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So, we’re going to attempt to answer the question “Where does the Bible condemn child abuse?” To answer the question, I’m gonna do one thing first. I wanna make sure that we interpret the question charitably. My assumption is someone is asking this question because they truly want to root an answer in the Bible. So that’s the vantage point I’m going to be coming from – that this is someone who really wants to know what the Bible says about child abuse.
So, to answer at the beginning, “where does the Bible condemn child abuse?.” If we want to answer that question by finding that term in the Bible, by finding child abuse, then we can’t answer because the Bible doesn’t use that term. However, I’m going to argue that the Bible condemns child abuse in multiple ways.
So, the first way that I wanna answer this question is by asking another question. Does the Bible speak about abuse in general? If it doesn’t use the term “child abuse” does it talk about abuse? And it does. Let me tell you one way it does. There’s a term used in both testaments “refile” and reviler” it’s translated. And that word can mean “abuser,” “mocker,” “to mistreat,” “to slander,” “to declare cursed,” and in one part of that family of words in Hebrew it can even mean “to shake.”
So, imagine that in a real life context “to declare cursed” – a parent looks at a child and says, “you’re worthless.” To speak evil of… to speak evil of a child and who they are and how God made them. So, the Bible does very categorically speak about abuse and in this usage of revile and reviler. it condemns it. In first Corinthians 5:11, Paul says if there’s someone who says, “I follow Jesus” and they’re a reviler… you don’t hang out with somebody like that. You don’t even have a meal with somebody like that. So, the Bible condemns abuse.
And I believe when you combine that with Jesus’ overwhelming value of children, you get a very clear picture of the Bible condemning child abuse. So, let’s talk about Jesus and children. Jesus had a counter-cultural view of kids. In some study that I’ve done, in the Roman days children could be property and that’s how they could be treated. They didn’t necessarily have value or protection in society. And we have multiple instances actually in the scriptures where Jesus interacts with kids. Let me tell you two.
One of which is Jesus is hanging out with some of his friends and people are bringing their kids to this teacher a named Jesus for Him to hold them, to bless them, to speak over them. The disciples – his friends – apparently think Jesus doesn’t have time for this, because they tell people to stop doing that. And the scriptures tell us that Jesus get indignant. Jesus got angry when they were limiting the children coming to Him. And He says, “Don’t do that for such is the kingdom of heaven. Unless you come as a child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” So, Jesus counter-culturally uses a child to teach a lesson to adults.
Story #2: There’s an instance where Jesus’ friends – again we call them the disciples – are arguing about who’s the best… when Jesus sets up His kingdom, who’s gonna be number one? And Jesus can’t believe it, and to teach them a lesson the text tells us He brings a child into their midst and takes his arms. So, Jesus, in the middle of their argument, is using a child illustrate to them humility. A few verses later, Jesus says this about kids, “It is better for you to have a millstone tied around your neck…” a millstone would be one of those gigantic stones that is used to grind grain “…It’s better if you have one of those around your neck and be thrown into the sea than to cause a child to sin.” That is a pretty severe condemnation. If you’re gonna cause a child to sin, it’s better for you to have a Volkswagen Bug tied around your neck as a necklace and be thrown into Lake Keowee. Jesus is very serious about what He’s saying.
Think of that in terms of revile, reviler, abuse and a child. I think naturally we know abuse hurts kids, but scientifically we know that abuse on kids sets them up to make very unwise choices in the future and can even influence of physical health. So, abuse is violating Jesus’ words of not causing a child to sin. Cause abuse can cause anger, you’re more likely to have a premarital sex, have a child out of wedlock, you’re more likely to have health problems. So again, Jesus values children and is condemning abuse of children, I believe.
In our culture today, we also view abuse in multiple categories. Let me talk about that a second and what the Bible has to say about it. I think these modern categories are very helpful for us. So, you have a verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and one that’s not mention very often is abuse by neglect. So, what does the Bible have to say about those and does the Bible condemn them? And I think the Bible categorically condemns them all.
Let’s talk about verbal abuse. In both testaments, the Bible talks over and over about our words. Take the book of Proverbs – the wisdom writer in poetry communicates to us that words can either kill or give life, heal or hurt, calm things down or stir up anger. And that’s only a couple of the mentions of words. Consider Paul’s writings in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt communication come out of your mouth, but only that which builds up, that it may give grace to the hearer at the proper time.” So there’s a categorical command about our words. We don’t use corrupt words which is not “bad words” or four-letter words, it’s words that potentially cause rot in the mind. So, if you speak to a child in such a way as to rot their mind, then you’re violating God’s Word and God’s Word would condemn your behavior. You’re only allowed to build up. So, verbal abuse of a child is condemned in Scripture.
What about emotional abuse? Does the Bible speak to that? And yes, it does. Very specifically, it references father’s. In Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21, father’s are given a manner or a quality in which to raise up their kids. Don’t provoke them to anger. Don’t provoke them to discouragement. So, how we instruct – the manner of it – matters. As we talk to them, as we instruct them, how we do that, the attitude it leads our children towards matters in the Bible. So, if you are an angry, abusive, emotional father then you’re violating Paul’s commands and ultimately God’s commands in his letters.
What about sexual abuse? It’s sad that we have to talk about it, but the statistics are overwhelming. One in four girls and one in six boys under the age of 18 will be sexually abused in our culture. God has created an environments for sexual activity and that’s within the context of one man and one woman in marriage. Anything else He condemns in His Word. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, at the beginning of that it says, “for this is God’s will your sanctification [your holiness, your “set-apartedness”] that you refrain from sexual immorality. And sexual immorality is anything outside of God’s design for sexual expression in marriage. The Bible condemns that. Unbelievably condemns that.
What about physical abuse? There is a very powerful proverb that says this, “Do not envy a man of violence, nor choose any of his ways for the devious are an abomination to the Lord.” The thought there communicates to us that violence is a subset of devious because it’s all connected.So, the wisdom writer is saying, “Hey, don’t don’t envy a violent person. Don’t choose violent ways because that type of person is an abomination to the Lord.” Abomination is mentioned about seven times in Proverbs and it’s it’s something that is repugnant to God. So violence is repugnant. Violence towards a child, if you take into account Jesus’ view of children, is completely gross to God. And the Bible condemns it.
Finally, let’s talk about neglect. In 1st Timothy 5, Paul is writing to his friend and kind of his mentee Timothy and helping him be a good pastor. In one of those sections of Scripture, Paul is saying, people should take care of their relatives, but especially their household. And if they don’t provide for them, if they don’t care for them, then they’re worse than an unbeliever and infidel. So the logic goes, people who follow Jesus take care of their family especially the ones that live with them. And if they claim Jesus and don’t do that, they’re worse than someone who rejects Jesus completely.
So, there are things that a child needs that we naturally know and scientifically know. A child needs food, water, shelter, clothing, love, care, instruction. And if you neglect your household, if you neglect that care towards a child, you are violating God’s Word in 1st Timothy and the Bible condemns that behavior.
So, let’s wrap this up. Where does the Bible condemn child abuse? If you want just that specific term, you’re not going to find it. But I would argue that the Bible condemns child abuse through all of its pages.