What does the Bible say about children and young people?

Here are some notes I made on what the Bible says about children and young people: 

1. It is not clear as to when childhood finishes and adulthood begins.   

Leviticus 27:3-5 suggests that a person ceases to be considered a child/young person at the age of 20. 

2. Children are the fulfilment of the creation mandate to be fruitful and to multiply. 

The command to be fruitful and multiply was given both to Adam at creation (Genesis 1:28) and Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:1).  Children are necessary if this command was to be obeyed. 

3. Children are a gift from God and a sign of God’s blessing.   

In the book of Genesis it clear that children are a gift from God.  The theme of a barren woman miraculously being able to conceive runs throughout the book.  Eve with God’s help gave birth to Cain (Genesis 4:1).  Abram recognises that God has given him no children (Genesis 15:2-3).  Rachel speaking after the birth of Dan said that God has given her a child (Genesis 30:1).  Jacob says of his children that they are a gracious gift from God (Genesis 33:5).  

Elsewhere in the Bible we are reminded that children are a sign of God’s blessing or a reward from Him.  In Psalm 127:3 we read that children (sons) are a heritage or reward from the Lord.  In Zechariah 8:5 a sign of God’s blessing is that children are playing in the streets. 

Whilst the birth of a child and the happiness of children is a sign of God’s blessing, the death of a child is an indication of a calamity or the worse of curses to an enemy.  The prophet Nahum prophesying about the fall of Nineveh, God’s enemy, speaks of infants being dashed to pieces (Nahum 3:10).  Psalm 137:8-9 speaks of the death of Babylonian children. 

4. Children are valued before they are born.   

God can relate to and deal with a person from the moment of conception (and before).  In Psalm 139:13 we are told that God knits a person together in their mother’s womb.  In Job 31:15 tells us that God made him in the womb. 

5. Children are valued as much as any other age group.   

God is a God of all human ages including children.  In the gospels we read that Jesus healed children (Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5, boy with an evil spirit in Mark 9), Jesus invited children to come to Him (Matthew 19:13-15), and Jesus knows about the lives of children (Matthew 11:16-19 or Luke 7:31-35). 

6. Children have a sinful nature. 

For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and facing God’s wrath, his righteous anger (Ephesians 2:3).  All includes children and adults alike.  Psalm 51:5 tells us that children are sinful from the time of conception. 

7. Children are immature. 

This is implied in a number of passages where the immaturity of childhood is used to illustrate Christian immaturity.  In Ephesians 4:14, Paul talks of becoming mature as a Christian as being no longer infants.  In 1 Corinthians 14:20 Paul urges the Corinthians to stop thinking like children but to start thinking like adults.  Leaving childish ways behind is a sign of adulthood (1 Corinthians 13:11).  In Hebrews 5:12-13 a baby on milk is used to describe an immature Christian who has not grown up and made spiritual progress in understanding God’s Word. 

8. Children are dependent.   

In Matthew 18:3-4 (or Mark 10:13-16) Jesus tells the disciples that they are to become like little children if they want to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus was telling them that the helplessness and dependence that children have is what He is looking for in His disciples. 

9. Children become accountable.   

Children are held accountable as sinners from time of conception (Psalm 51:5).  But the Bible does teach that there is a time when children are not held responsible for the choices they make.  For example Deuteronomy 1:39 we read of the Israelite children that they “do not yet know good from bad” and because of that they are allowed to enter the promised land.  In Isaiah 7:15-16 we are told that there is a time when the boy (child) does not know enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.   

As children grow up and mature their understanding of right and wrong and ability to make decisions increases, so they become more and more accountable. 

10. Children are part of the community of God’s people. (see Ian Fry, ‘What is Christian Youthwork?’ in FAQs published by The Good Book Company.  p.12-13)

It seems that whenever the people of God gathered for corporate worship, the children and young people were present.  Children were present whenever the Passover occurred (Exodus 12:26-27), when Israel entered into God’s covenant (Deuteronomy 29:10-15), at feast times (Deuteronomy 31:10-12), when the covenant was renewed at Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:35), and at times of seeking God (2 Chronicles 20:5-13).  It was expected that acts of corporate worship would arouse interest of, and provoke questioning by children (Exodus 13:11-14). 

