Having a Jesus Heart for Children

I had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Needham and her husband, Christian singer/songwriter Jimmy Needham. I appreciate what Kelly has to share in this article about how we should view children. Scripture clearly teaches that God has a special love for children.  Look at Jesus—the way He took them onto His lap and said, “Unless you become like one of these, you won’t enter the kingdom of God.” Kelly thoughtfully challenges us to be like our Savior in our attitudes toward children. —Randy Alcorn

In every season of life, all of us encounter children—whether our own, or a friend’s, or nieces and nephews, or neighborhood kids. It’s important we have a Biblically-informed view of them.

Children Are an Inconvenience: The Common Attitude

Unfortunately, the pervasive attitude about children is that they’re inconvenient: they equal gaining 30 pounds, giving up on your dreams, and not living life your way. Children get in the way of your plans for you.

An increasingly sexually active culture has fueled this attitude. Years ago, pregnancy was the normal, expected outcome from having sex. But thanks to birth control and abortion, children are now only an optional result of sex. The push to separate pregnancy from sex is happening to appease a shamelessly self-centered lifestyle. Rather than a joyous moment, a positive pregnancy test is often received with fear as if it were a curse, a disease, or a punishment.

This mindset that children just get in the way continues beyond pregnancy. Career rules all in our culture, and men and women everywhere are finding ways to farm out their parenting responsibilities to daycares, nannies, and grandparents so they can continue to live their life the way they want. 

Sadly, this attitude isn’t just found in the world around us, but also among those who follow Christ. We see this happening even among Jesus’ disciples in Mark 10:13: “And they were bringing children to Jesus so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.”

Imagine that moment. The disciples see a bunch of moms with crying babies, busy toddlers, and rambunctious 7-year-old boys coming to Jesus. Perhaps the disciples thought they were being incredibly spiritual and Kingdom-minded: “All these kids are slowing Jesus down. He’s got places to be, sermons to preach, people to heal, demons to cast out! Get them out of the way so we can get onto the important stuff.”

The disciples considered children to be an inconvenience to Jesus’s ministry. And very often, so do many of His followers today. It might not be a career that causes us to sideline children; it might even be “important, world-changing ministry.”

Children Are a Gift: The Biblical View of Children

The Bible gives us no other way to think about children than this: they are a gift. A blessing. A reward. So how did Jesus respond to the disciples’ rebuke of the children?

And they were bringing children to Jesus so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. (Mark 10:13-16)

Here are a few things we can learn from Jesus about children.

Do Not Hinder the Children

The disciples were trying to prevent these children from coming to Jesus. But He says do not hinder them. Literally, don’t get in their way! Don’t forbid these children to come to me! How often do we stand in the way of the natural curiosity of a child because we’re too busy with “more important things”?

A child may be interested to learn about this Jesus you’re talking about with your friend, or understand what’s so special about the Bible you’re reading. Do we respond like the disciples in those moments, rebuking the child to “Leave me alone, go play with your toys. I’m busy meeting with Jesus or talking about Jesus”? Do not hinder the children! Don’t stand in their way. Let them interrupt your plans and your day.

Learn from Children

Jesus tells the disciples that these inconvenient, time-consuming children actually have something to teach them: “The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” What a massive statement.

Not only should we welcome the interruptions of children, we should also have a heart to learn from them. Kids have something to teach us about true faith and love for God and His Kingdom. This should make us want to be around kids, and even seek them out, prefer them, and be eager to listen to their thoughts!

If Jesus had said, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a lawyer will not enter it at all,” wouldn’t we find a way to spend time with a law student to understand what He meant by that? But Jesus has called us to learn from children. So pay attention to them, value them, and ask them questions. Learn from them.

Slow Down for Children

“And Jesus took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.” Jesus slowed down and engaged with these little ones. He got on their level. He spoke words of blessing over them. He stopped what He was doing to spend time with them.

Who are the children in your life? Do you purposely engage them? They may be your own children. Your grandchildren. Nieces, nephews. Friends’ kids. Children running around the lobby of your church. Maybe it’s the children who come into the doctor’s office where you work. Don’t let your primary assumption of these little ones be one of inconvenience. Welcome them. Engage them. Speak positively to them and about them.

Children Are Arrows: Thinking Strategically

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127:3-5).

I love that Scripture calls children arrows in the hand of a warrior. Not only are they a gift, they’re also an offensive weapon! Do you desire to make a difference in this world for the cause of Christ and  influence the next generation? Then pour into children! An investment in the life of a child pays huge dividends.

Think of your own childhood. Are there adults who took the time to slow down and get to know you? To teach you? To help you? Or adults that didn’t value you, but harmed you or spoke negatively to you? How did that affect your life? Think of your parents. The things they did (or sometimes didn’t do) have likely impacted how you see the world even to this very day. Adults have a tremendous impact on children’s lives, for better or for worse!

What if we determined to pour into the lives of the preschoolers, elementary age kids, and preteens around us? What if we taught them about God, who He is, and what He has done for broken sinners through Christ? What if we took every opportunity to listen to them and speak truth to them, to counsel and encourage them? This is an investment that is never wasted.

Look for opportunities to invest in the life of a child. Serve in your church’s preschool or children’s ministry. Become a mentor for a teenager through your school district. Do you have young siblings? Invest in them. Does your friend have children? Engage them when you go to visit. And of course, for those of us who have our own children, may we allow God’s view of children to permeate our homes and our actions.

As Christians, we’re to be set apart from this utterly self-centered world. We are those who follow the Selfless, Cross-Carrying Servant of God who welcomed children. May we do the same.

Kelly Needham is married to Christian singer/songwriter Jimmy Needham and is a full-time mom to their two young daughters. She blogs at www.kellyneedham.com.

Photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via Unsplash