The Christian View of Children

February 6, 2011 / No. 3553

Dear radio friends,
Today, in our series on the family, we are going to begin talking about children. I will begin with something very basic. I am not going to begin by talking about the duties of parents or how to raise our children, but by answering the question, “What is the child?” It is more important for us to know the answer to this question than it is for us to have all the answers on how to raise children. There are thousands of books available that tell you how to raise your children. But by far the majority of them do not answer the question, What is the child? And the result is that they are not all that helpful for Christian parents. We have to begin with the basics. We must know what we are dealing with when we raise our children.
This is a question we must ask and answer from the proper perspective. First, we must do it from a Christian and a biblical perspective. Just as we let God, who made the man and woman, tell us what the position and the role of each is in the home, so we must let God, in the Bible, tell us what children are. That means that our answer is going to be different from that of the world, which ignores the Word of God.
Also, we must answer this question from the perspective of believing parents. Even though the children of believers have all the same characteristics, by nature, as children from an unbelieving home, God Himself makes a distinction between them. In I Corinthians 7:14 Paul says of the children of believers “now are they holy.” He means by that that God has separated them to Himself. And as we talk about children, let us remember that we are talking about the children that God has given to us in our Christian homes.
So, what is the biblical view of children? What is the child?
I want to give you just two things, two answers, from the Bible that should have a profound impact on your whole view of children and your responsibility as parents toward them.
First, the child is a gift from God and, as a gift, also a blessing. Throughout history children have been viewed as a burden and a nuisance. In the ancient Roman culture they had a practice called “exposure.” When a baby was born, you wanted to have a boy and often you did not get a boy but a girl. So the parents would take their daughters and lay them on the hillside in the sun, and by that, saying to their gods, “You gave me this child. I don’t want it. So now you take care of it.” And, of course, the children were left to die, and the hillsides were littered with baby corpses. It was because they viewed their children as a burden.
Now, that sounds rather gruesome and cruel. But is abortion in our modern world really any different? Maybe it is a little more advanced, a little less visible. But is it any different? Someone does not want the baby and so it is murdered in the womb before it is born.
And this practice, I believe, points to a bigger problem in society—an attitude of disdain toward children. They are a nuisance. They get in the way. They are a burden. They take up too much time. They require so much attention. And they cost way too much money. The ideal life, we are told, is one of double income and no kids.
It may be that you would never say or think those things. But what about your attitudes and what about jokes that are common? Someone has three or maybe five or maybe even eight children. And they are expecting again. What do you think? How do you respond? There are often snide remarks. These people are viewed as old-fashioned and foolish. Or there are comments that parents will make sometimes: “If it wasn’t for you kids, we’d have had this or that vacation by now. We’d be able to afford these clothes or this vehicle” and so on. And children get the message: You don’t want to have too many kids, they’re a nuisance.
But, when we get back to the Bible, we see that that is not God’s perspective on children. Children are a blessing. And this is the way that they should be viewed by Christian parents. In Genesis 1:28 God says, “Be fruitful, and multiply.” Here is the first man and first woman (Adam and Eve), and God’s will for them is that they bear children. He plans to bless them with children. And when Adam and Eve bear children, that is the way that they see it, too. When their first son is born, Eve says, “I have gotten a man-child from the Lord.” When Seth, her third son, is born, she says, “God hath appointed to me a seed.” In Genesis 33:5, when Esau meets Jacob after twenty years, he asks, “Who are these with thee?” And Jacob replies, “These are the children which God hath graciously given thy servant.”
Psalm 127 puts it very beautifully in verse 3: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” God gives children as a heritage, or an inheritance. An inheritance is something worth passing on to the next generation and worthy of your care. You receive a family heirloom and you treat it with care because it is valuable. Well, that is the view that we Christians should have of children. They are a gift from God, a blessing. And when we see them as a heritage, we see them as God’s children. They are His. Tthey are entrusted to us. We are stewards and caretakers of them. How important for us to remember that about children.
