6 ways to teach young children about the reality of suffering around the world

November 7, 2016

My oldest son just turned five, and this age is a joy. He understands the world in new ways every day and is asking tough, thoughtful questions. As a parent, I sense my goals are changing. My days with him are no longer defined by gaining ounces, learning words or “going” in the potty. (Can I get an amen?!) But I feel like my back is leaning on a door with the weight of the world behind it.

My husband and I have served in ministry for over a decade now. In God’s providence, my children have never known hunger and have hardly faced pain or loss. Yet, Judson is beginning to understand what it means when Daddy preaches a funeral, when we buy groceries for other families or send money to feed the hungry on the other side of the world.

If I’m honest, the temptation I have in parenting is the same one I have in the rest of my life: to avoid suffering at all costs. Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The art of life is the avoidance of pain.” It’s easy to think Judson is not ready to have these difficult discussions. Yet, as Christians we know that we should glory in tribulations. (Rom 5:3-4) Jesus even promises trials. (John 16:33)

In age-appropriate ways, my husband and I are seeking to lay a foundation for our children that includes the reality of hardship and suffering. We pray they will see God in those times and learn to trust him through them. Here are a few suggestions of some discussions that we are having in our home.

  1. The world is big, and God loves it all. (John 3:16) In any way you can, think globally. Talk about where your coffee came from. Get a book from the library about another country. Pray for the family who is adopting internationally. In an ever-increasing scope, open your child’s eyes wide to this amazing world God has created.
  2. The world is full of people who have needs and face difficulties. One of the upsides of the time in which we are parenting is that we have no excuse for not knowing about global realities—even when we spend many hours sheltered in our homes. Pray for the victims of the most recent disaster. Thank God for the “good guys” who protect us here and abroad. Introduce the idea that hard things have purpose (Rom 8:28), and God is still in control in difficult circumstances (Mark 4:39-40).
  3. God has placed us here and now for a reason. God has an amazing plan for our lives and that centers on proclaiming and showing God’s love to others (Matt 5:16, 2 Cor 1:3-4). No matter where you live, poverty is just around the corner. Our church is involved in a backpack ministry at a local school that sends home healthy snacks for children at risk of hunger. My child is now old enough to help pack those bags and think about his peers who need help. Seek to understand the needs of your community, and introduce them to your children as an opportunity to show God’s love.
  4. God has given us everything we have. I’m sure every parent of preschoolers is working on this one. We should be a thankful people and happy with the things we have (Phil 4:12). Talk about God’s grace. Talk about stewardship. Ask their little minds, “How can we use our money to love others?” We give to Global Hunger Relief to support the hunger projects of IMB missionaries and NAMB ministries around the world. Together, we’ve watched the videos about where our money goes and talked about the babies who don’t have mommies and how we give to help get them the milk they need. Those moments are precious to me.
  5. God has given the church as a gift to us and to others. Expanding the concept of the church from a building to a body can difficult for the literal mind of a five-year-old. But it starts with knowing and spending time with the people of the church. My husband and I seek to be intentional about having people in our home. I know this can be hard to do when you feel like you live with feral animals instead of small humans (my hand is raised!). I’m always encouraged by thinking about how loved and welcomed I have felt as the guest of others. Opening your home opens your children’s lives in controlled ways and can be a lot of fun along the way.
  6. Everyone needs to hear the good news of Jesus. (Matthew 28:16-20) Talk about the saving grace of Jesus Christ here and abroad. If you have the opportunity to go to another country, go! If you can’t, think about creative ways your family can support those who are going. Take your kids next door to your very own neighbors who need the gospel and seek to meet their needs. Connecting the ideas of physical needs to spiritual needs cannot be missed. Jesus has called us to serve them both (Matt 10:42).

As I introduce the idea of the suffering of others to my children, I know that some day these truths will become personal. Tim Keller wrote, “No matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friends and family, and successful with our career—something will inevitably ruin it.” I want to begin to prepare them for that day now.

Seeing and trusting God’s purpose through difficulty is one of the greatest joys and freedoms of the Christian life. I pray for the day that my children know and embrace this truth in their own hearts.

Jill Waggoner

Jill Waggoner serves as a communications and PR strategist, writing and developing content for the organization’s online and print resources. She has served the ERLC since 2005, including as brand manager for Global Hunger Relief from 2014-2018. A graduate of Union University, she and her family reside in Lebanon, Tennessee. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24