Little House and the Big Omission, Part 2

In Part 1, we made the case for how the Little House series portrays a cultural Christianity that contains moral teaching, positive character traits, a good work ethic, and traditional family values yet is bankrupt of the saving gospel of Christ. It portrays a religion of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. We must train our children to be discerning, always doubting man’s word and comparing it to God’s inspired, perfect Word. Now we will continue our survey of relevant Little House passages that give us the opportunity to teach our children how to recognize cultural Christianity—which still exists in America, though weaker and more secular than ever—and combat it with biblical truth.

Response to Trials

In By the Shores of Silver Lake (217–19), Ma recounted the illness that took Mary’s sight and how she patiently endured the trial. Reverend Alden responded, “We must remember that whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and a brave spirit will turn all our afflictions to good.” Later he prayed, beseeching God, “Who knew their hearts and their secret thoughts, to look down on them there, and to forgive their sins and help them to do right.” After the pastor prayed, Laura felt a peace and resolve about giving up her own desires so that Mary could go to the college for the blind.

Discussion Questions

  • Do we know for certain that Mary’s blindness was a result of God’s chastening? (Luke 13:1–5; John 9:3; Hebrews 12:5–11)
  • For whom does God work all things together for good? (Romans 8:28)
  • Whose likeness are Christians to be conformed to? (Romans 8:29)
  • When the reverend prayed for forgiveness, how was it disconnected from the gospel? (Acts 4:12; Ephesians 1:7)

Mary and the Goodness of God

In Little Town on the Prairie (11–13), Laura was relishing her friendship with her sister now that they were grown up. But she confided that when they were little, she’d often want to slap Mary for being so good all the time. Mary explained that a lot of her “goodness” was showing off, and she referred to the Bible’s teaching about people’s wicked hearts. Then Mary said, “I don’t believe we ought to think so much about ourselves, about whether we are bad or good. . . . It isn’t so much thinking, as—as just knowing. Just being sure of the goodness of God.”

Discussion Questions

  • Is being sure of the goodness of God enough to save a person? (Romans 2:4; Titus 3:4–7)
  • When the rich young man called Jesus “good,” how did Christ respond to demonstrate He was God in the flesh? (Mark 10:17–18)
  • What did Jesus tell the religious leader Nicodemus must happen to a person before he can see the kingdom of God (John 3:1–8)?

Raucous Revival Meeting

In Little Town on the Prairie (276–79), the Ingalls family listened quietly while fiery Reverend Brown worked up the rest of the crowd into an emotional frenzy, crying, “Repent ye, repent ye while yet there is time, time to be saved from damnation!”

Discussion Questions

  • How can emotional altar calls manipulate an audience to short-lived responses? (Joel 2:13; Luke 8:11–15; 14:25–33)
  • What was missing from Laura’s description of Reverend Brown’s altar call? (Acts 20:21; 1 Corinthians 2:2)
  • How can a person know that he has eternal life? (1 John 5:13)

Removing “Obey” from Wedding Vows

In These Happy Golden Years (269–70), Laura discussed wedding vows with her fiancé and said, “I am not going to say I will obey you.” She explained, “I do not think I could obey anybody against my better judgment.”

Discussion Questions

  • Whose judgment are we to trust? (Proverbs 3:5–7; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 8:7; 1 Corinthians 1:25; 2 Timothy 3:16)
  • Can you think of a Bible passage that speaks of a wife obeying her husband as an example for other wives to follow? (1 Peter 3:6; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22–24)
  • If a husband were to ask his wife to do something that involved disobeying God’s Word, whom should she obey? (Acts 5:29)
  • What “great mystery” is shown when a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church and when a wife submits to her husband “just as the church is subject to Christ”? (Ephesians 5:22–33 )

Works Cited

Laura Ingalls Wilder. By the Shores of Silver Lake. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

———. Little Town on the Prairie. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

———. These Happy Golden Years. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

Developing a Generous Spirit in Children

Christmas is almost here! Can you remember the excitement shivering up and down your spine and bursting energetically out through gleeful screams of joy? Or maybe you sheepishly remember the pouting whines of disappointment after you unwrapped yet another present that you didn’t ask for or want. Being thankful for the generosity of others wasn’t the first thing on your mind. Neither was being generous to others. Because of our own experiences as immature children, we know the importance of teaching our children to be generous rather than selfish.

The focus of Christmastime should be on the Savior, who was born to die as the substitute for our sins. Though peripheral to the main point of Christ’s substitutionary death (which was far more than simply an example of generosity for us to mimic), a fitting application of this event is to recognize the generosity of God’s gift to us and in turn to demonstrate generosity by giving gifts to others. But how can we instill a generous spirit in our children?

Teaching

Precept: James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:17-18

Example: The Good Samaritan

Generosity is evidence of true faith. This presupposes that generosity isn’t going to be easy. It will take faith because giving usually demands sacrifice. What kills generosity? Selfishness. What compels it? Compassion. Giving a Christmas present to a friend or classmate may seem insignificant. It’s usually a small token that’s ancillary to that person’s survival or livelihood. But it may be revealing. How generous are you toward others even in little things?

So how can you naturally weave this biblical precept into your classroom teaching? If you’re teaching geography, you can open up students’ eyes to the other parts of the world where people are in great need. Then ask them about their own community. If you’re teaching math, you could teach them (in regard to finances) that a good use of their material gain is helping to provide for others’ needs (Eph. 4:28; 1 Tim. 5:8; James 1:27). Generosity is also giving of oneself even in nonmaterial ways. Helping each other with their classroom chores or explaining a hard-to-grasp concept are ways that your students can be generous with their time.

Modeling

We all know the old saying that actions speak louder than words. It may hurt to ask ourselves the tough question, but are we modeling materialism or generosity? Classroom teaching is important, but so is our deportment outside the classroom. Social influences from friends and teachers can powerfully affect students’ lives so that they conform to that acceptable social standard. If the majority of the normal conversations are geared toward getting the latest gadgets or designer clothes for our own Christmas presents rather than focused on reaching out to those in need, then that’s the spirit children will catch. Most likely it’s already the spirit they’ve seen modeled elsewhere and have conformed to. We don’t want to be curmudgeons, but we can steer the conversation toward others’ needs when there are opportunities for them to get involved in helping others.

Involving

What needs can students actually see and meet in real life? Is there a class activity or field trip that involves them in a community project? Is there something that they have learned in school that gives them a skill that they can use for others? For example, an art class or family and consumer science class could participate in a project to make something for lonely people in a nursing home. An English class could write notes of encouragement along with a book giveaway to a children’s shelter. A music class, choir, or band could proclaim the good news of the gospel by performing in the community. Every opportunity should be used as an avenue to communicate human value for those made in the image of God (Creation) and give hope to the hopeless (Fall) because of Christ’s gift (Redemption).

Behavior must be rooted in beliefs (foundation), but it is formed through examples (reinforcement) and practice (opportunities).

How do you help ground your students’ beliefs and form their behaviors?

My Gifts

image of a poem by Eileen Berry on a gift tag.

When we consider the greatness of the gifts God has given us in Christ, any offering we could make in return seems rather paltry. But in looking at the men and women of the Christmas story, we find models of gift-giving that any believer can imitate. … [Continue reading]

Celebrating 12 Days of Christmas!

chalkboard background with JourneyForth book covers

Want to know how the books for the 12 Days of Christmas sale were chosen? We asked different employees to choose a book that has special meaning to them. In the list below you will find links to several of their stories. Chickadee … [Continue reading]