Psalm 127:4 and 5 continue: “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Now here the psalmist talks about how and when children are a blessing. The modern-day equivalent to arrow is ammunition. Maybe you know some war history, and you know that the worst situation that you can be in is to have the enemy in front of you and you have no ammunition. Children are this ammunition. How? They speak to the enemy in the gate. The gate refers to the place of the elders in the city. There is an enemy—someone bringing false accusations. And there are your grown children backing up your innocence. The enemy, of course, is Satan and the world. And the psalmist has in mind the blessing of grown children who make a confession of faith over against Satan and the world and who stand with you in defense of the name of God. The Bible says, “There is no greater joy than to have your own children walking in the truth.” And so, this is the Christian view of children. They are a gift from God. They are a blessing.
And what a profound impact that will have on our view of children, of having children, and of raising them. This is an encouragement to young couples to have children. It is the most natural and beautiful thing for your marriage. You ought to desire children. Couples who have their priorities straight will put having children before and ahead of their career or their house or nice vehicles or vacations and so on. Children are a blessing from God—one of His main purposes for marriage. We ought to be thankful for the privilege to bear children. We ought to be thankful to God for the children themselves as He gives them to us. They are one of the greatest and longest-lasting possessions that He gives us. When you die, you lose everything, right? Except what? What will you take to heaven with you? The answer: Your own soul and, because of God’s promises, the souls of your children. You may sit in your house and look around at all the stuff for which you have worked so hard, but the only things in your home that you will see in heaven are your children.
And so also, this ought to encourage parents who have children. Your children should be your number-one priority because, first, they are God’s children. What a calling, to be stewards of God’s heritage. When you get older, you will never say, “I put too much of my time and effort into my children.” More likely you will say, “I wish I had put more effort into it, more emphasis on their spiritual development, more loving sacrifice of myself into them.” Yes, there is a lot of work involved in child-rearing, a lot of sacrifice. There are burdens, and there are expenses. But every bit of it is worth it when, under God’s blessing, they grow up to serve Him and to confess faith with you.
There is a very important gospel principle here. The biblical way to blessing is always through the way of sacrifice. So long as you are selfish and self-indulgent, you will not be happy. True Christian joy comes through sacrifice. That was true for our Savior, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross and gave His very life. Why? Because He had in view the day when all the children of God would be with Him in the glory of heaven.
So, what is the child? First, a gift from God.
And then, second, the child is a sinner who needs Christ. The Christian view of children is that they are sinners. The world that we live in tells us something different. The common views are either that children are morally neutral or that children are inherently good and that they become bad or they do wrong things only because of the bad influences that they receive. Children, we are told, are like plants. If we could give them just the right environment, they would be fine and they would not misbehave. If you just use the right techniques and create the right environment of love and logic for your children, they will find their inner good self and they will turn out to be good people. Or, we are told, children are like a blank slate. They are born neutral. The parent needs simply to put the right things into their mind and control their environment to keep them away from bad influences, and they will follow the good things.
But if we go to the Bible, we will find that it teaches something radically different about our children and about people in general. Children are not innocent or neutral. Instead, children are inherently evil. That is what the Bible teaches. Romans 3:9, beginning in the second part of the verse, this is God’s view of all people, including children: “both Jews and Gentiles,…they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” This is how all people appear before God.
But someone is going to say, “That refers to adults. Surely children are born innocent, and it’s only when they come to an age of accountability and choose to live an evil life that, in God’s sight, they become sinners.” Well then, look at Psalm 58:3. When do people become evil? Is it when they are toddlers? Is it when they go to school and there are bad kids that influence their behavior? Psalm 58:3 says this: “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” So, the Bible says, at least from the time they are born, they are sinners.
