Learn 7 false teaching messages that kids are likely to fall prey to in our culture today and ways to battle them with your kids.
“I never thought I’d see the day when…”
We could fill in that blank with hundreds of things, especially after 2020. Don’t you think? Maybe I’m just getting old or maybe the whole world is really becoming a dumpster fire. (Maybe both, haha!)
Or maybe it’s been happening all along, but we’ve just been too busy doing our own thing to notice. (<—Probably that.)
Regardless of when it all “started getting worse,” I think we can all agree that we are living in a time when the words of 2 Peter 2 are unfolding much more clearly.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 2 Peter 2:1-3
You can’t turn on the television or scroll through social media with any hope of knowing what information is true. Even seemingly reliable sources are no longer telling us the truth, which is hard for this 80’s kid.
I mean, growing up it seemed like the biggest lie was Burger King’s promise “you can have it your way.” We all knew that was limited to burgers and even then it wasn’t always your way even when you ordered it that way.
Today, “your way” is the only way. Truth is a suggestion. And false teaching is way more difficult to discern.
Today, false teaching is not just something we might hear from people standing behind pulpits, it’s something that permeates every space of our lives.
Every meme, billboard, and news story has something to say to us and the messages are getting more and more dangerous. PLUS, even Christians are becoming more and more uninterested in the truth!
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
As parents we need to be prepared to fight the messages of false teaching so our kids have a fighting chance at walking humbly with God. We have to fight the false messages before they become ingrained in our kids and much more difficult to speak into.
Practically speaking, there are several steps to guarding your kids from false teaching:
- Identify the false teaching and messages through lots of open conversations.
- Keep a list in your home to refer to.
- Help kids learn the truths (including Bible references) that refute each false message and write them on your list.
- Have regular open dialogue with your kids about the dangers of false teaching and where they might find it.
- Create a solid foundation of truth for them to stand on.
To help you get started, I’ve identified 7 false teaching messages that kids are likely to fall prey to in our culture today. Some, I’ve even believed for a season. How about you?
1. Follow your heart
Thanks to Disney and a host of other kids’ movies/shows, our kids are bombarded with the message to “follow your heart.” And a close second: “Do what feels right.”
On the surface, both of these have good intentions and almost sound right, but if you look deeper they couldn’t be more wrong!
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our heart is deceitful and wicked–not able to be trusted! Matthew 15:18-19 backs this up with its reminder that evil thoughts come from the heart.
The truth is, feelings are unreliable at best and wicked more often than we’d like to admit. We can’t trust how we feel about something. We must take it back to God’s Word.
I don’t know about you, but I’m certain about this one because my own feelings have encouraged me to punch someone’s lights out, throw a fit, or even be dishonest about something that seems unfair. Thankfully, I don’t always listen! But I listen far too often and I’m sure you do too.
2. Godly living brings prosperity
This false teaching message is so popular it has its own name: The Prosperity Gospel. You’ll find it on popular tv channels and boldly proclaimed in best-selling books, but it’s a HUGE LIE!
I could point out countless people who live godly lives and yet meet the deepest poverty. Take, for example, missionaries. Certainly people who sell everything and devote their lives to telling others about Christ would be incredibly rich if this false gospel was true, right?
And let us not forget several people in the Bible, such as John the Baptist. In Matthew 11:11 Jesus tells us that John was the greatest man to ever live. What did he have? Absolutely nothing!
But that’s not even the most compelling argument against this false teaching. The truth is, God has saved our commendation (our prize) for heaven.
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5
Paul had much to say about this topic, but perhaps the most compelling message is found here:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8
You’ll also find this truth in these verses:
- 2 Corinthians 5:10
- Matthew 6:19-21
- Matthew 16:24-27
- Mark 10:17-31
- Luke 6:38
- 1 Timothy 6:7-10
- Proverbs 22:1
Our treasure is in heaven. We may not see riches here on earth because that is not God’s ultimate goal for us. To say that godly living leads to wealth is staunchly opposite of what Jesus teaches us.
