What did you expect … . They’re only children!” Have you ever heard or uttered that sentiment? Those words could be rightly used to defend a child from unrealistic expectations, but those same words could also easily be used to lower genuine expectations for our children. Far too often in our modern age, children are either held up as the perfect hope for the future, or they are debased as having no value or contribution to make. Sadly, these extremes can be seen in the church as well. At times, we hold our children to impossible standards of obedience or performance – which dishonours Christ and often crushes our children’s faith. However, we dare not overreact to that sort of legalism in the church by turning to the antinomian idea of not expecting much at all from our children! So, what should we expect of our children? How does the Bible shape our view of what a child can accomplish in their youth?
The Bible’s view of children gives us an excellent antidote to the two extremes mentioned above. For on the one hand, the Bible teaches us that children are sinful from conception onwards (Psalm 51:5). Therefore, children are not to be trusted by themselves or given free rein to do as they wish – for that would certainly lead to sin and destruction (Proverbs 22:15 & 29:15). However, the Bible frequently also calls on young people and children to learn God’s Word, wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:4; Ecclesiastes 12:1). Furthermore, the Scriptures give us multiple examples of faithful children and youth who accomplished much for God’s Kingdom (Joseph, Samuel, David, Josiah, etc). The biblical view of youth is overall quite positive. There is a natural tendency toward folly and sin, but with instruction and correction our young people can do great things for the Lord! Therefore, we must have realistic and yet high expectations for our young people. Children can