While educators, psychologists, academics, and others have much to say about children, God’s Word should be the foundational source for parents to learn about who children are and how we should care for them.
Here are ten theological truths about children:
Children are a gift from God.
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” Psalm 127:3. God creates children, and they belong to Him (Psalm 119:73, 139:13-14, Isaiah 64:8). They’re more than the outworking of the natural order or the fruit of our labour, i.e., greater than our own making. Because children come from God, they’re a divine favour and blessing, or as the Presbyterian pastor and theologian, Eugene Peterson puts it, “his generous legacy” (MSG). New York Times bestselling author Lisa Wingate aptly says, “Your children are the greatest gift God will give to you, and their souls are the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands.”
Children have inherent worth and value.
Because children are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), they’re important. According to authors Herbert Anderson and Susan B. W. Johnson, they “have the value and depth of full humanity.” This means they’re not possessions, consumers, or economic problems. In consumer cultures, we must be on our guard against any market mentality that diminishes the significance of children or undermines our duties and obligations to them.
Children are sinful and selfish.
From conception, we’re all sinners (Genesis 8:21, Psalm 51:5) and “folly is bound up in the heart of a child” Proverbs 22:15. Protestant reformer John Calvin said, “The whole nature of children is a seed of sin; thus it cannot be but hateful and abominable to God.” Calling children sinners may seem negative or destructive, but rightly considered, it recognizes that children have brokenness within themselves, act in self-centred or harmful ways, are capable of transgressing against God and others, and need to be held accountable.
Children need Jesus.
There is no age limit on coming to Christ (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). We should invite children to believe the Gospel and, by faith, embrace Jesus as their Lord and Saviour (Matthew 19:13-14). We must never prevent or deter them from coming to Him (Luke 18:16).
Children should be treated with justice, compassion, and dignity.
How we treat children matters to God. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones” Matthew 18:10. Jesus’ welcome of, and teaching about children, indicates we should love and respect them (Matthew 18:1-6, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17). We should never look down on children, deride, harm, or abuse them (Matthew 18:6, Ephesians 6:4). Lead a child astray, and you’re better off drowned! (Mark 9:42).
Children need instruction and guidance.
Nineteenth-century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “Begin early to teach, for children begin early to sin.” Children don’t know how to live right if we don’t teach them what’s right (Genesis 18:19, Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Proverbs 22:6). We’re obligated to give children intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual direction. We do this by helping them develop biblical values and virtues, leading them in the way of Christ, and bringing “them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4.
Children are unique.
No two children are the same. Every child has a distinct personality, unique gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11), a particular purpose (Ephesians 2:10), and develops in ways we cannot imagine. American naturalist and essayist Henry Thoreau fittingly said, “There has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything.”
Children are models of faith.
When children know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, they’re sources of revelation and representatives of Jesus. Parents can learn from their children, and their children should be witnesses and prototypes of belief and devotion for their parents (Matthew 18:2-5).
Children are part of the church.
Children are gifts to their parents and gifts to the community of faith. When children can give a credible profession of faith, they’re not the church of the future; they’re the church today. It’s wrong to treat children as second-class members of a church. Paul addressed children directly (Ephesians 6:1-3) and fully included them in the community of faith.
Children bring joy and pleasure.
An angel told Zechariah and Elizabeth that their son’s birth would delight many people (Luke 1:14). Jeremiah’s birth made his father, Hilkiah, “very glad” Jeremiah 20:15. And a mother is reassured that despite the pain of childbirth, there’s joy when a baby is born (John 16:21).
A theology of children is essential. Without it, we’re ships without rudders. Suppose we depart from God’s view of children and don’t uphold everything the Scriptures say about children. In that case, we’re in danger of falling into an incomplete or inadequate understanding of our parental responsibilities. Should that happen, we risk treating children deficiently or in harmful ways.
© Scripture Union, 2023