A Christian’s Response to Children
A Christian’s Response to Children is the third sermon in the sermon series on Counter Culture Christianity from Proverbs 24:10-12 about the five ways that a Christian can respond to children.
“If you do nothing in a difficult time, your strength is limited. Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter. If you say, “But we didn’t know about this,” won’t he who weighs hearts consider it? Won’t he who protects your life know? Won’t he repay a person according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:10–12, CSB)
As we have seen in the news this week, there is much being said about how we should treat children. When children go through a difficult and traumatic experience, how should a Christian respond? If you see families in distress, what is the best response? How should a Christian respond to children? Here, in this passage, we see five different ways in which I can respond for children.
FIVE DIFFERENT WAYS I CAN RESPOND FOR CHILDREN:
1. Have the strength to speak up (Proverbs 24:10)
“A wise warrior is better than a strong one, and a man of knowledge than one of strength;” (Proverbs 24:5, CSB)
The first way I can respond for children is when I use my strength to speak up for them. Here, the writer of Proverbs tells us that wisdom is better than strength. The same word for strength is used again in Proverbs 24:10:
“If you do nothing in a difficult time, your strength is limited.” (Proverbs 24:10, CSB)
The difficult time that is being referenced here is a situation like we saw this week about the children potentially being separated from their parents. No matter what one may think about American immigration policy, I think we can all agree that it is not wise to separate children from their parents. For these families, they are going through a difficult time. From their point of view, the kids are going through a difficult time. The writer of this proverbs is stating that your strength has faltered when you have been called on to help others.1 The truth is that you are really weak if you don’t stand for children during times like this. This leads me to the second way I can respond for children. I respond for children when I help the helpless.
2. Help the helpless (Proverbs 24:11)
“Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter.” (Proverbs 24:11, CSB)
If I am to use my strength to speak up for those who are helpless and weak, then the question becomes: Who are those who are in need? Who are the helpless according to the Bible?
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT THE HELPLESS?
The Bible is full of verses about how to treat the marginalized.
1. It describes how God cares to help the helpless.
“He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the resident alien, giving him food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10:18, CSB)
“God in his holy dwelling is a father of the fatherless and a champion of widows.” (Psalm 68:5, CSB)
“The Lord protects resident aliens and helps the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” (Psalm 146:9, CSB)
2. Job described himself as someone who helped the poor and the helpless child.
“For I rescued the poor who cried out for help, and the fatherless child who had no one to support him.” (Job 29:12, CSB)
3. God commands us to help those who are helpless.
“Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.” (Psalm 82:3, CSB)
“Learn to do what is good. Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17, CSB)
4. God doesn’t like it when people are evil toward these marginalized groups:
“Woe to those enacting crooked statutes and writing oppressive laws to keep the poor from getting a fair trial and to deprive the needy among my people of justice, so that widows can be their spoil and they can plunder the fatherless.” (Isaiah 10:1–2, CSB)
5. God spoke to Jeremiah about this to the people of Israel, even when Israel was in captivity:
“This is what the Lord says: Administer justice and righteousness. Rescue the victim of robbery from his oppressor. Don’t exploit or brutalize the resident alien, the fatherless, or the widow. Don’t shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 22:3, CSB)
6. God spoke again to the prophets when Israel returned from the exile:
“Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the resident alien or the poor, and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another.’” (Zechariah 7:10, CSB)
““I will come to you in judgment, and I will be ready to witness against sorcerers and adulterers; against those who swear falsely; against those who oppress the hired worker, the widow, and the fatherless; and against those who deny justice to the resident alien. They do not fear me,” says the Lord of Armies.” (Malachi 3:5, CSB)
7. Jesus spoke about how to treat those who are helpless.
Jesus spoke how a widow is supposed to be treated in one of His parables:
“And a widow in that town kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ “For a while he was unwilling, but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or respect people, yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so that she doesn’t wear me out by her persistent coming.’ ”” (Luke 18:3–5, CSB)
Jesus also said this about children:
“Jesus said, “Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to me, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” (Matthew 19:14, CSB)
My point is that the Bible is full of references about how we should help those who are helpless. While the Bible does speak about the role of the government is helping society, the overwhelming amount of Bible verses speaks about how a person should treat those who are helpless. The more liberal perspective believes that helping the helpless is the role of society and therefore the government should play a larger role. The more conservative perspective believes that helping the helpless is the role of the individual and therefore the government should play a smaller role.
For the Christian, the overwhelming point of Scripture is that there are people who are helpless, people who need our help. There are dangerous times in which people need our intervention. Look as we read this verse again:
“Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter.” (Proverbs 24:11, CSB)
We see that the two commands: “rescue” and “save” form bookends to the objects in-between. To “deliver” and “hold back,” form the outer frame, and their objects, “those being taken to death” and “those swaying and being led away to slaughter,” the inner core.2 In other words, we rescue and deliver people who are going to their death. We save and hold back people before they get slaughtered. The point is that we help the helpless when they are in danger.
