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Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

Why You Should Teach Your Children About the Covenant of Grace

by Kendra Dahl posted October 25, 2021

When God created Adam, he placed him in the Garden of Eden and gave him a job to do. If Adam did the job well, he’d be rewarded. He’d achieve eternal rest, living forever in a state of perfect union with God. This was a covenant of works—Adam would do the work, and then he would rest and be rewarded.

But we know what happened. Adam sinned and brought the whole human race down with him (Gen. 3:6; Rom. 5:12). So God made a new covenant: the covenant of grace. He promised that he would graciously provide a redeemer—the seed of the woman would come and do the work Adam couldn’t, saving his people from their sin (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 5:19).

Drawn to a Covenant of Works

Every human being is born into the covenant of works. We’re born bent to do the work—to try to earn the rest we long for. This is what Paul means when he says we have the law written on our hearts (Rom. 2:15). We’re born knowing right and wrong, knowing we have something to achieve, something to prove. But, stuck in Adam’s fallen nature, we can never do the work required. Like Sisyphus, we’ll push the rock up the hill only to watch it roll down to the bottom, and then we’ll start again.

We’ll keep striving until we realize we must live under God’s covenant of grace. In humility, we cast our futile efforts upon the cross, crying out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” We admit that we’ll never be able to do enough work to achieve rest, and so we cling to the work of Christ, and trust him when he says, “It is finished.” In Christ, we live free from the endless striving our human nature is bent towards. We live knowing we’re not accepted or condemned based on our achievements.

The problem is that our hearts are drawn to the covenant of works. We like how achievement feels. In our pride, we want to believe we can earn something and prove our worth.

But this article is supposed to be about our kids.

Preach the Counter-Cultural Covenant of Grace

Like us, our children are prone to slip into a covenant of works. They look to the work of their hands to prove their worth and give their lives meaning. They hold up their homework and say, “Do you see, Mommy?” and in their hearts they long for approval and recognition and the reassurance that they’re okay.

The world will continually beckon them back into the covenant of works, inviting them to prove themselves by what they do. But it will never be enough. Helping our kids understand that they live under a covenant of grace sets them up for a lifetime of living in the rest Christ offers.

This is a hard one to teach our kids, because it’s a hard one to learn ourselves. We’re prone to fall back into trying to prove ourselves by our striving. But we’re also guilty of putting our kids under a covenant of works, subtly (or not so subtly) communicating to them that their value to us is wrapped up in their performance. 

Preaching the counter-cultural covenant of grace in our homes has the power to lift heavy burdens off our shoulders and keeps us from heaping those burdens onto the shoulders of our children. Let’s prepare our children for life in a world that screams at them to strive by teaching them that Christ’s yoke is easy, and his burden is light (Matt. 11:28). 

Photo of Kendra Dahl

Kendra Dahl

Kendra Dahl is the Director of Content for Core Christianity and White Horse Inn, a writer, wife, and mom of three. Originally from Fargo, North Dakota, she currently lives in the San Diego area, where she loves life among the beach and mountains and doesn't miss the snow even a little bit. She has an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Westminster Seminary California and writes to invite people into the healing and freedom found in knowing Christ. You can find her on Instagram.

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