A Jesus-Heart for Children, Part 1
This is the last installment in a series on Womanhood for the Glory of God. I hope that whether or not you are a mom, you will take the time to read this post. All of us at all seasons of life encounter children. They might be your own, or a friends’, or nieces and nephews, or your neighbor’s kids. So it is important that we have a Biblically-informed view on them. And while I think a Biblical view of children is important for all believers, it is especially important for women. Our very bodies are designed to care for children: our womb to be the first home a child has and our breasts the first source of nourishment they ever receive. Whether we ever have the privilege to have children, God has wired women to be nurturers.
CHILDREN ARE AN INCONVENIENCE: The common attitude.
Unfortunately, the pervasive attitude about children is that they are an inconvenience. Below are a few birth control ads that expose this view.
What’s the message? That children equal gaining 30 pounds, giving up on your dreams, being less awesome, and not living life your way. Children get in the way of your plans for you.
An increasingly sexually active culture has fueled this attitude. Years ago, pregnancy was the normal and expected outcome of being sexually active. But thanks to birth control and abortion, children are now only an optional result of sex. The push to divorce pregnancy from sex is happening to appease a shamelessly self-centered lifestyle. Rather than a joyous moment, a positive pregnancy test is often received with fear as if it were a curse, a disease, or a punishment.
And this mindset that children just get in your way continues beyond pregnancy. Career rules all in our culture, and men and women everywhere are finding ways to farm out their parenting responsibilities to day cares, nannies, and grandparents so that they can continue to live their life the way they want. (I’ll talk about what place birth control and childcare have in the life of a believer in a later post.)
But this attitude isn’t just found in the world around us, but also amongst those who follow Christ. We see this happening even among Jesus’ disciples in Mark 10:13: “And they were bringing children to Jesus so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.”
Imagine that moment. The disciples are sold out to Jesus’ mission and have left all to follow Him. They see a bunch of moms with crying babies, busy toddlers, and rambunctious 7-year-old boys coming to Jesus. Likely, they thought they were being incredibly spiritual and Kingdom-minded. “All these kids are just slowing Jesus down. He’s got places to be, sermons to preach, people to heal, demons to cast out! Get them out of the way so we can get onto the important stuff.”
The disciples considered children to be an inconvenience to Jesus ministry. And very often so do many of His followers today. It might not be a career that cause us to sideline children, it’s ministry. “Important, world-changing ministry.”
CHILDREN ARE A GIFT: The Biblical View of Children
The Bible gives us no other way to think about children than this: They are a gift. A blessing. A reward. Let’s go back to the disciples’ rebuke of the children and see how Jesus responded.
“And they were bringing children to Jesus so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.” Mark 10:13-16
Here are few things we can learn from Jesus about children:
DO NOT HINDER THE CHILDREN
The disciples were trying to prevent these children from coming to Jesus. But He says, do not hinder them. Literally, don’t get in their way! Don’t forbid these children to come to me! How often do we stand in the way of the natural curiosity of a child because we are too busy with more important things.
A child may be interested to learn about this Jesus you are talking about with your friend, or understand what is so special about the Bible you are reading. Do we respond like the disciples in those moments, rebuking the child “Leave me alone, go play with your toys, I’m busy with important things, like meeting with Jesus or talking about Jesus.” Do not hinder the children! Don’t stand in their way. Let them interrupt your plans and your day.
LEARN FROM CHILDREN
Jesus tells the disciples that these inconvenient, time-consuming children actually have something to teach them! “The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” Wow. What a massive statement. Children have something to teach us about God and about His Kingdom.
Not only should we welcome the interruptions of children in our lives, we should have a heart to learn from them too. Kids have something to teach us about true faith and love for God and His Kingdom. This should make us want to be around kids! Even seek them out, prefer them and be eager to listen to their thoughts.
If Jesus had said, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a lawyer will not enter it at all,” would we not seek out a lawyer? Would we not find a way to spend time with a law student to understand what Jesus meant by that? But Jesus has called us to learn from children what it means to be in His Kingdom. So pay attention to them, value them, and ask them questions. Learn from them.
SLOW DOWN FOR CHILDREN
“And Jesus took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”
Jesus slowed down and engaged with these little ones. He got on their level. He spoke words of blessing over them. He stopped what He was doing to spend time with them.
Who are the children in your life? Do you slow down to engage them? They may be your own children. Your grandchildren. Nieces, nephews. Friends’ kids. Children running around the lobby of your church. Maybe it’s the children you see in the grocery carts while you work as a cashier. Or the ones who come into the doctor’s office you work at. Don’t let your primary assumption of these little ones be one of inconvenience. They are gifts, blessings, teachers for us on what the Kingdom of God is like. Welcome them. Slow down for them. Engage them. Speak positively to them and about them.
CHILDREN ARE ARROWS: Thinking strategically.
“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Ps 127:3-4
I love that Psalm 127 calls children arrows in the hand of a warrior. Not only are they a gift, they are an offensive weapon! To be given a place of influence on the next generation is to be given a valuable place of influence. Do you desire to make a difference in this world for the cause of Christ? Then pour into children! An investment in the life of a child pays huge dividends.
Think of your own childhood. Are there adults who took the time to slow down and get to know you? To teach you? To help you? Or adults that didn’t value you, but harmed you or spoke negatively to you? How did that impact your life? Think of your parents. The things they did (or sometimes didn’t do) have likely impacted how you see the world even to this very day. What a massive impact adults have in the life of a child! For better or for worse.
So what if we took the time to pour into the lives of children: preschoolers, elementary age kids, and preteens? If we taught them about God, who He is, what He has done for broken sinners through Christ? If we took every opportunity to listen to them and speak truth to them, to counsel and encourage them? This is an investment that is never wasted! Children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior. And if we point those arrows toward God and His Kingdom, what a mighty army the next generation might become!
Take the time to invest in the life of a child. Serve in your church’s preschool or children’s ministry. Become a mentor for a teenager through your school district. Do you have young siblings? Invest in them. Does your friend have children? Engage them when you go to their house. And of course, those of us who have our own children, may we allow God’s view of children to permeate our homes and our actions.
As Christians, we are no longer of this utterly self-centered world. We are those who follow the Selfless, Cross-Carrying Servant of God who welcomed children. May we do the same.
(For more on the blessing of children, check out the post "Children: Burden or Blessing.")