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Let the Little Children

December 15, 2009

I continue to be amazed at the spiritual keenness of small children—two, three and four-year-olds. With fifteen grandkids (one new little fellow freshly hatched just last night, and more on the way) and a church full of young people, all having children like they thought it was their job alone to “replenish the earth,” I have plenty of fresh reminders of why God tells us to teach doctrine to children who are “weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts” (Is. 28:9). It is difficult to believe and easy to forget just how spiritually sharp these little guys and gals are. Jesus reminded his disciples, “Suffer [allow against your inclination to do otherwise] the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14).

What a golden opportunity we have in teaching children under four or five years old! They are spiritual stem cells, not yet formed into good or evil. Their world views are undeveloped. They have no prejudices or fears. With elementary knowledge, their parents can control and subdue their fleshly impulses. They are full of faith and trust. These little ones are unwritten books, a student ready to learn. What a heavenly gift; what an awesome responsibility. Eternity is in our hands. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It is, as the song says, “A promise with a capital P”.

Just this past Sunday, a little four-year-old provided the congregation with a fresh example of a child’s spiritual depth and grasp of theological fundamentals. Chuck, a father whose kids are all grown, sometimes draws the children into a circle around him and teaches them a Bible story during our Sunday morning worship service. Last Sunday he announced to a bouquet of eager faces that he was going to talk about temptation. Most of them looked blank until he explained that temptation is when you desire to do something that you know is wrong. “What kind of temptations do you face?” Chuck asked.

In the midst of their seriousness, kids are always good for a dozen laughs. One little fellow raised his hand and volunteered his most sinister temptation: “Throwing mashed potatoes against the wall.” I glanced at his parents; they looked horrified. Another kid volunteered, “Hitting my sister,” and on they went, mostly the boys, aggressively revealing the wide spectrum of little tyke temptations.

Chuck got them to agree that we should resist temptations—something they know intuitively. Then he announced his subject with a question, “Did you know that Jesus was tempted to sin?” Four-year-old Emma sat up like she had been slapped and demanded in her baby voice, “Jesus was tempted? How?” Chuck was not yet ready to get to his point; he wanted to prep the ground further, but Emma’s view of the sinless Christ was challenged by the assertion that he was tempted like we are. She wanted clarification right now. As Chuck tried to explain how the devil came to Christ and tempted him to sin, Emma, alarmed, progressed in her questioning. “Did he?”

Some of the other kids got sidetracked with silly questions or contributions that were childish and sometimes funny, but Emma was determined to resolve this unsettling issue. It was amazing. Her little mind knew the all-importance of the doctrine of the sinless Christ, the perfect man, God in flesh who came to save us from our sins. To her young understanding, it is absolutely essential that he continue above sin if he would save us from it. Emma highly regards the Christ that her parents love and worship, the Christ that is so important that we all come together once a week and sing about him and talk about him. There is a big book dedicated to this sinless man who is now in the heavens preparing a place for those who die, a wonderful place where they wait on their loved ones and friends to join them forever and ever. Emma intuitively knows he must be sinless, and here was her respected teacher telling her that Christ was tempted just like she was.

That little girl’s concern revealed deep implications. She obviously recognizes a difference between herself and Christ in regard to sin. Her concerns were an acknowledgment of her own failure and her understanding that sin is a universal blight that is unacceptable to God.

She persisted until Chuck told the story of each of the three temptations and how the Lord Jesus Christ overcame each and every temptation to achieve a perfect human record. Then she relaxed and lapsed back into the small child she is, the one most people smile at and say “Oh, how cute” and then dismiss as not yet part of the intellectual and spiritual struggles shared by the human race.

Parents, never forget—behind the frilly little dresses and the princess shoes and the endless questions about everything great and small, there is an eternal living soul that relates to her Creator with love and admiration.

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4 comments on “Let the Little Children”

  1. Good story about Emma. Kids are so underestimated when it comes to spiritual things. My 7-yr-old and I read a lot of George MacDonald fables together and she discerns allegories (like the princess's thread being the leading of the Holy Spirit) more keenly than most adults I know. It's a tragedy to limit kids to what grownups think they're capable of.

  2. Another great article. Again, I feel so inadequate for the awesome responsibility that parenting brings. My 2 and 3-year-old are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. It's so scary knowing that we will either make them or break them. "Eternity is in our hands." Wow. I hope I can get my act together well enough so that my innocent children don't suffer because of me. I love them more than life itself. I sure do need God's grace - and lots of prayer.

  3. This article is a blessing for me.Thank you for reminding me to see my toddlers(4 and 2) are capable of understanding the spiritual side of our faith..Their level of understanding is exactly what Christ meant when He said the kingdom was for those who think that way..I used to read the baby Bible to my kids daily,now I've graduated to the young kids version which has more details and is geared toward their understanding. It warms my heart when they ask me to read certain stories again. Adam and Eve is a favorite and so is the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Now we are working on tying the message of Christmas with our Savior's birth. Thanks for showing us parents the way to educating our little ones about our faith..May God continue to bless and keep you,your family and your ministry..

  4. I think God communicates directly with young children in ways we can't understand. When my son was an infant, he was diagnosed with a life threatening disease. It requires long hospital stays and numerous treatments. My husband and I became discouraged and left the church, but he continued to go with my parents. One Sunday, when he was about 4 1/2 years old, my dad carried him to a healing service. When the pastor asked my son what he wanted to ask God for, my son asked him to pray that his mommy and daddy would come to church with him. Everyone broke down. That will definitely put you in your place. May God continue to reveal himself in my son.