Principles

A Basic Theology of Children

While educators, psychologists, academics, and others have much to say about children, God’s Word should be foundational for understanding who children are and why we should care for them. Here’s a basic theology of children expressed as ten fundamental truths:

God's Word should be the foundational source for understanding who children are and why we should care for them. Click To Tweet

Children are a gift from God.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” Psalm 127:3. They’re more than the outworking of the natural order or the fruit of our labour, i.e., greater than our own making. Children belong to God because He creates them (Psalm 119:73, 139:13-14, Isaiah 64:8). 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 rightly 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.

Children are people of worth made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). According to the author’s Herbert Anderson and Susan B. W. Johnson, they “have the value and depth of full humanity.” Children are not possessions, consumers, or economic problems. So 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.

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. Click To Tweet

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. The 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 a child a sinner may seem harmful or destructive, but we should recognize that children act in self-centred or harmful ways and are capable of transgressing against God.

Children need Jesus.

There is no age limit on coming to Christ (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). We should urge children to believe the Gospel and, by faith, embrace Jesus as their Lord and Saviour (Matthew 19:13-14). So we must never prevent or deter them from coming to Him (Luke 18:16). American evangelist Dwight L. Moody aptly observed: “Would Christ have made a child the standard of faith if He had known that it was not capable of understanding His words?”

Children should be treated with justice, compassion, and dignity.

How we treat children matters to God. We should never “despise one of these little ones” Matthew 18:10. Jesus’ welcome of and teaching about children indicates that they should be loved and respected (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). There’s a clear warning in God’s Word – it’s better to be drowned than to lead a child astray! (Mark 9:42).

It's better to be drowned than to lead a child astray! Click To Tweet

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). Every parent is obligated to give their 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 special 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, or 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. Adults can learn from children, and children should be witnesses and prototypes of belief and devotion for adults (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, therefore, wrong to treat children as second-class members of a local church. We should take our lead from Paul. He addressed children directly (Ephesians 6:1-3) and included them fully in the community of faith.

It's wrong to treat children as second-class members of a local church. Click To Tweet

Children bring joy and pleasure.

An angel told Zechariah and Elizabeth that many people would be delighted at their son’s birth (Luke 1:14). Jeremiah’s birth made his father, Hilkiah, “very glad” Jeremiah 20:15. And a mother is reassured that there’s joy when a baby is born (John 16:21).

A fundamental theology of children is essential. Without it, we’re ships without rudders. Our adult responsibility is, therefore, to uphold everything the Scriptures say about children. We risk treating children deficiently or in harmful ways if we don’t.

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What Does the Bible Say About Children?

Theology of Children’s Ministry

© Scripture Union, 2022

2 Corinthians 4:5

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