3. Right choices will get you the perfect life
I could fill a book with the dangers of this VERY false teaching message. Sadly, it’s one that I bought hook, line, and sinker as a young woman. I believed that if I got all the right grades, made all the right choices, and hung around all the right people, my life would be perfect. I believed that the white picket fence and perfect family was just waiting for me. It was such a horrible lie.
I think our friend Job would have to agree with me on this one. Do you know his story? Job 1:1 tells us that he was blameless and upright in the eyes of the Lord. You can’t get it more right than that!
But when you keep reading, you see that Job lost everything—his kids, his livelihood, even his health. He learned one of the hardest lessons in all of life.
Read that again for good measure —> You can make ALL THE RIGHT CHOICES and still have deep brokenness and suffering in your life.
This is one lie that even well-meaning parents are telling their kids. It’s not just some false teacher somewhere! We tell our kids that if they want to have money, they need to go to college. But we fail to tell them that sometimes the economy crashes and sometimes people get fired.
Life is full of unexpected trials and struggles that we didn’t “earn” with our choices—like cancer, the death of a child, or a crazy pandemic. Of course, I’m not advocating that we tell our kids to do whatever they want since life will be hard anyway. That’s crazy.
Good choices matter. But they do not guarantee a perfect life.
4. God will never give you more than you can handle
I don’t know who started this one, but they ought to be spanked. Haha. Seriously, this one single false teaching message has wrecked us as Christians. NOWHERE in the Bible does it say that God won’t give you more than you can handle.
It does say He won’t tempt you without giving you a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). That is a FAR cry from not giving you more than you can handle! In fact, I’d like to challenge you to think of it like this—if God didn’t give you more than you could handle on your own, what would you need Him for??
The same Paul who wrote 1 Corinthians 10:13 wrote these words about the incredible suffering and trials that God allowed him to endure:
…For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.
2 Corinthians 1:8
God gives us more than we can handle so He can show Himself mighty in our lives. It’s through us that His glory is seen by others. Philippians 4:11–13 reminds us that it’s God who gives us strength. In 2 Corinthians 12:7–10, we are told that God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.
It’s the very weakest of things in our life that God uses to show Himself both to us and to others, so why would He ever take that away? He designed us to depend on Him!
Knowing this truth will really help you with the next false teaching message.
5. If you try harder, you can be right with God
This is yet another message I lived far too much of my life believing. If I could just be more _____________ then I would be right with God. You can fill in the blank with your own “lie” because I know you’ve told yourself this one.
And it’s no surprise you have because we hear this false teaching from nearly every pulpit in America. Follow these rules or commandments and you can get your life right with God. Sound familiar?
Now I don’t think your pastor is a false teacher. And I’m not against rules (God has some pretty awesome guidelines for us to live by).
But there is NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, we can do to get right with God.
We are hopelessly lost in our sin. We can’t try harder and fix this mess we are in. If we could, then Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die on the cross.
Here’s the truth: Jesus died to make you (and I) right with God. That was the ONLY way for it to happen. No amount of trying on our part will work.
Now I’m not advocating for a lifestyle of sin since Jesus has already saved us. I’m advocating for a lifestyle that draws its strength from the right place. If you want righteousness in your life, you’ll need to get it from Jesus.
And likewise, when you mess up (like every single day) you’ll need to lay it back at the feet of Jesus and trade your filthy rags for His clean ones. This is especially important to teach our kids because they WILL FAIL!
We can’t be good enough to be a Christian. Which is a really good thing since being a Christian isn’t about being good anyway. It’s about Jesus being good—taking our place—and freeing us from the bondage of sin.
Help your kids understand this truth by making sure there is much conversation in your home about mercy, grace, and forgiveness right along with the rules God has given us to keep us safe.
