75 Reasons to Share the Bible with Kids (Even if You Don’t Believe Any of It)

By Wendy Thomas Russell | November 19, 2012 | 18 comments

If we want our children to be religiously literate — and who among us doesn’t, honestly? — then it behooves us to talk about the Bible in respectful terms, even if we don’t think much of it is true. When parents call the Bible “a book of fairy tales” (direct quote from my survey for nonreligious parents), it makes the whole thing seem silly and unimportant. And not just unimportant in a religious way, but unimportant in a universal way.

I grew up with parents who talked about William Shakespeare like he was THE MAN (with Mark Twain and Louis Armstrong placed only slightly lower on the totem pole of MAN-NESS.) From a pretty early age, I just knew that culturally well-rounded human beings had devoted some serious time to William Shakespeare. As a result, it never crossed my mind not to read him or be interested in him. How different it would have been, though, had all I heard about Shakespeare was that he was really hard to read, really hard to understand, very outdated, not at all realistic and completely irrelevant to modern times.

Religious literacy comes down to 60 percent Bible literacy and 40 percent* other stuff. So talking about it like it’s an annoying book that makes people do irrational things REALLY, REALLY, REALLY defeats the purpose here. Plain and simple: If you don’t find the Bible interesting, your kid won’t either. You are their model in this.

And it’s not just the stories — The Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath — that are worth knowing. It’s the context to all the idioms and expressions we hear and use on a daily basis. (You’d be surprised how many there are — and how many people use wrong!) In fact, each one of these expressions is a very good reason to encourage your child to get to know the Bible** in some form or another.

Here are a mere 75 of them!

1. Forbidden fruit

2. Good Samaritan

3. No room at the inn

4. Raising Cain

5. Old as the hills

6. Throw the first stone

7. Salt of the earth

8. Eye for an eye

9. Rise and shine!

10. Am I my brother’s keeper?

11. Out of the mouths of babes

12. At my wit’s end

13. Babble (as in baby babble)

14. Be that as it may

15. Bear with me

16. Beside myself

17. Blind leading the blind

18. Crystal clear

19. Nothing new under the sun

20. Eat drink and be merry

21. Face to face

22. Head and shoulders above the rest

23. How the mighty have fallen

24. Kiss of death

25. Lambs to the slaughter

26. Left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing

27. Man cannot live on bread alone

28. Many are called, but few are chosen

29. No rest for the wicked

30. So to speak

31. Such and such

32. The truth shall set you free

33. Two heads are better than one

34. Who do you think you are?

35. Wolf in sheep’s clothing

36. Woe is me

37. Written in stone

38. You reap what you sow

39. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

40. A broken heart

41. Cross to bear

42. Drop in the bucket

43. Fly in the ointment

44. Labor of love

45. Man after his own heart

46. Peace offering

47. Sign of the times

48. Two-edged sword

49. As old as Methuselah

50. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust

51. White as snow

52. Spare the rod, spoil the child

53. Bite the dust

54. By the skin of your teeth

55. Can a leopard change its spots?

56. Cast the first stone

57. Coat of many colors

58. Fall from grace

59. Forgive them for they know not what they do

60. Get thee behind me Satan! (Not to be confused with “Get the too a nunnery!”)

61. Harden your heart

62. Alpha and Omega

63. It’s better to give than to receive

64. Land of Nod

65. Twinkling of an eye

66. Oh ye of little faith

67. Den of thieves

68. Patience of Job

69. Pearls before swine

70. Put your house in order

71. Wisdom of Solomon

72. Ends of the Earth

73. Powers that be

74. Straight and narrow

75. Sour grapes

* I made up those percentages. They are utterly meaningless.

** My very favorite so far is the DK Children’s Illustrated Bible. Do check it out if you’re in the market.



  1. Excellent post!
    Loved it!

  2. Mark says:

    I think you miss the point. We do not feel the same religious pressure because anyone here can believe (or not) what they want to. The Norwegian government, authorities and people spent months investigating, debating and trying to understand what made Breivik do what he did. Unfortunately it didn’t help, but that’s not the point.
    I understand faith, and I accept that people have faith, but only trying to understand Christianity is not doing your kids any favours. Teach them about Islam, Judaism, Buddhism etc. Comparative religion allows children (and adults) to see the similarities and differences between religions and illustrates the fallacies, contradictions and biases they all contain. I wish you well with you blog, but I think you should take care about only focusing on Christianity – There are more strange and wonderful belief systems out there!

  3. Max B. says:

    Wendy: I think you make a good argument here about literacy.

    (I remember when I started reading Shakespeare in high school, I thought to myself “Wow, this guy sure uses a lot of cliches!” Doh.)

    Thanks for the link to the picture bible for kids. I do have a question, though, for you and the gang here: Beyond the illustrated kiddy version, which bible would you recommend? I grew up reading the King James Version, but I’ve noticed over the last couple of decades there seem to have appeared new renditions of the bible using more common speech (eliminating the Thees/Thous etc.), presumably to make the language more accessible to modern English speakers. I think the modernized English version sounds funny, but only because it’s different than the stuff I was force-fed during my childhood.

    What do you think? I understand you were spared the unfortunate indoctrination that I and many of your readers endured in our childhoods, so I’m curious what your take is on the KJV versus modernized.

