Children Are a Blessing: Yes or No?
Psalm 127 states: Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
These few poetic verses emphasize a principal that runs throughout the Bible: children are valued and loved by God. And they are a blessing to all of us.
However, some reading this essay may question the relevance of this viewpoint to their lives. Many will still have children at home. Others will be grandparents, aunts, uncles or other relatives caring for children. Some may be foster parents. A few may have only had the opportunity to love children of friends or family from a distance. A few, Others will never be intimately involved with children. However, all of us have a responsibility to love and nurture children that do come into our sphere of influence.
The Bible has a great deal to say about relating to children. In this Newsletter, we will only have time to look at some general principles which undergird the parent-child, or adult-child, relationship. These principles are as old as the Bible itself but as relevant as the most recent child development research:
The first principal flows from the Biblical teaching that all individuals, adults and children, are of eternal value and worth in that they are created in the image of God. This basic respect for the person leads to a mutual respect between parents and children. This relationship of mutual respect is summed up by Paul in Ephesians 6:1-4: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The key words here for parents are “do not exasperate your children” This mutual respect for children was unheard of in the Roman culture of the day.
Paul is building on attitudes expressed by Jesus. Mark puts it this way: “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these . . .And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16)
The relationship between Christian parents and children should be based on the same mutual love that Christ taught us to demonstrate in all of our relationships. This does not mean that parents should relax their values or compromise their goals for their children. It does mean parents should treat their children as persons. When discipline is required, it should be given with firmness, purpose and understanding but without anger, retaliation or sarcasm.
The second principle is the call for discipline. In the Biblical sense, discipline isn’t something parents “do to their children” but something they “do for their children.” Proverbs 13:24 states, “If you refuse to discipline your son, it proves you do not love him.” Happy children have fathers and mothers who are gentle and understanding, yet firm and decisive. They have parents whom they can love but whom they can also respect. Proper child rearing calls for a balance between encouragement of self-expression on the one hand and control of unacceptable behavior on the other. Too few, or too many, limits are counter-productive.
Healthy respect and consistent discipline will in general have a positive effect on the growth and maturity of the child. Thus, the writer of Proverbs states in 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” This does not mean that all children with good, Biblical upbringing will turn out O.K. It does mean they will have a much better chance of doing so.
The third principle is that values are caught as much as they are taught.
Moses states the urgency in Deuteronomy 6: 4-9: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Children are expert hypocrisy finders. We cannot fool them. We cannot be one thing six days a week and then something else on Sunday. We cannot be one thing at home and a different personality in public. In general, children will do what we do, not what we say. These verses remind us that our values, our faith, our commitments to God must be real around the clock if we are to be effective parents. Consistency of our witness is essential in order to be effective.
The last principle is that the Bible teaches that God is the model parent. In God’s plan children are born into families; and families are given the vital function of people making. Yes, in a real sense human beings are made: babies are born, humans are made. Wayne Oates states, “During this lengthened period of infancy, a greatly unfinished creating is given to parents by God. They are invited, urged, and required as co-laborers with God to join him the finishing of his new creation of a human person.”
In their little book, Why God Gave Children Parents, David and Virginia Edens adds: “Obviously, God could have arranged things so that psychologically and culturally, children would grow automatically into social maturity just as they automatically become physically mature. But He chose otherwise. Parenthood, and all the responsibilities it involved, plays a profound part in unfolding the divine purpose.”
In God’s love for his children (all of us) we have a model of how we should love our children. It seems when the adult loves God as he should, teaching, impressing, guiding children about God is an over flow from their own hearts.