One such slaughter that we need to deliver the weak from is abortion:
Across the world, more than forty-two million abortions occur every year. That’s 115,000 abortions every single day. I find it hard to fathom that number when I look at the faces of my four children each night as I put them to bed. I find it hard to imagine 115,000 other children who that day were introduced to the world with a tool or pill aimed at taking their lives. And I find it hardest to comprehend how I, for so long, could show no concern for this gruesome global reality.
Abortion is without question an assault on God’s grand creation of a human life. There is no way around it. Our lives and language testify to this. I remember the pure joy when we found out that my wife, Heather, was pregnant. From the very beginning, we talked about our son like he was a person. He was never a clump of tissue that could become our son if we chose to have him. He was our child from the start, and we loved him as such.
My wife and I are not alone in this. Even abortion advocates join with us, albeit unintentionally, in talking about unborn babies as exactly that: babies. I remember when reports announced that Prince William and his wife, Kate, were expecting their first child. Even the most secular news outlets immediately began talking about the child in the womb as an heir to the throne. They made much of the significance of this baby, and no one spoke in terms of a “blastocyst” or “blob of cells.” We would loathe the journalist who dared to use such language. But doesn’t the dignity we conferred on a “royal” baby apply also to countless other “ordinary” babies whose lives are no less significant?3
3. Stop making excuses (Proverbs 24:12)
“If you say, “But we didn’t know about this,” won’t he who weighs hearts consider it? Won’t he who protects your life know? Won’t he repay a person according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:12, CSB)
In its simplest form, denial is when we choose not to take responsibility for our own reality and our own sin. Even if no one ever calls us out and we manage to rationalize everything to ourselves, God knows the truth. And ultimately we are accountable to him and him alone.4
There is an overwhelming number of Bible verses that describe how much God cares for those who are helpless. There are so many verses that describe a responsibility to help those who are helpless. Yet, people still make excuses. They plead ignorance. They say that they never knew. The fact is that we do know. God has given Himself as an example of how to treat others with love. We really can’t make excuses. Because the excuses we give shows how little we love both God and other people.
4. Inaction is unacceptable (Proverbs 24:12)
“…won’t he who weighs hearts consider it? Won’t he who protects your life know?…”
Solomon’s wise words here speak of inaction, rather than action. It is often in the church to speak of sin as being those things we do that are dishonoring to God. However, it is also right to consider those things that we do not do which bring dishonor to our God.5 Inaction, or the sin of omission is when one fails to do what God prescribes. The sin of commission is when one does what God prohibits.6
There are no valid excuses for standing idle when it is possible to help.7
What is the motive for the admonition of the preceding verse? Some might be inclined to avoid involvement in a such a dangerous situation. One might plead that he by himself could not affect the rescue of the doomed person. Why, then, had he not called on others to assist him? The excuse then would be ignorance of the perilous situation in which the neighbors had been placed. The one who weighs hearts will accurately evaluate such excuses as worthless. The Lord will then render “to every man according to his work.”8
To plead ignorance of these responsibilities is no excuse because God has a mission in society for the believer, who will be judged ultimately according to his deeds.9
Which leads us to the fifth way I can respond for children.
5. Save children for eternity (Proverbs 24:12)
“…Won’t he repay a person according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:12, CSB)
The phrase here is in the negative with the thought of a negative consequence. If I make excuses for my lack of helping children, then God will act against me, according to my work. Yet the same is true in a positive fashion. If I work to save children, God will see my heart. He will repay me for my work of evangelism. This week, we will open our church doors to children in the area. We will use these resources that God has given us to share the Gospel with children in our Vacation Bible School. Perhaps we will encounter an opportunity like this:
During Vacation Bible School one year, a pastor’s wife had an experience with her primary class that can teach us all a great lesson. About an hour before dismissal one evening, a new student was brought into the room. The little boy had one arm missing, and since the class was almost over, the teacher had no opportunity to learn the details of his situation, but she was nervous that one of the other children would say something insensitive to him, so she preceded cautiously with the lesson.
As the class time came to a close, she asked the children to join her in their usual closing ceremony. “Let’s make our churches,” she said, putting her hands together to form the “church.”
“Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and …” Suddenly the awful truth struck her. The very thing she had feared that the children would do, she had done.
As she stood there speechless, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, “Josh, let’s make the church together.”*10
1 Paul E. Koptak, Proverbs, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 562.
2 Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15–31, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005), 276.
3 David Platt, Because We Are Called to Counter Culture: How We Are to Respond to Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Persecution. Abortion, Orphans, and Pornography (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015).
4 Kasey Van Norman, Matt Chandler, and Lauren Chandler, Raw Faith: What Happens When God Picks a Fight (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014).
6 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook, 2007 Edition. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 212.
7 Paul E. Koptak, Proverbs, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 562.
8 James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Pr 24:12.
9 R. K. Harrison, “Proverbs,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 425.
10 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 123.