In both the Old and New Testaments, God reveals that children have equal worth and dignity as image-bearers of God. Particular wrath is reserved for people who harm children, especially by sacrificing them to idols.
The Old and New Testaments both assert that childhood is good and precious.
Jesus’ whole life reveals our Creator. Jesus became a baby in Mary’s womb, showing us that God values the preborn. Jesus spent years as a child, demonstrating how much God cherishes children. The Old and New Testaments both assert that childhood is good and precious.
Jesus’ human life began before he was born. His cousin, John, was equally alive in his mother’s womb.
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “. . . behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:41–44, emphasis added)
John, in his mother’s womb, recognized Jesus in Mary’s womb before either of them was born, but they were already the prophet and the Messiah. Dr. David Menton asserted this truth for years. People are people before they are born.
The Old Testament proclaims the same truth.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)
When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman . . . [and] . . . there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Exodus 21:22–24)
The Bible asserts that preborn babies have great value to God.
Jesus was an infant. Before the Word could speak, he was already fulfilling God’s purpose.
And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed.” (Luke 2:34, emphasis added)
As a toddler, he was recognized as a King by the Magi and marked a threat by Herod (Matthew 2).
While Jesus as God incarnate glorified God in a specific and special way, all infants glorify God.
Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Matthew 21:16, emphasis added)
The practical love mothers give their newborns also demonstrates something essential in Christian discipleship.
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation. (1 Peter 2:2, emphasis added)
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. (1 Thessalonians 2:7, emphasis added)
God declares his devotion by referring to the beauty of a mother and her infant.
Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. (Isaiah 49:15, emphasis added)
David expresses face-to-face contentment in similar language.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. (Psalm 131:2, emphasis added)
Playful, fearless infants even appear in prophetic glimpses of God’s restored creation.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. (Isaiah 11:8, emphasis added)
The Bible asserts that infants have great value to God.
Jesus grew. Two little words . . . but they reveal that our Creator values childhood.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40, emphasis added)
Jesus didn’t “beam down” from heaven as a fully grown adult, but went through all the human stages of life from growth in the womb to infancy, childhood, and adulthood. The Bible records brief glimpses from his early years. Wise men brought him gifts. His parents fled with their toddler into Egypt. Religious men marveled at his wisdom.
Then Scripture sums up his childhood with this verse:
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)
Here is the ultimate goal for every child: wisdom (the ability to apply truth to relationships); stature (healthy bodies); favor with God (virtue and godliness); favor with man (community reputation and influence). This oft-overlooked verse echoes the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
Childhood is amazing. Parents have been celebrating milestones since the time of Genesis.
Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. (Genesis 21:8, emphasis added)
The patriarchs and the psalmists, from Jacob to Solomon, agree: God gives children.
When Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” (Genesis 33:5, emphasis added)
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:3–5, emphasis added)
Watch children learn. See the wonder in young eyes. Their sacred curiosity, joyful giggles, and horror at evil can remind us of truths we have forgotten as adults.
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:15–17, emphasis added)
Children can know God (1 Samuel 3:19), know the Scriptures (1 Timothy 3:15), please God (Colossians 3:20), partake of the promises of God (Acts 2:39), and bless multitudes (John 6:9). Children are not merely “the future.” Children are the present. They are significant and precious even before they become mature and productive.
Among God’s people, children count.
Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. (2 Chronicles 20:13, emphasis added)
The Bible asserts that children are essential to God’s purpose in creation.
The natural, relational way children learn has always been a model for Christian discipleship.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1, emphasis added)
Our experiences learning to walk and learning to talk also apply to learning about God.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved . . . . (Ephesians 5:1–2, emphasis added)
God’s people have been making this point for thousands of years.
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:7, emphasis added)
Children are curious. Children ask questions.
When your son asks you in time to come, “What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your son, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” (Deuteronomy 6:20–21, emphasis added)
We know it is godly to ask questions because young Jesus asked questions.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. (Luke 2:46–47, emphasis added)
Answering questions is a part of discipleship. But our pattern is not cold, scholastic, and academic. Rather, it is relational and intimate.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him . . . (1 John 3:1–2, emphasis added)
The Bible asserts that new converts will grow, like children, into mature disciples.
The Bible does not shy away from the reality that people often commit horrific acts against children.1 And God particularly hates these violations.
The tongue of the nursing infant sticks to the roof of its mouth for thirst; the children beg for food, but no one gives to them. (Lamentations 4:4)
Even in the face of death and wickedness, we followers of Jesus can proclaim, “Childhood is good!”
In the biblical world, children whose parents (particularly their fathers) died were in a vulnerable situation. The Bible is clear that God cares for orphans and commands believers to take special care of them too.
Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive; and let your widows trust in me. (Jeremiah 49:11)
The grief of a lost child matters to God. In 2 Kings 4, Elisha promises the Shunammite woman she will have a son. But when the child grows older, he dies suddenly. The depiction of the woman’s grief and her faith in God is touching, and Elisha raises her son from the dead.
Many claim that in the biblical world, girls were less valuable than boys. But when Jairus’ daughter was critically ill, he implored Jesus to come and heal her (Mark 5). Even after he was told she had died, Jesus simply told him to have faith, and he raised her from the dead. This indicates that to Jews of the day and to Jesus, boys and girls were both precious.
Even in a world twisted by rebellion against our Creator, childhood is a wonderous part of God’s design.
Even in a world twisted by rebellion against our Creator, childhood is a wonderous part of God’s design. The years we each have before we become adults are precious and important to our Creator.
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 18:10, emphasis added)
Each first word . . . each first step . . .f are all seen and remembered by our Creator God.
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6–7, emphasis added)