The Changeableness and Instability of Children
A Series by Dennis Gunderson – Part 3 of 8
The first half of Ephesians 4:14 points to another trait in children:
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine…
Again, this is a description of what we adults should not be but what children are. This instability is predictably and naturally found in children. They are easily swayed. The choices of children swing like pendulums; their wishes, opinions, and commitments change quickly.
You may say, "We can all be that way!" Yes, that is true. That is why Paul exhorts us not to be. But we are told that children are especially that way, and if you have children, you need no commentary on this¾ you know Paul’s assessment is true! So we must evaluate a child’s stated "convictions" with this firmly in mind. What seems to be his conviction today may be forgotten tomorrow. Jesus speaks of this tendency in Matthew 11:16-17:
But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
Jesus is rebuking them for manifesting a trait that should only be seen in children. What childlike trait? Just what Paul has asserted above in Ephesians 4:14: inconsistency and fickleness¾ something we adults should not be but what the Pharisees were. What thrills children one moment means nothing the next. You cannot count on what they say to last; and although their intentions may be good in making a commitment, what is missing most of the time is resolve. The recognition of such inconsistency must be a factor in how seriously we initially consider even the best profession of faith given by a child.
They are, to use another scriptural term, "capricious." In Isaiah 3:4, the prophet predicts God’s judgment on the nation Israel in these words:
I will make mere lads their princes, and capricious children will rule over them.
Why do children not make good princes and rulers? Because they are "capricious" ¾ literally , arbitrary. They do not take into account all that they should. Their judgment is bad!
Given these weaknesses, children often think they have understood the ramifications of a commitment when they have not. One may sincerely believe he has come to the Lord when he has just barely begun to grasp the message. Should we not then take this into account when hearing a child’s profession? Rather than rushing them to baptism after a first profession, would it not be wiser to take advantage of the ongoing opportunity to interact with them and wait for more significant evidence of lasting commitment? There is no wisdom in hurrying them to make their commitment public while hoping or even praying that their profession will prove to be a genuine one sometime later. Why take the chance of deception? Your child will not be any less saved by your judicious waiting for more substantial evidences, if God has indeed performed a work of grace in the first place.