The school year is winding down and parents are finalizing their summer plans! I am sure those of us with school aged kids at home are eagerly anticipating the end of the school year and the opportunity for our children to get a break from homework and… And do what exactly? There are a number of different ideas about what is best for kids. Some advocate yearlong schooling. Others put their kids into a dizzying schedule of sports, camps, private lessons, etc… I recall having a greatly enhanced chore list every summer – when school got out we had lawn work, a garden plot outside town, regular reading assignments and more time to be generally helpful around the house. But what I personally loved the most about summer was the opportunity to spend a whole lot more time playing.
As our kids begin their summer break I would like to make two observations from the Bible’s one clear reference to kids playing. The verse is Zechariah 8:4-5:
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”
The first thing I notice in this text is the word for ‘play’ that is used by Zechariah. The word in the Hebrew is sahaq and it has the basic meaning of ‘laughter.’ Whatever the ‘playing’ of the children envisioned in this text consisted of, it was fun!
The second thing I notice is that the children playing in the streets is a significant part of the first detail given for what the effect of the Lord’s return to Zion will be. Zechariah 8:3 explicitly states that this is what life will be like when the Babylonian exiles return to Jerusalem and when the Lord once again dwells among his people. This is a picture of how life should be – how it will be – when God’s redemptive purposes for his people are being fulfilled according to his plan.
Knowing how easy it is for us as Christians to abuse texts and to pull them out of context, let me note that this scripture does not teach us that children should play in the streets! But on a more serious note, I would like to challenge us to embrace a biblical theology of childhood. God’s plan for childhood includes a time for simply having fun with other kids. This is a part of God’s good and blessed will for children. And we need to do two things this summer to reflect this fact. First, we need to be sure to make time for our kids to play. Chores, extra-curricular studies, sports clubs, and garden plots are all very important – but so is play. Second, we need to teach our kids that God is the inventor of all things good – including play.
For any kids who are reading this, there will still be no playing in the parking lot after church!
For you parents, please accept this challenge to try to schedule play into your children’s lives this summer – it is important. Give them some unprogrammed time to “laugh in the streets.” And then when you pray with them at bedtime teach them to give thanks to their heavenly Father for the time to play and for the fun that they had – He is the giver of every good and perfect gift.