Why don’t you just grow up?

Most of us have heard this at some point in our life, right? It’s intended to be a put down, never meant as an encouragement.

I clearly remember an incident when our son, Christopher was quite small. We were standing around the carousel in an airport, waiting for our luggage to arrive. An older man, desperate after a long flight for a nicotine fix, was smoking—lighting up one cigarette after another. There was no escaping it. Christopher always hated the smell of cigarette smoke. He sometimes even wore a button we thought was amusing that said, “Thank you for not smoking.”

So when he’d had enough of the smoke, it was a surprise to us all when he boldly walked over toward the man and began to tap on a sign posted behind him.

No smoking permitted in the baggage claim area.

The guy looked over his shoulder, frowning down at him. “Why don’t you just grow up?” To which Christopher quickly replied, “I can’t—I’m just a little kid. Why don’t you grow up and stop smoking where YOU aren’t supposed to!”

In that situation, obviously it was the adult that needed to grow up.

It is one thing to be childish when you’re a child. Children must be taught to share their toys, not to burp at the dinner table, and not to kick and scream when they don’t get their way. At some point, a child must stop being a child and grow up. What is true physically is also true spiritually.

“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 NASB).

Little children have very identifiable traits, don’t they? Oh, how I love babies! There were moments when I’ve wished the little ones in my life could stay five years old for a little while longer. Don’t grow up so fast.

In the story of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, he wrote:

“One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this forever!”

But as wonderful as childhood can be, no parent would truly wish their little girl or boy would go on being five forever. So when scripture tells us that we must grow up into Christ in every way, we must pay attention.

Little children are so very gullible, easily taken advantage of by people and things that aren’t true.

Does anyone remember the “amazing sea monkeys” advertised on the back pages of comic books? Did you ever mail in and pay money, waiting with excitement to get these magical creatures? I did…so disappointing.

In Ephesians 4, Paul makes a strong appeal for us to grow up. Maybe you think you already are grown up spiritually, but Paul doesn’t assume that, does he? In verse 13, we learn that mature believers are those who reach the full measure of Christ. Okay, now that is astounding to think about what that means.

Becoming a mature Christian isn’t merely for our own individual fulfillment. Reading further into this amazing passage, we realize the end goal is, “when each part is working properly, it makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16).

We grow with each other, for each other, building up one another as we are held together in love. Picture all the different parts of the body holding onto each other. Working together and doing their part to build in love!

We need to grow up.

Because there is work to be done. The “work of the ministry” (in verse 12) is not just for pastors and teachers and ordained ministers. It is for all the saints. Out of His generosity, we are given our own spiritual gifts. Let’s use them!

Here’s my challenge for you. What part are you playing in the work of ministry? Are you willing to be used? In what ways are you caring for, and supplying what someone else needs in order to grow up spiritually?

This was Paul’s aim. This is Jesus’ aim. It must be your aim and mine.

In God’s kingdom, there is no place for a “Peter Pan” believer who refuses to grow up.

“No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love” (Ephesians 4:14-16 MSG).