Christian Corner | “You need milk, not solid food!”

babies graduating from milk to solid food can teach us about growing spiritually and maturing in Christian faith

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV)

My daughter is coming up on her first birthday.

A couple weeks ago, I was nervous for her one-year pediatrician appointment, because I knew what they were going to say: “No more bottles!”

Something about ditching the bottle really drives home that my daughter is no longer a baby, but a child.

What they say is true; your baby will grow up so fast, and even if you think you’re looking and savoring every moment of the baby season, it’ll still creep up on you without you noticing. Then, one day, it’ll hit you like a truck. Your baby is a toddler.

My daughter isn’t much of a cuddler. Sometimes, it makes me miss those earlier days when she fell asleep on me (of course, back then I wanted nothing more than to put her down in the crib most of the time). The only opportunity we really get to snuggle is when she lays in our arms and drinks a bottle of formula.

The thought of giving that up brings such bittersweet sadness!

I know it’s necessary. She must grow up. It’s the natural progression of development and required for her to live a full and successful life.

I just wasn’t aware that she understood the need to give up the bottles.

Until one day when she skipped her afternoon bottle without noticing one bit. I didn’t show it to her or offer it, so she didn’t even think about it and just went right into dinner like nothing happened. I was astonished!

Here I thought I’d have to break the bottle habit, and meanwhile, my daughter could never see another bottle as long as she lives and never even notice. She seems to intrinsically want to graduate from infant milk to solid food.

There’s good reason for this.

She’s an active baby, constantly on the move, exploring, interacting, climbing, rolling, standing, cruising…infant milk just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s not enough. She needs solid food.

Oh, how this realization has brought sharp clarity to me on what the Bible says regarding this transition in our spiritual lives.

Take another look at the verses in Hebrews at the top of this post.

The writer is saying that he longs to dive deeper with his audience on a particular spiritual matter, but knows they wouldn’t get it because they haven’t reached the developmental milestones they need to hit first to grasp the subject material.

You are still infants living on milk, he says.

Listen, there’s something wrong with your child if they never stop drinking infant’s milk and never become ready for solid foods—they’ve stopped growing.

When a baby develops, adding to his or her brain and muscles, getting physically bigger and more complex, and constantly using every new skill to build up to more complicated ones, his or her body needs more substantial food to sustain that growth.

Children eat all. the. time. Because they’re constantly growing and moving and practicing what they’ve learned.

Our spiritual lives are supposed to look like this.

If we’ve never truly needed spiritual “solid food,” we should be alarmed in the same way we would be if our pediatricians told us our babies had stopped growing.

It’s a natural progression of development that as we grow in our spiritual selves with the Lord, we gradually need more and more fuel to sustain that growth. We need more and more complex Scripture, like the material the Hebrews author is trying to explain to his audience. When we stop growing, and think we’re comfortable on a basic, infant level, there is something wrong.

Our spiritual body is made to grow, just like our babies are made to grow. We’re meant to add daily to our knowledge and understanding, just like how our babies learn about closing doors one day and start trying to clip their own car seat chest clip the next.

We’re meant to practice the foundations of our spiritual lives until they become the second-nature scaffolding that supports more complex activity, just like how a baby learning to hold its own body up will pave the way to climbing up a stair or walking around and getting into things. These motor skills, as complex and time-consuming as they are to learn, are necessary to sustain your little human’s entire mature life.

Infant milk fuels the acquisition of these skills, and as this capability transitions from the endgame of what your baby is supposed to learn to the background hum that supports more complicated living, he or she needs more fuel than what infant milk can provide.

“Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14 NIV).

Solid food is for the mature baby, who by constantly using his or her body, has trained itself to get around and get more involved in the world. This baby uses up more fuel with the physical exertion of interacting with his or her surroundings.

Solid food is for the mature Christian, who by constantly practicing his or her spiritual disciplines, as complex and time-consuming as that task is, has graduated to the more complex daily task of interacting with his or her world, making daily choices to distinguish good from evil.

Those daily decisions are exhausting, aren’t they? That’s why infant milk doesn’t do the job!

If you’re comfortable where you are, surviving on the basics of your faith, still living on them, you need to do a developmental check, just like you would take your non-growing child to the pediatrician. We’re not meant to stay infants in our faith; we’re made to grow! We’re formed to continually develop, adding daily to our increasingly vast understanding of our world! We’re made to crave more and more substantial food, more and more complex Scripture!

If we find ourselves content to stay where we are, we should be seriously concerned, and do something about it.

We should find a mature Christian and ask them to disciple us. After all, almost any developmental resource you can find about your baby will probably say something like, “Babies that are given more opportunity to practice will generally hit milestones quicker.”

As parents, we give our babies as much encouragement as we can to grow, giving them opportunity to learn to move by putting them on the floor, placing toys out of reach, and trying to teach them.

Jesus actually lays out a similar plan for our spiritual growth by telling us to “make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey all I have commanded of you” (Matthew 28:20 NIV), and demonstrating how to do it by taking on a group of men and teaching them on a daily basis.

We need spiritual parents to teach us the ropes.

For more on this, check out Robby Gallaty’s Growing Up: How to Be a Discple Who Makes Disciples.

We also need our spiritual pediatricians, experts who can see what we don’t and form game plans for spurring our development—our pastors and spiritual leaders.

We need to practice our basics as much as possible, truly learning to roll over, sit, stand up, and walk in our faith until this movement becomes second-nature and gives us access to greater opportunities to explore, learn, and grow.

Let’s afford our own spirits the same concern and care that we give our babies. Let’s cheer for our own spiritual milestones in the same way we cheer on our babies’ first steps. Let’s be as prudent to our spiritual development as we are to our babies’ physical and mental development.

Our growing up depends on it.


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