If this sounds too vague and/or you need help, I strongly recommend reading Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles by Paul David Tripp. It’s hands-down the best parenting book on the market and it will give you a clear vision for how rules and grace fit nicely together.
6. I deserve better
This false teaching makes me cringe. In light of what I shared above about how hopelessly lost in our sin we are, how could we ever say something like this?
Well, it’s because we buy lie #3, convinced that our right choices earn us something really great. But we forget that even if we make right choices on the big or outward things in life, we are all still sinners (Romans 3:23).
I worked many years with a man who taught our 6th graders to respond to the question, “How are you?” with “Better than I deserve.”
I think the beauty of it was originally lost on me, but it’s now a treasure because that should be the true song of our heart. We deserve hell and death. It was OUR SINS that nailed Jesus to that cross.
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). That is what we deserve.
But we’ve been pardoned. We are better than we deserve. How can we demand rights? Why do we think we are owed something simply because we made some right choices?
Yet we do. In our pettiness we tell God that we don’t deserve suffering. We don’t deserve trials. But we must take notes from Job once again who said…
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil? Job 2:10
As parents, we can help our kids see that they don’t “deserve” the things their flesh demands. Oh, they will still think they do, but our efforts will go a long way in helping them fight this battle as adults. And perhaps it will remove some of that entitlement we hate to see in young adults.
7. I need ME time
I almost left this one off because it really ruffles our feathers. We think we deserve great things and we definitely need our “me time.” After all, great counselors have been preaching this to us for years.
Brace yourself for it. THEY ARE WRONG.
ME time is selfish. The whole idea is focused not on the things God has called you to, but on what you want. Nothing good can come out of that. But, this particular issue has been on the hot seat for good reason because aren’t we supposed to take care of ourselves?
Let’s answer that from God’s Word.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
Let me see if I can shed some light on the difference between taking care of yourself and having “me time” by sharing my own story. You see, I’m a single mom. My husband left (to have some “me time”) over 10 years ago.
There are nights when I don’t feel like cooking dinner because I’m exhausted raising four kids alone, homeschooling, and managing the household as well as working full-time. Ok, there are a lot of nights like that.
But my kids need to eat and I’m the only one who can provide that for them. So I do it. That’s putting others before yourself.
I also forgo new clothes most of the time and skip the fancy drinks because I want my kids to take piano lessons and have money for other things that will grow them. That’s putting others before yourself.
Now most parents make choices like this. In fact, that’s the very nature of parenting. It’s a relatively thankless and exhausting job. No wonder so many of us are seeking “me time.” We need a break!
I’ve got good news. Breaks are not only good, they are commanded by the Lord (Matthew 11:28–30). So go ahead and rest. Just don’t call it “me time” and don’t do it at the expense of other people. Get your rest from the Lord!
Remember that our kids are watching and they will one day mimic what we do as parents. Let’s guide them in this by carefully framing our choices and wording our rest the way God encourages us to do it. (Which, ahem, doesn’t always involve a spa day—sorry girls.)
Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the topics I did mention. I pray that this post has given you a place to start and challenged you to think about the messages we send with these phrases.
I would highly encourage you to be intentional about discussing these things as a family. That’s why I wrote Foundations of Faith.
In the study, you’ll lay a foundation for your faith, straight from the Bible, reviewing topics like salvation, discernment, and godly living. Next up, you’ll dig in and discuss 10 crucial topics as a family.
I’ll give you a list of Bible verses, questions to ponder, and resources for further study. YOU SUPPLY the statement of faith as you record your thoughts and ideas together as a family. Get started today!
Through practical tools & Bible-based resources, Kim Sorgius is dedicated to helping your family GROW in faith so you can be Not Consumed by life’s struggles. Author of popular kid’s devotional Bible studies and practical homeschooling tools, Kim has a master’s degree in education and curriculum design coupled with over 2 decades of experience working with kids and teens. Above all, her most treasured job is mother and homeschool teacher of four amazing kiddos.