Jesus and children

The stories of Jesus’ relationship with children show his positive attitude towards them. He refused to accept the attitudes of his society towards children, which regarded them as insignificant and unimportant. Just as he was willing to touch the leper and the unclean woman, so he was willing to pick up a child to teach the disciples a lesson and to gather children around him as being important in themselves.

Read Matthew 18:1-10

Here Jesus turns a discussion between proud adults arguing about who was the greatest into a lesson – to show that the Kingdom of God places the greatest value on the least. Jesus identifies himself with the child. ‘Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name, welcomes me.’

Read Matthew 19:13-15

Just a few verses later, the same disciples are trying to prevent children from seeing Jesus. Once again he confirms their importance to him by saying, ‘The Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’

Read Matthew 21:15-16

The religious authorities disapprove of the children’s behaviour as they shout ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ in the temple. Jesus is quick to take the side of the children and recognises their ability to understand and share spiritual truth.

Jesus’ actions reinforced these same priorities. Two of the three people he raised from the dead were children: Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21-43) and the widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17). He used a small boy whose willingness to share his lunch revealed the doubt of the disciples and, as a result, five thousand people were fed. Jesus himself provides a perfect example of child development: ‘The child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him.’ (Luke 2:40) Surely these simple words should guide us in caring for and suppporting all children, made in the image of God.

For discussion

  • What does Jesus teach us about our attitude towards children?
  • How should we use the experience of children in our churches in the light of this teaching?
  • Is Matthew 18:6-10 relevant to the exploitation of children’s labour? How can we improve this in our own community?
  • What are the barriers to child development in our own community?

Stephen Rand is the Prayer and Campaigns Director of Tearfund.