I’m preparing a class on counseling children for the fall semester, so I’ve had some time to think about how our world views kids. Actually this is probably mostly a Western mindset about children. It’s clear the world doesn’t tend to think about children with a theological understanding.
Children Are Innocent
This is a common belief about children, isn’t it? The world believes that our environment corrupts children by the time they are adults, but when born, a child is innocent. And they do look innocent. They are cute and cuddly and they clean up well.
But have you ever thought about what keeps an infant from committing murder when he’s angry? Is it innocence or something else? [There’s a famous Christian quote about this I cannot recall.] It’s just that a baby doesn’t have the strength to murder you when he’s angry. A baby is a sinner… from birth. And if he could strike you when you weren’t bringing his bottle soon enough, he would.
While we can make allowances for a child’s immaturity in foreseeing consequences, we cannot treat children as if their sin doesn’t matter. Or as if children are not responsible for their sin. Their lack of considering obvious consequences is probably a mitigating circumstance, but they are still guilty. All of us are guilty from birth. Children are not innocent. Children are sinners by nature and by choice, just like adults.
Romans 3:10–13 (ESV) as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
Their sin affects their entire being.
Ephesians 4:17–19 (ESV) Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
I believe that’s true of children. Do you?
Children Are Wise
We even have a popular saying about this, “Out of the mouths of babes.” Some use it when a child says something unexpectedly wise. But if children say something wise, it’s normally an accident. Or it’s something they don’t really understand. Or it’s something they heard from an adult. They are not naturally wise.
Our world, however, believes they are. This is shown when a child says or does something that supposedly teaches the world. Greta Thunberg became a world-wide sensation as a Swedish teenager because she schooled adults on how to care for the environment. Adults will use children to make adult arguments because of the supposed wisdom coming from a child.
But children are not wise. They are naturally foolish.
Proverbs 9:6 (ESV) Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
Proverbs 22:15 (ESV) Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
Children Are Autonomous
Some parents don’t think they should demand their children do things they don’t feel like doing. Parents are commended by the elites of Western culture for letting their children choose their gender or their sexual orientation. Why would you let a child choose? Because you believe they are wise—they can make a good decision, and you believe they are innocent—you believe their decision won’t be impacted by evil impulses or motivations, and you think they are independent or autonomous.
But that’s not what Scripture says.
Colossians 3:20 (ESV) Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Ephesians 6:1–3 (ESV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
Children have to submit to parents. Parents have God-given authority over children. The reason a child obeys is because it’s a reflection of his relationship with Christ. No believing child is ultimately obeying his parents; they are obeying Christ. Which is why it doesn’t really matter if a child’s parents are even believers or even nice and kind. That would make it easier, but children can obey even ungodly parents because they are obeying Christ.
Ephesians treats children as if they can grow in their relationship with Christ, as if they are able to see the Jesus they serve behind their parents. That treats children just like it treats wives, husbands, fathers, employers, and employees. Paul expects children to be motivated by their relationship with Christ. How significant.
And he puts them under authority just like he does wives, husbands, fathers, employers and employees. Children don’t get to live any old way they want to. They are not autonomous. They need the direction of a parent who understands Scripture to help them grow in their relationship with Christ.
Those are 3 characteristics the world believes children possess. What would you add?