    Thanks. Love your blog. Can’t wait to read your book.

  4. Mark says:

    From the other comments it looks like this is a poorly concealed Bible based Christian website! Shame – I thought for a minute it was genuine – you live and learn!

  5. Corey says:

    Yeah, Eye for an Eye is actually Hammurabi’s code, circa 1772 BC.

  6. Mark says:

    And your entire focus is on the Bible? Not the Koran or the teaches of Buddha or any other religion? I wonder where your personal bias is? I absolutely agree that all children, once they reach an age where they are able to reason logically and are not simply overwhelmed by their parents biases, should learn that many people believe many strange things. Whether the Bible is the book I would choose to teach about is an open question. The Bible contains misogyny, racism, racial and sexual intolerance, bigotry, encouragement for rape, murder and various forms of torture – none of which I wish my children to consider normal. So how precisely do you feel we should teach about the Bible?

    • Um. There are so many things to tackle in this comment I’m exhausted just looking at it. Anyone else want to take this one? If no one gets around to it, I’ll respond later today.

    • Rich Wilson says:

      I’ve sometimes felt that Wendy has an ‘active/large religion’ bias, in that I’ve gotten the impression that she’s more concerned with not offending Christians/Muslims/Jews/Hinuds than say Wiccans. After further discussions, I’m left not being so sure for feeling it so strongly. And maybe it’s my own bias.

      I think there’s good reason to spend more energy on the bible, and that’s that it is quite honestly a much bigger part of (most of) ‘our’ culture(s). When my son is asked to pray for a sick friend, I want him to have some idea of where that request comes from. And I want him to know why plastic baby Jesus is freezing on our neighbors’ lawns all December. And yes, why some women in the community wear head scarfs all the time. But there aren’t many of them, and nobody is expected to know why, other than “they’re Muslim”.

      I don’t expect my son to think anything is normal because it’s in the bible. In fact, I expect (and he has) come away with the idea that the bible contains enough insanity that it’s all pretty much suspect.

      • Mark says:

        Well At least that’s an honest response and more power to you for that. Living in Norway we don’t have the same religious pressure that you no doubt experience. My starting point is that my kids (who are now adults with kids of their own) should question any and all “faiths” i.e. beliefs without evidence, and ask of them “where is your proof?”
        So far they haven’t fallen for any religions! ;-)

  7. Rich Wilson says:

    Pears before swine?

    • Rich Wilson says:

      also having trouble with the biblical origins of 30 and 31?

      • Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. — Hebrews 7:9-10

        So David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, “Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.’ And I have directed my young men to such and such a place.” — 1 Samuel 21:2

        • Rich Wilson says:

          I seem to have hit the nesting thread.

          “So to speak” and “Such and such”- Those are highly translation dependent. They do both occur in the KJV, but not in other versions:

          According to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/such%20and%20such “Such and such” predates the KJV by several centuries, but postdates the scripture by quite a bit more.

          The question for me is- if we didn’t have the bible, would we have that phrase? In those two cases, I think we would. In the others, I think we would not.

          • Charlie says:

            Rich, I think the purpose of this post is one of cultural literacy, not etymology. Certain phrases and concepts that are so much a part of our shared experience as to be cliches owe their cultural significance, if not their coinage, to the bible (particularly the KJV.) On a side note, it’s amazing to me how much of our language we owe to Shakespeare and the KJV. (The Shakespeare equivalent of this list is also fun: http://www.pathguy.com/shakeswo.htm).

            As to Mark’s comments, the blog is for parents who aren’t religious to help them speak to their kids about religion in a way that is both respectful of religion and true to their beliefs. The U.S. is more religious than Scandinavian countries. If you are a secular parent in a secular country, good for you. You probably don’t need much help talking to your kid about religion because it’s probably not a problem for you. But if you are like more and more of us in the States – secular people with close family members and friends we love who are deeply religious – the blog helps. The blog is Christian-friendly because we have Christian friends. It’s Christian-focused because Christianity is the dominant religion here.

            And Mark, even being from Norway and not feeling the same religious pressures we face in the U.S., you are not totally free from them. We were in Sweden at a beautiful island park in July of 2011 when the terrible shootings took place on a very similar island in Norway. If I recall correctly, the attacker was a Norwegian right-wing Christian zealot who acted – in part- out of religious intolerance. It’s possible the world you find yourself in today might not be as free from religious pressure as it once was. Understanding of beliefs we do not hold and acceptance of people we do not agree with are traits we should all nurture.

    • Ha! Fixed. Swapped out the two repeating, too. Thanks.

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Due out March 31, Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious offers a well-researched look at a timely subject: secular parenting. With chapters on avoiding indoctrination, talking about death, vaccinating kids against intolerance, dealing with religious baggage, and getting along with religious relatives, the book offers a refreshingly compassionate approach to raising religiously literate, highly tolerant and critically thinking children capable of making up their own minds about what to believe. The book may be pre-ordered by visiting Brown Paper Press.

      Natural Wonderers is my new blog published by the Patheos faith network. An extension of my previous blog — Relax, It's Just God — Natural Wonderers offers stories and advice on raising curious, compassionate children in secular families.
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