This pattern seems to be present in the early church.  When Paul wrote letters to the churches, he had instructions for children to follow (Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20).  He must have expected them to be present as his letter was read out. 

11. God does great things with young people. (see HERE)   

There are so many examples of God using young people to do great things for Him.  Youth was a time for service and heroism.  

Old Testament examples include Joshua who was Moses’ assistant since youth (Numbers 11:28).  The spies who investigated Jericho were young men (Joshua 6:23).  Jeremiah was called to be a prophet when he was a child (Jeremiah 1:5-7).  David was only a boy when he fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17:33).  Other examples are Joseph, Samuel, Samson, Joash, Josiah, Daniel and Esther. 

In the New Testament we have Paul’s nephew who warned him about a plot on his life (Acts 23:16-22) or the unnamed boy with the loaves and fish that Jesus used to feed the five thousand men plus women and children (John 6:9). 

12. Children must learn to love and fear the Lord.   

In Deuteronomy 6:2 we read that commands, decrees and laws were given by God to Moses to pass on to the Israelites so that they, their children and their children’s children may fear God.  In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 the command is to love God with all your heart, soul and strength.  This is to be on the parent’s hearts but also to be impressed upon their children. 

13. Children are to be told God’s Words and God’s Works so that they will trust in Him. 

In Psalm 78:4-7 parents were told to pass on God’s works (his praiseworthy deeds, v4) and God’s Words (statutes, law, v5), to teach these to their children so that would put their trust in God and keep his commands. 

14. Children need to trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour to be saved. 

Acts 2:21 or Romans 10:13 tells us that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  Romans 10:9 says that if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  This applies to children as we as adults.  They need to trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour to be saved from an eternity in hell separated from God. 

15. God says the prime responsibility for the spiritual nurture of children and young people lies with the parents. 

God places people in families, and the family relationship is important (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1-3, Colossians 3:20).  Proverbs 1:8 tells us that it is both parents responsibility to pass on God’s truth.  The prime responsibility however falls to the father (Ephesians 6:4; this idea is found throughout Proverbs 1-9).  Timothy is an example of the positive impact a godly home can have on a person (2 Timothy 1:5).  

16. Parents are responsible for teaching and modelling God’s truth to their children. 

God chose Abraham to direct his children and his household to keep the way of the Lord by what is right and just (Genesis 18:19).  Fathers are to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the LORD.  Timothy was taught the Bible by his grandmother and mother from a young age (2 Timothy 3:15). 

17. Parents are responsible for disciplining their children as well as encouraging them. 

Children are born with evil inclinations (Ecclesiastes 12:1) so they not only need teaching but corrective, loving discipline (Proverbs 22:15).  Parents are responsible for disciplining their children (Proverbs 29:17).  Discipline is a sign that parents love their children because they want them to escape death and find life (Proverbs 13:24, 19:18).  The command to discipline is given to fathers in Ephesians 6:4 [‘training' is more literally translated ‘discipline']. 

Encouragement is important too.  Colossians 3:21 tell fathers not emitter their child because they will become discouraged. 

Comments

  1. Adrian Reynolds says:

    Send me your address, Dan, and I’ll try to get hold of a copy of Special Children by my fellow elder Eric Lane, which is the best book I’ve ever read on a theology of kids, though, it must be said that it has the worst cover in the history of publishing. You’re stuff is really helpful too, thanks.

  2. Mrs C.Mobio says:

    Dear brother this a very good work
    May God bless your work
    Sister Chantal

  3. Thanks for this Dan. I was looking for inspiration to teach the children that they are significant in God’s eyes, and there are so many references here that you have saved me hours of searching. God bless
    Angela