But it goes back even further than that and it applies not just to the wicked of this world, but to all—to you and to me and to our children. Look at Psalm 51:5. This is David speaking. He is confessing a great sin in his life. And he says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” What is he saying? He is saying this, that he inherited a sinful nature from his parents, and that he was already a sinner at the first moment of his existence in his mother’s womb, when he was conceived. He does not give that as an excuse for his sin, but rather a confession of his sinful nature. He takes responsibility for that before God, too, as he repents of his sin.
We are talking here about the Bible’s teaching of total depravity, that, before God, by nature, no one is able to do anything good. Everyone is inclined always to do evil. Sin and its power permeates every part of us. It governs our lives. Children are inherently evil.
Sometimes we are reluctant to admit that about our children. The reason is that we do not want to admit it about ourselves. Our children show the same sinful inclinations that we have. And because we do not want to deal with our own sin, we will not admit that about our children.
Where does this teaching lead? Well, it shows that our children need the grace of God and the gospel of forgiveness through Christ just as much as we do—from the moment they begin their existence. That is the conclusion. What a profound impact that should have on the rearing of our children. In Mark 10, believing parents were bringing their children to Jesus. And He received them and blessed them. Our children need, more than anything else, to be brought to Jesus. The only power that can overcome their sinful hearts is the power of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. There is forgiveness. And there they will find the strength to resist and to overcome their sin. Our children need to know who they are and to repent of their sinful nature and deeds. Parenting is not simply creating a positive environment, but the Christian parent gets at sin issues in the child and brings the child constantly to be fed with the Word of God.
But, maybe you are not convinced yet. Then let me give you a couple more references in Scripture that help to explain this even more.
Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.” What is foolishness? A fool is someone who ignores the realities of life. If someone deliberately runs a red light at a busy intersection, we would say, “Now that was foolish.” Folly, in the Bible, is to deny and ignore the ultimate reality of God. Psalm 14: “The fool says in his heart, There is no God.” The reality of God and of His revelation in the Scriptures is something that man needs to reckon with. The fool says, “I don’t care about God.” And that is the folly that is bound up in the heart of a child, that grips his heart.
What is the heart? It is the control center of a person. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” All behavior, all external conduct, comes from what is in the heart of a person. It is an expression of what he is within. And the great problem and danger that our children face is not first the wicked influences that they will come into contact with, but their own evil inclinations and folly. They naturally want to ignore God and to enjoy and walk in sin. Yes, it is important that your children have good friends and godly influences. But the problem with our children goes deeper. It is their heart. And this is what must be addressed in godly parenting. You could create an environment of complete isolation for your children. That is possible—to live in seclusion. But still, the children have a foolish heart and sinful natures. The child’s greatest spiritual enemy and the greatest problem he faces is his own sinful heart.
One more passage: James 1:14. Where does temptation come from? Whom should you blame when you fall into sin? James says, “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lusts, and enticed.” What ultimately is the problem behind sinful behavior? Can you blame your upbringing—I was raised in a bad home, I was molested and I was mistreated as a child so that’s why I have these problems and that’s why I do these things? Yes, those bad experiences of childhood are terrible and they are sad things for a person to have to deal with. But what is the cause of sin? Is it bad influences in childhood? No, James says a person is tempted and he falls into sin when he allows his own lusts, his own sinful desires, to drive him. The problem with our children is their sinful hearts.
And so, what our children need is a consistent, biblical example, and instruction that will constantly bring them to the cross of Christ, where they see their need and their only way of salvation, and where, by God’s grace, they will repent and live to serve God their Savior. What a child needs is a new heart. And only God can give that to the child. Our goal in parenting is not simply to raise good moral kids, to raise children who are accepted and who do well in society, but to raise Christian children—children of faith, children of repentance, children of godliness. And that begins with understanding who they are.
So, what is the Christian view of children? Two things. One, they are a gift from God, and so a blessing in the Christian home. And, two, they are sinners who need Jesus Christ. Let us keep this biblical perspective before us as we look at our calling as parents.
Let us pray.
Lord, we are thankful for the privilege of bearing and raising Thy children. We realize that we, with them, are sinners, and so we and they need Thy grace. Help us, we pray, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.