All living things seem to have beginnings that can be thought of as “tender times.” Plants that sprout tiny green shoots are a delight in the spring and the newborn of birds, fish or animals all have an initial stage that sees them as very vulnerable and in need of protection. The animal kingdom is most complicated. Young puppies or kittens, a nest-full of birds or a new-born whale that weighs in at over a ton – are all very vulnerable to their environment. They need protection from predators, from the elements, and in order to grow and develop properly, they need guidance and training. For most creatures an adult or group of adults supply the needed support. Creatures as large as baby elephants receive the protection of the herd. Penguins huddle together in Antarctica to survive the cold and to protect the newly hatched young. Lions and wolves teach their young the hunting skills needed for their survival. In these cases, we see that if these young should be orphaned at an early age, they would not live.
There are some creatures which the Creator has designed with a type of instinct in which there is no need for direct parental care or suckling support. They are on their own. Survival for them is assured by large numbers. I think of the sea-turtles or salmon, for example. The adults lay the eggs in the appropriate place and then vanish from the life of the young. The young seem to have a built-in drive to head to the sea where they find enough food and sustenance to allow them to grow into maturity. They are easy prey for predators and accidents when they first emerge. Most do not survive, but enough will live to carry on the program. These young are still tender things and can only survive because there are so many of them. The survival rate is not high.
Life is an amazing array of systems that God has designed, and it seems in all of these, there is an initial stage of tenderness and weakness.
We notice that some need more training than others. Birds fly with little or no practice runs. Fish do not have to be taught how to swim and creatures like otters and seals also have built-in abilities. For some creatures, though, a great deal of effort and time are needed to train them to survive. Proper and careful training by an adult is their key to a good life.
But sometimes that training is not quite right or natural. A bear that has grown accustomed to getting its food from the garbage tossed away by humans will train its offspring to get food in the same place. They teach their young where the “meat market” is and the young learn to raid the dump rather than forage and hunt. When young and tender creatures are orphaned and well-meaning humans find and help them, our help can endanger their existence because they aren’t trained properly to survive in their own natural habitat. An orphaned wolf, eagle or other creature could learn all the wrong thingswhen people try to help.
Learning how to survive and developing skills for life is nowhere more important and vital than for the young and tender of the human species. There is little instinct programmed into the mind of a baby and it needs the help of an adult for years. Full adulthood is not reached until the child is well into his teens. Proverbs 22:6 Proverbs 22:6Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
American King James Version×tells us: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” That training takes place in the early and tender years when the mind of the child is very impressionable. Parents who love the child, other people and the ways of our society all play a part. With children it is clear that the ideas and concepts that are ingrained at a very young age will stay with that child. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15 Proverbs 22:15Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
American King James Version×). That foolishness can place a young person in great danger as their minds do not register danger unless they are taught it.
In the Bible, there are many references and admonitions given to parents to be careful concerning how and what they teach to their children. Concepts, thoughts, and ideas that are given to the very young can become fixed and permanent. When wrong and bad concepts are taught, a tender mind can be torn and twisted, rather than be made healthy and wholesome. Just as the food (or that which some call food) we eat has a great deal to do with our health and happiness, so too the teaching and training our mind is given affects our lives. Deuteronomy 4:9-10 Deuteronomy 4:9-10 9 Only take heed to yourself, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life: but teach them your sons, and your sons’ sons;
10 Specially the day that you stood before the LORD your God in Horeb, when the LORD said to me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.
American King James Version×contains strong words from God to teach His laws to our children and to their children after them. The young and tender among us cannot protect themselves and they are not in control of what enters their minds. We adults can. God created the unique developmental needs of humans, and He created a strong bond of love tying parents to their child – an inner sense of protection. However, some parents are like the garbage dump bear, because they themselves may have lost the ability to do what is right and what they were designed to be and do. The young suffer.
This understanding about the vulnerability of children and the responsibility of adults and the society is not new. Hundreds and even thousands of years ago, human thinkers realized the tenderness of the young. Plato’s Republic states: “the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing.” He also stated: “shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?” Another statement he made was: “Anything received into the mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable, and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts.” Like most of us, Plato wanted the young to dwell in health and receive the good and beauty of everything. He wrote: “There can be no nobler training than that.” Plato thoughts need to be put into action to have a meaningful effect. Our young are subjected to sounds, pictures, ideas and concepts that could cause them develop into destructive and violent humans. In modern times, the young are exposed to video games of non-stop violence, sports teams that try to win at any cost, and drug-enhanced behaviors. The concept of noble and virtuous ideals seems a thing of the past. Some think this is the real world – and they are right, but this real world has witnessed the destruction of civilizations and societies just like the one Plato lived in – due to the neglect of the young. We neglect them at the peril of everything we love and believe in. There is a point when it is too late to change minds – let us hope and pray we never reach that point – and let us focus our attention on the young and what goes into their minds.
God also recognizes the young and tender stage of His “children” and gives them into the care of their “mother” the church. He is the Ultimate Parent – taking care of the babes whom He calls and teaches. We grow until we mature into the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ, His Son (Ephesians 4:11-14 Ephesians 4:11-14 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
14 That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
American King James Version×). We sometimes note that a child is a “chip off the old block” – meaning he is “just like his father (or girl like her mother). That is our destiny – the plan of God and the purpose for human existence (I John 3:2 John 3:2The same came to Jesus by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that you do, except God be with him.
American King James Version×).
A study aid reference line: For more information regarding what the bible has to say about child-rearing, please see our free booklet: Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension.