Are there any children in the Bible?

We don’t talk a lot about the kids in the Bible, but they’re there more often than we might think.
Our Faith

Have you ever spent a long time trying to find something that ended up being in an obvious place? Like when your mom can’t find her cell phone so she calls it … on her cell phone! Or when your dad can’t find his glasses, but they’re on top of his head!

Sometimes things are hidden in plain sight in the Bible, too.

Think of your favorite Bible story. Maybe it’s one of Jesus’ parables, like when Jesus talks about the shepherd leaving his 99 sheep to go find the one that’s missing. Or maybe one of his miracles, like when he raises people from the dead or turns water into wine. Or maybe it comes from the Hebrew Bible, what we sometimes call the Old Testament: the story of Moses telling the sea to split in half or David the shepherd beating a giant with only a slingshot. 

Once you think of a story, try and imagine the scene as best you can. Start with the details the Bible writers give you. Then start imagining the details the writers don’t talk about. For instance: what’s the weather like the day the story happens? What color are the characters’ clothes? How do the people in the story feel—sad or angry or happy? Who else might be involved, even though they aren’t mentioned? In other words, start looking out for the parts of the story that are hiding in plain sight.


For example, how many honeybees and mud puddles have you read about in the Bible? How about crying babies? What about spiders? Not many. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. It just means they aren’t talked about. They are being overlooked.

Sometimes this happens because the storytellers didn’t think they were important parts of the story. But other times it can be because the other characters weren’t paying attention to these parts either. Sometimes it’s us, the readers, who miss these things in plain sight.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can be readers who keep our eyes out for overlooked parts of stories.

Oftentimes, kids are the most overlooked people in Bible stories. This isn’t because the people who wrote scripture didn’t like kids or thought that kids weren’t important. They were mostly just interested in telling stories about adults to other adults. Unless a child was really central, maybe they thought that any kids who were there just weren’t important to the story.


But we know that kids are there. Anywhere there are a group of people, there are probably children around somewhere. So let’s try to find them!

First, in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is teaching a big crowd about God. At some point, one of his friends asked Jesus who the most important person in God’s kingdom will be. Before Jesus answers, he invites a kid to stand next to him. But where did the child come from? How long was he there? Why was he there? Did he come with his parents?

Maybe his mom or dad was one of Jesus’ disciples. Or maybe this kid just really liked hanging around Jesus, because Jesus was fun, told jokes, and gave really good shoulder rides. The narrator doesn’t tell us. He only mentions the child when it’s important for his story. But we can look out for kids even when the biblical narrators aren’t talking about them.

One chapter later in Matthew’s gospel story, people bring their sick kids to Jesus so he can heal them. But some of Jesus’ friends are angry, because they don’t want to have children around. Jesus just laughs and says, “Let the little children come to me, because the kingdom of Heaven is actually theirs.”


Some people are shocked by this: In Jesus’ time, kids weren’t thought of as being very important. But Jesus came to turn people’s thoughts inside out and upside down. So when his friends try to ignore children, Jesus reminds them that actually kids are some of the most important parts of God’s world. Maybe even more important than kings and queens! 

Sometimes, even when a child plays an important part of a Bible story, adults can still overlook them when talking about scripture in church or during Sunday school. For example, have you ever heard the story about Jesus taking a few loaves of bread and fish and feeding a giant crowd? Jesus is with hundreds of hungry people, and none of them have anything to eat. Except for one child—a kid whose name the narrator doesn’t bother to tell us. This boy has five loaves of bread and two fish, and he gives them to Jesus because he wants to help. Jesus takes the small meal and then, as only he can do, he turns it into a giant feast. 

We tell this story to remind ourselves that God takes care of our needs, and that is definitely true. But there’s another important lesson in this story: Jesus didn’t make bread and fish out of nothing—he made more bread and more fish out this boy’s gift. The boy was an important part of the miracle: We don’t know what would have happened if he wasn’t there. We only know that he was there and that he was able to help Jesus perform one of his greatest miracles. The next time you hear this story of Jesus magically feeding thousands of people, remember that there might not have been a miracle if a kid hadn’t helped.

As we’ve seen, sometimes in the Bible, kids are hiding in plain sight. No matter why they aren’t at the center of the story, we can always try to find them. In fact, when we look for kids who have been overlooked, we act like God.


The Hebrew Bible has a lot of different ways to describe God, but one has to do with the attention God gives to children—especially the most overlooked ones, like those who don’t have parents. God is described over and over again as someone who looks after orphans. Psalm 68, for example, calls God a “father of the fatherless.” In other parts of the Bible, God is described as a mother eagle (Deut. 32:11) or mother bear (Hos. 13:8) taking care of her young.

Because God is a good parent who looks after all God’s children, we are called to act the same way. “Learn to do good,” God tells the people in the Book of Isaiah, “bring justice to the children who don’t have parents.” In other words, looking for the kids who have been overlooked will not only help us to be better Bible readers—it will help us become the kind of people that God wants us to be.


To God, the world is one giant story made up of billions of tiny stories. And God doesn’t overlook any of the details. Next time you read scripture, see if you can act like God by keeping an eye out for everyone and everything that might be hiding in plain sight.

This essay is part of the new column Childish by Brandon Ambrosino, which aims to bring kids into theological conversations. You can read more of Brandon’s columns here.


Image: Unsplash/Jonathan Borba

About the author

Brandon Ambrosino

Brandon Ambrosino holds a doctorate in theology and ethics from Villanova University, where he wrote a dissertation teasing out the theological implications of camp theory. His writing has appeared in the New York TimesBoston GlobeBBC, Politico, and many other outlets.

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