“The Child’s Right to Spiritual Development”
ON December 9, 2008, the Swedish Academy for the Rights of the Child held a unique seminar with the theme “The Child’s Right to Spiritual Development.” Many opinions were presented by speakers representing the Church of Sweden, other denominations of Christendom, Islam, and the humanist movement.
Among the speakers was a clergyman who said: “One can hardly give a true and fair description of the great importance the Bible accounts have for children’s spirituality.” How do Scriptural passages meet the spiritual needs of children?
“The texts and accounts offer the children material for private reflection and meditation,” said the clergyman. He listed “the story of Adam and Eve, of Cain and Abel, of David and Goliath, of the birth of Jesus, of the tax collector Zacchaeus, the parable of the prodigal son, of the neighborly Samaritan.” These were cited as “some of the model accounts that serve to guide the thinking [of a child] to the great existential areas of treachery, forgiveness, atonement, hate, degradation, amends, brotherly and unselfish love.” He added: “These texts offer patterns that can be transformed into one’s own life, become action, become practical experience.”
Granted, it is a fine thing to encourage Bible reading. However, are children really capable of carrying on “private reflection and meditation” on what they read from the Scriptures and of drawing correct conclusions?
Even adults need to have Scriptural passages explained to them. For example, the Bible tells us about a man who was unable to find true spirituality through “private reflection and meditation.” That man was an Ethiopian official. He was reading the prophecy of Isaiah but did not grasp its meaning. Since he wanted to understand the message of the prophet, he welcomed the explanation offered to him by the disciple Philip. (Acts 8:26-40) That Ethiopian is no exception. All of us—especially children—need to have Scriptural passages expounded.
The Bible warns us: “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy.” (Prov. 22:15) Children need guidance and direction, and their parents have the responsibility to give them moral and spiritual education based on the Bible and on what is taught in the Christian congregation. Children have the right to such training. From an early age, they need help to build a firm Biblical foundation for spiritual development so that they may become “mature people . . . who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Heb. 5:14.