Never had I cried so much. I felt a tinge of embarrassment, a touch of confusion, a small amount of fear. As a eight-year-old boy, I hated being noticed by adults. A few years earlier, I had welcomed the arrival of my little sister. Thankfully, I was no longer be the “cute one” getting his cheeks pinched. Praise the Lord! And yet, I kept sobbing quietly at the of front of the church for all the world to see. I couldn’t help it. All I could see was my grandmother’s coffin. And so I cried.
Over the last few years, many parents have questioned the wisdom of exposing kids to funerals. Death is hard. Many adults struggle to grapple with it in a helpful, biblical manner. Can we expect kids to do any better? Consequently, some parents will not let their kids attend their own father’s funeral.
However, parents on the other side of the fence view death to be a normal part of nature. They want their kids to know all about it. Some even go so far as to have little junior slap some painted hand prints on his grandpa’s coffin.
As parents and as those who work with kids at church we need to develop a biblical position on death and funerals. Should we hide death from our kids or should we encourage our kids to interact with death? The Bible says: we should talk about death. Let’s take a look.
The Bible On Death
Almost from the get go, the Bible discusses death (Gen. 2). It is everywhere in the scriptures. In the Old Testament, kids could be put to death for cursing their parents (Lev. 20:9). In the New Testament, Christ talks about fearing the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28).
The Bible talks discuss death not because it is a morbid book. It talks about death because this is our number one problem. As Ecclesiastes 9:5 says, “For the living know that they will die.” Everyone including our kids know that death exists. And most everyone is scared of dying. All around us, people are seeking out vitamins, surgery, and even cryonics in an attempt to escape death. Thankfully though, the Bible has a real solution and much less complicated solution. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin are death but the gift of God is eternal life for everyone who believes.”
Kids At Funerals
The Bible exposes kids to death. And, we should not be afraid to introduce our kids to death. It is a part of our DNA. But more importantly, it is part of our spiritual DNA. We are by nature children of wrath, children of death. And so are our kids. “For as in Adam all die” (I Cor. 15:22). We shouldn’t pretend otherwise. Rather, we should encourage our kids to mourn the death of loved ones and their own spiritual state.
By letting me attend my grandmother’s funeral, my parents helped to process death from a biblical perspective. I learned that trials of life could not be solved through pretending, new toys, or junk food. And as I mourned the death of my grandmother, I started to get why the world needed a savior. I started to get that we all need someone to save us from our tears. Revelation 21:4 was starting to become real. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
By bringing our kids to funerals, we expose them the worst and the scariest aspects of being human. But, that isn’t all. Our story doesn’t end with grief, loss, and hopelessness. It goes on to tell of the savior who died and rose again, the savior who conquered death. By helping our kids wrestle with death, we get to expose them to the beauty of Christ. “In Christ all shall be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22). Later on Paul sums up things nicely writing: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:56). By walking our kids through death, we get to show them the beauty of the gospel. As pastor and author Marty Machowski said,
Knowing one day they would die would remind them to trust God for each and every day.
A Quick Caution
Before I end, I want to address those of you who passionately disagree with me, those who are determined to shield their kids from death for as long as possible. Let me encourage you to be careful. I can’t see into your heart, so this may not be you at all. Feel free to ignore what follows. But in my limited experience, parents who keep their kids from death often do so out of fear. The parents don’t know how to handle death. They think God unjust for taking a loved. They aren’t sure of their salvation and tremble at the thought of being laid to rest one day. They avoid the subject of death with their kids because they don’t know handle it. If this is you, I encourage you to sit down and talk through the scriptures with a trusted friend or pastor. The Bible offers you a lot of hope.
Though we all are prone to fearing death, no Christian needs to fear the coffin. God is the God of the living!
He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken – Isaiah 25:8.