5 Pieces of Biblical Wisdom on Children

Mom and childAs part of his catechesis on the family at his weekly General Audiences, Pope Francis has spoken about the poor valuing of children in our society. He has decried the commodification of children, saying that they are not "one of many ways to realize oneself in life". He has criticized the view that children are primarily a worry and a burden: "a society... that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society." Most recently, he affirmed that children are never mistakes.

As Pope Francis has referenced on numerous occasions, we live in a throwaway culture, where the most vulnerable among us are dishonored and cast aside.  We dishonor children by thoughtlessly exposing them to vulgarity and violence. We dishonor children when we are overly exasperated by them, when we see them as being less sensitive or less fully human than adults, or when we think they should be seen but not heard. Our call to defend the dignity of human life doesn't end when the child is born. Our poor view of children is deeply embedded in our culture: In this series of commercials from a major brand, children are compared to animals; In this commercial, a teen's great sin is that she talks too much to her parents. Why do we accept this blatant disdain for kids?

Let's make an effort to change our view of children, beyond seeing them as burdens who are only good insofar as they are extensions of ourselves. Take a moment to meditate on these Scripture verses, which should remind us all that children are just as human as adults and just as much children of God as adults. 

  1. "sons are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb - a reward." -Psalm 127:3
    Scripture teaches us that children are not a life achievement on the part of adults; they are a pure gift from God. They are not entitlements; they are privileges. 

  2. "Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged." -Colossians 3:21
    So often, we stop reading after Paul says "Children, obey your parents". Children owe obedience to their parents for their own good, but the responsibility of parents is far greater. Parents are supposed to steward their children, making citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Dominating instead of gently & firmly guiding doesn't seem to be what Paul advises here.

  3. "You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!" -Psalms 139:13-14
    This verse is not written from the perspective of a child, but the psalmist acknowledges (and rejoices) that he was made and loved by God from the very beginning. Children are wonderfully made. What does it say about us when we can't see that?

  4. "When he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it." -Luke 2:42-43
    We all know the story of Jesus disappearing in Jerusalem. His parents found him in the Temple, but they were scared, and were probably pretty mad at him once they found him. Jesus obviously isn't any ordinary child, and yet he was human. He had a human mind, and he had a human child's curiosity. This story reminds us that children can be surprising in their understanding and deep desire to learn and know God. Moreover, we know that Jesus never sinned. His actions may have angered his parents, but he did not sin here. Perhaps we can look at the actions of children through that lens. A child may do something that angers us, but upon further examination we might find that their intentions were innocent.

  5. "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 18:3
    This is, of course, probably the most famous verse in our list, and yet it seems so often ignored. Of course, the virtue of a "child-like" faith is upheld, but to what else does this verse call us? Could we let ourselves feel hurt a little more easily, but also let it go a little more quickly - as children do? Could we show more spontaneous gestures of affection - as children do? Could we dedicate more time to enjoying God's creation - as children do? Jesus holds children up as models, and doesn't offer a lot of modification of that. This suggests that we have a lot to learn from kids.

04/8/2015

5 Pieces of Biblical Wisdom on Children