Childish Faith

There’s an interesting paradox in the Bible that I’ve been wondering about for a while. Have you noticed that the Bible combines faith and children in both a positive and a negative way? Here’s what I mean:

“Then Jesus said, ‘Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to Me, because the kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this'” (Matthew 19:14).

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

It seems like the Bible is speaking out of both sides of its mouth, or at least that Jesus and Paul disagree. Jesus was teaching that entering the kingdom of heaven is about having faith like a child. But Paul seems to say that growing in Christ is about putting away childish ways.

But let’s frame it another way – maybe there is a difference between “child-like” faith and “childish” faith. That is to say, a childish faith is a mark of immaturity as a Christ-follower. But child-like faith is a mark of depth. But that’s a pretty fine line to draw, and it causes me to ask: What are the characteristics of a childish faith, and how are those characteristics different than a child-like faith?

So today, I wanted to make a couple of observations about childish faith. Tomorrow we’ll do child-like faith. See if you agree.

Childish faith is …

1. Selfish. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most famous chapters in the Bible, and in it Paul talks about the giving, self-sacrificial nature of love. But children have to be taught that kind of love. So a childish faith is one that is only in it for what it can get, thinking of its relationship with God exclusively about what it can receive but not give. It’s a “get out of hell” faith, and that’s pretty much it.

2. Unexamined. Paul mentions in this verse both thinking and reasoning, and those aren’t necessarily things that kids do alot of. They accept things strictly at face value, and don’t often try to probe much deeper. Such is a childish faith, one content with never asking questions or spending time dwelling on the mysteries of God.

3. Unfocused. I see in my own kids that their attention ebbs and flows with whatever is in front of them in the moment. So in a childish faith, a person only focuses on matters of faith when they’re convenient or they happened to be at a church service. The result is a book-end relationship with God, where you might go to church but your life is only book ended by that relationship.

4. Easy. Kids don’t seem to like to do alot of hard things. They have to learn to appreciate difficulty. And in a faith that is childish, a person might so closely tie their faith with their circumstances that when the day of difficulty comes, and they have the choice about whether their faith will stop being childish, they might decide believing is just too hard.

That’s just four. And they’re a little dangerous to write because I’m seeing all of these tendencies in my own life. But at the risk of being judgmental but with the potential of us all moving toward child-like faith and away from childish faith, I would ask:

What other characteristics of childish faith would you add?

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  • Jana Kelley says:

    This may be close to unexamined, but I would add the inability to learn a lesson. Being teachable seems very important to Christ seeing as he was constantly teaching lessons in his stories. While children do learn lessons, it seems that it takes several moments of correction.

  • Michael K. says:

    That’s really good. Thanks, Jana.

  • Amy Wright says:

    I’m not very good with words, but when my kids act “childish”, they try to reason with me (or throw fits) when they don’t realize that I know what is best.
    I definitely do this with God. Sometimes I think that he’ll change his mind and see things my way.

  • Michael K. says:

    Yep. That’s good too.

  • Becky Dietz says:

    Maybe this goes right along with selfish, but when I think of childish faith, I think of demanding faith. Demanding what it wants when it wants it.
    And progressing to a teen-aged faith (still childish, as you’ll find out!), I think of a rebellious faith. A child wanting to do things his own way regardless of what dad says. It’s a reckless faith.

  • Felton Cotey says:

    What a great way to bring out a subject. I’d love to discover more related to this and to hear views from others.

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