Here’s an example of how wrong the best motives can be.
I must’ve been somewhere around 4th grade. Was attending children’s church at Highland Park First Baptist back home. Was a ministry that catered to kids between 1st and 6th grades, to keep them interested in going to church. They had fun things like puppets, singing, group dancing to songs like “Father Abraham”, a few musical numbers from some of the church’s grown-ups, and then a mini-sermon by the children’s minister. The quietest kids during the sermon would get “Bible Bucks” that they could use in the candy & toy closet. Typical children’s ministry stuff.
There was a guy, a member of the church, who did magic tricks for us, though he didn’t call them “magic” because that would connote the influence of the Devil. He called themÂ “illusions”. Usually he’d do tricks that illuminated his little object lessons about giving, sharing, being honest, listening to authority, honoring your parents, and so on. On a nondescript morning, however, his object lesson was on the concept of the Wages of Sin. His tone was rather serious. Had a box on a pedestal next to him with the words “The Wages of Sin” lettered on the outside.
“I’ll show you what the wages of sin are at the end,” he said, before going into his talk and doing little bits of sleight-of-hand to keep us interested. Finally at the end, “Now, I’m going to show you the wages of sin that are inside this box, but I’ll only show you for a short time, so pay attention.”
“The wages of sin,” he said, opening the face of the box to reveal a stark white human skull, “are Death.”
Nobody talked. Our mouths dropped, eyes wide, most of us in fright, some in disbelief, the rest covering their eyes or fidgeting in their folding chairs. It all came down to that; in a room full of kids having fun playing church, singing with puppets, paying attention in our Sunday best, was this guy scaring the Hell out of us.
What a horrible lesson to give to children. Not even a handful of us were over the Age of Reason…we were children, unprepared and being forced to confront this lesson on the spiritual world. In more agrarian times, yes, children would have confronted death a lot sooner, but not in an urban community in 1981. Not by a long shot. I know this guy meant well, but sometimes the most well-intentioned among us don’t consider the suitability of their message on their intended audience. I don’t recall if he did any talks after that incident, but the lesson, or at least the shock of it, stuck with me through my adolescence.