, pays dividends later.
Why do we go to church?
One of the most significant areas I see this is with church attendance. Kids get to a point where they start to question what this church thing is all about. Then they get to high school and many of their friends get to sleep in on Sunday mornings and they wonder why they have to get out of bed and go to church. Why do we do this? If parents just say “because” or “you’re going” I believe they have missed a valuable opportunity to share why it is that we go to church. We don’t show up because it is routine or because it will inherently save us from sin. We show up because Jesus Christ is alive.
In Deuteronomy 6, Moses reminds the people that they need to be honest about passing on the law of God to the next generation. He warns them that the questions will come, but to answer them honestly.
In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. – Deuteronomy 6:20-21
Moses knew that kids would inevitably question the reason for all these commands. Even so, the answer remained the same as they went on. The reason that they were to obey the commands was because at one time they were slaves in Egypt, but God rescued them. It was God who met them where they were and placed them in a new place. That’s why.
That is exactly what happened to us as well. We were not slaves in Egypt, we were slaves to sin. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to come and rescue us from sin, freeing us from, its grip. That’s why we gather! We gather because we need to remember that Jesus Christ died and rose again to save us from our sin.
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 6:11
Instead of just running from questions, let’s embrace them as opportunities to impart truth. It might be the only chance we will get to do that in that person.