by Jefferson David Tant
In reading through the Bible, it is worth noting that we find no rebukes, criticisms, or condemnations of children. On the contrary, children are presented to us as models for us to imitate and follow. Consider some words Christ and Peter said concerning children.
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-4).
“Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:13-14).
“Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (I Peter 2:1-2).
In these passages, we see some traits of little children that are urged upon all of us, not just little ones. So let us consider some things in children that God wants to imitate.
The first quality mentioned is humility. There is no room for pride or arrogance in the heart of a Christian. Christ mentioned humility in Matthew 23:12: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Even Christ, God’s Son, was an example of humility. He fulfilled the prophecy made concerning him in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” And that’s exactly what we see transpiring in Matthew 21:5 when Christ enters Jerusalem riding on a baby donkey. One might expect a king to ride into town on a strong white horse, but not a baby donkey.
And then Paul wrote of Christ’s humility in his letter to Philippi: “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) Can you think of anything more humiliating than being hung on a cross and to be mocked and spit upon? And this was the “king of kings and Lord of lords” (I Timothy 6:15).
One more Scripture to note is I Peter 5:5: “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
I’m afraid I have known too many Christians who have not learned how to be humble, and this includes preachers. They have been incensed if anyone asked a question or disagreed with them, even in a public way in a Bible class. “I know more about the Bible than you do.”
I take, as a model of humility, my own father, Fanning Yater Tant. He was the editor of the religious journal Gospel Guardian during much of the last half of the 1900s when the issues concerning institutionalism were dividing churches. He was often reviled and lied about, and even cheated in a business deal with one of his opponents, but I never saw him with a retaliatory spirit.
He even reached out to one of his opponents upon learning of his serious illness.
Sadly, I have known of situations where the arrogant and spiteful attitude of a preacher has driven some away from the faith. Their reward will not be pleasant unless they repent.
There was a popular radio show many years ago, that had the lead character who was known as The Shadow, who was played by Lamont Cranston, a crime fighter. The opening line of the show was “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?”
Can we think of any evil that lurks in the hearts of children? Would Matthew 5:8 be a good description of a little child? “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This was certainly a problem Christ had with the Pharisees, who put on their white robes but had black hearts. A hypocritical, devious, or deceitful heart will not bring one in the presence of God.
When we look into the face of a young child, we see innocence and trust. We who are Christians should always seek to be honest in our daily living. “A principal part of the Jewish religion consisted in outward washings and cleansings: on this ground they expected to see God, to enjoy eternal glory: but Christ here shows that a purification of the heart, from all vile affections and desires, is essentially requisite in order to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Adam Clarke)
Children are not known for holding grudges against those who may have wronged them. Children sometimes get in trouble for doing something wrong and may get a spanking. I know my wife and I had to do that on occasion to our children. Of course, the child may be upset for a time, but that quickly passes, and there are no lingering hard feelings. The love is still there.
It is sad to note that sometimes among brethren there has been some error done, whether by mistake or done in purpose, and it remains a barrier for future relationships. Obviously, it takes two to totally repair a broken relationship, but I have the power over my own feelings. If the other party refuses to change his attitude, then that’s his problem, not mine.
Remember that being forgiven by God is also connected with our forgiving spirit. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matthew 6:14-15).
And of course, our example in this matter is Jesus Christ, as some of the last words he spoke before his death are recorded in Luke 23:34: “But Jesus was saying, "'Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.'"
A Desire to Learn
“Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (I Peter 2:1-3).
Did you ever hear a baby crying? Well, if you’ve ever been around babies, you have heard a baby crying, unless perhaps you are deaf. Why do babies cry? They may be hurting, may need a diaper changed, maybe scared, or maybe hungry. So, they get fed when they are hungry.
Consider what was said about Israel after they left Egyptian captivity. “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ” (I Corinthians 10:1-4).
And what is our spiritual food? The Word of God, which we call the Bible. So, the questions are, How strong is your desire for Bible knowledge? How hungry are you for the “pure milk of the word?” How much time do you devote daily to read, study, and meditate on God’s Word?
Yes, we live in a world of many distractions. We have TV, the internet, magazines, daily newspapers, etc., etc. But these things of the world will one day pass away. Consider Peter’s admonition: “But the Word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which was preached to you” (I Peter 1:25).
We send our children to school to get an education We realize this is vitally important if they are going to be successful and have a decent life. Homework is often assigned to the student. In many homes, when the student comes in after school, the question may be asked, “Do you have any homework?” If so, then the next statement is, “No TV or internet until your homework is done.”
But with respect to Bible knowledge, the question may be asked on Saturday evening, “Have you studied your Bible class material for in the morning?” If not, then the same instruction may be given for no TV and no internet until the lesson material is scanned through. Do you see a problem? Which is more important in the long run? You know the answer.
Our family practice as our children were growing up was to have a Bible reading and some discussion at breakfast before our children went off to school. Some of their neighborhood friends also came, and some were baptized.
Consider what Paul wrote about Timothy. “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:14-17).
And who was it that was responsible for Timothy’s education in God’s Word? “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well” (II Timothy 1:15).
There are certainly other good traits that children have, but these are the ones that came to mind as I was writing this article. In our daily living, let us remember Christ’s words in Matthew 18: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Yes, we teach our children, but our children can also teach us.