When to Be as a Babe
WHO wants to be as a babe? Is not being full-grown, mature, a most desirable state? It truly is, even as the apostle Paul indicated when he wrote: “When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.”—1 Cor. 13:11.
Useful and essential as are physical, mental and also emotional maturity, there is, nevertheless, a kind of maturity that is even more important. And what is that? Being grown-up spiritually or spiritual maturity. This kind of maturity enables one to distinguish right from wrong. It enables the Christian to remain firm in spite of conflicting teachings, temptations and pressures. Spiritual maturity enables one to “stay awake, stand firm in the faith, carry on as men, grow mighty.”—1 Cor. 16:13; Heb. 5:14.
Because spiritual maturity is so essential for Christians, they are told: “Do not become young children in powers of understanding, . . . become full-grown in powers of understanding.” (1 Cor. 14:20) Yes, Jesus Christ “gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to . . . a full-grown man, . . . in order that we should no longer be babes,” unstable and easily exploited.—Eph. 4:11-14.
But with all this the Bible also shows that there are certain aspects in which it is most desirable to be as a child, as a babe. What are these aspects and why is it vital to be childlike in regard to these?
BABES AS TO BADNESS
One sense in which the Scriptures speak favorably of Christians being as babes is when it comes to wickedness. Thus when the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not become young children in powers of understanding,” he immediately added the words, “but be babes as to badness.”—1 Cor. 14:20.
No question about it, badness is something in which Christians need no experience, should want none. When it comes to being skilled at cheating others, or at playing the role of a hypocrite, or at distinguishing oneself by sexual immorality or perversions, then it is most desirable that Christians should be as babes, innocent, inexperienced.
Today the trend in the entertainment world is toward being “mature” as to badness. This fact is underscored by the American system of grading motion pictures. By and large it appears to equate maturity with obscenity and sex practices that are condemned in God’s Word. So, Christians who wish to heed the advice to be babes as to badness would do well to be cautious about pictures suggested for “mature” audiences.
How fitting, then, is the counsel to be as babes when it comes to badness! How can one remain in that virtuous state? One great help is to watch one’s associations. “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) That means avoiding the company of fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals and sadists in real life, to the extent that one is able to do so. But it also means keeping them out of one’s mind by not thinking about such types, by not reading about them for sensual pleasure, by not viewing them on TV or on the motion picture screen. The human heart is treacherous and can easily acquire a taste for such things and be tempted to go beyond the imaginary enjoyment of them to actual participation. Far better it is to avoid all such temptations by remaining babes as to badness.—Jer. 17:9; Phil. 4:8.
BABES AS TO CHILDLIKE TRUST
On one occasion Jesus prayed: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have carefully hidden these things from wise and intellectual ones, and have revealed them to babes.” Jesus prayed this way right after the seventy evangelizers whom he had sent forth had returned elated at what they were able to accomplish, such as being able to cast out demons.—Luke 10:17-21.
Jesus’ lowly disciples were like babes in comparison with the highly educated “wise and intellectual” scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. But God revealed to them things that escaped the understanding of the highly educated religious opposers of Jesus because the disciples were childlike in yet another sense.
Jesus brought this to the attention of his disciples on one occasion after they had asked him: “Who really is greatest in the kingdom of the heavens?” Apparently he detected in their asking this question a measure of pride and ambition. So, to teach them a lesson he called a young child to him and “set it in their midst and said: ‘Truly I say to you, Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens,’” let alone be the greatest one there! “Therefore, whoever will humble himself like this young child is the one that is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matt. 18:1-4) Yes, instead of displaying pride like the “wise and intellectual” religious leaders, the disciples must display childlike humility, childlike trust in their heavenly Father who was now revealing these truths to them through his Son.
Clearly, then, mental, physical and emotional maturity are important and desirable; and particularly so is spiritual maturity. But spiritual maturity requires us to “turn around” and become like young children in these aspects: by being “babes as to badness,” by having a childlike faith and trust and by being free from ambitious pride.—1 Cor. 14:20.