Ten Words for Littles

By Jaime Sherman

In her book Ten Words To Live By, Jen Wilkin observes that most Americans struggle to remember the Ten Commandments and notes the moral laws of Exodus 20 “suffer from a PR problem.”

“They are seen by many as the obsolete utterances of a thunderous, grumpy God to a disobedient people, neither of whom seem very relatable or likable,” she writes. “Because we have trouble seeing any beauty in the Ten Words, forgetting them comes easily.”

Just think about your earliest interactions with the Ten Commandments. Have you ever joined the throngs on Easter weekend that gather around the TV for Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 blockbuster of the same name? Do you remember the scene in which an angry Moses portrayed by Charlton Heston throws down the stone tablets with the declaration, “Those who do not live by the law will die by the law”?

Have the “thou shalt not” rules felt like a heavy burden instead of a gift from a loving God? Have you completely dismissed the Ten Commandments as archaic or not in sync with a grace-giving God?

Delighting in the Ten Words doesn’t come naturally in our 2021 world, but as Jen Wilkin writes, “The Ten Words are encouraging words, meant to give us hope — hope that we will live rightly oriented to God and others, hope that we will grow in holiness. They are not given to discourage but to delight. They are no less than words of life.”

As I help prepare blog content and study questions for our summer dive into Wilkin’s book, I have a great hope that my study of the Ten Commandments will overflow to my children and their lasting memories of God’s Law will be sweet. I want them to learn from an early age to delight in God’s Word and His guidelines for a fruitful journey toward eternity with Him. Do you share this desire with me for your children, your grandchildren, and the young ones in your sphere of influence?

Here are just a few ideas I’ve had for sharing the Ten Words with my children:

  • Buy a copy of Ten Words to Live By for my high school daughters and middle school son, encouraging us to read and discuss one chapter of the book each week through the summer. I will encourage them to underline or highlight key points and jot down thoughts or prayers. The book can serve as a journal to review in coming years.
  • Consider forming a DIY small group with another mom of teenagers and use discussion questions provided by UFC Women to guide the conversations each week. (You can sign up here to receive weekly resources.)
  • Search for teaching podcasts on the Law from Bible Project (simply search “Ten Commandments”) and The Bible Recap to share with my children.
  • Play the audio book of Ten Words to Live By in the car as I drive kids to summer activities. Then, talk to them about what we can learn from the book. They are never too young to hear truth about God’s Word.
  • Help all my children regardless of age memorize the Ten Commandments. Many helpful resources can make this fun and easy, including audio recordings of Exodus 20 (one of these resources is coming next week to ufcwomen.blog) and New City Catechism with its memory points and songs.
  • Teach my littlest ones, who struggle to memorize long sections of Scripture, Luke 10:27: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Other options include Matthew 22:35-40 and Mark 12:28-31.
  • Spend time in the Psalm 19 with my children to show them the beauty of God’s Law.
  • Direct special activities to help commit the Ten Commandments to memory, including copying out Exodus 20:1-17 in a journal or on 3×5 cards once a week for 10 weeks, designing a comic strip with 10 frames to remember the Ten Words, or designing and hanging a poster of the Ten Commandments on a wall in the house.

What are your ideas for sharing the Ten Commandments with the children in your life? I hope you’ll share your ideas in the comments section below.

Click here to register for our summertime coffee and conversation groups of Wilkin’s book.