Like a Child
Jesus in one of his greatest illustrations used a child to teach an important lesson from a question that was asked wrong. In Matthew’s Gospel, the disciples asked Jesus, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1 NKJV)? Wrong question!!
First of all, God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are the greatest in the Kingdom and after that does it really matter? The disciples were still contending for the top spot and it was already taken; the great paradox of the Kingdom, if you are seeking the top spot you have just disqualified yourself.
In response to the foolish question, “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, / and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. / Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4 NKJV).
So now we have it! If you have hopes of entering the Kingdom much less taking top spot, then you need to become like a little child. This does not mean we become naïve or so unlearned we are not effective but we need to have some traits that are usually held by children. Let’s look at a few…
We use the cliché “child-like faith”. The faith of a child is the purest faith. A child believes in spite of the reality around him. He believes because someone said it was possible or maybe he believes in spite of someone saying it is not possible. He does not know what is or is not possible—he hasn’t caught up in life yet. Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 NKJV). Even though Jesus said, “With God all things are possible”; we as adults hardly believe it but kids just take it unconditionally as the truth. We adults are just too smart to believe anything is possible so our doubt smothers our faith. Our doubts rule our lives more than the potential of child-like faith so we are robbed of the possibilities that faith in God might provide.
Adults overthink things. Adults need proof. We have had too many life experiences and too much ‘book-learning’ to just believe—how childish. Many in the religious community have become theological snobs not believing that our current Christianity allows miracles anymore—the Bible is enough they say. Therefore, some glorify the history of God’s miracles without receiving one for their own because we are just too mature to believe such things. The Gospels become no more than a fairy tale we read to our wide-eyed children.
Faith involves seeing something that is not there. Storybooks may call the notion fairy tales but God calls it supernatural. Adult believe in the ‘natural’ without the ‘super’; children readily believe in the supernatural—why not?
It would be better to believe God for too much rather than not enough. Some would say, “Oh, I wouldn’t want their hopes crushed if the miracle didn’t happen” not knowing they have just crushed their hopes by telling them it is not possible.
[Note: The word “damn” is not a curse word unless you are actually cursing someone or something. It means condemned or doomed.] Carnal adults protect themselves from disappointment by thinking, “You are damned, if you believe” while the Bible says we are “damned if we do not believe” (paraphrased from John 3:18 NKJV, “He who believes in Him [Jesus Christ] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”. Children simply say, “Yes, I believe” while not even understanding what “damn” means. Children wrap their arms around Jesus before wrapping their brains around Heaven or Hell.
Adult thinking is often based on so many past experiences that our thinking is foggier than London skies in late autumn. Children because of their lack of experience do not have a frame of reference as adults. Some would say they are blank slates. We adults are the ones telling them what to write on their blank slate which leads to later confusion. Many of our adult instructions are crazy. We tell our kids not to talk to strangers; we then reprimand them for not talking to our co-worker who we happen upon at Walmart. We want our kids to be godly then we act like the devil. We scream at our kids to quieten them down. Then we wonder why our teenagers are confused!!
With the messes we have made in life, I wonder why we think we have it figured out. We say, “If I knew then what I know now…” The truth is, many of the mistakes we made in the past, we would most likely repeat again. Knowledge does not necessarily cause one to make good choices; for instance, we know high calories causes weight gain yet we still eat that second slice of cake while watching our weight.
Children readily believe in God and His miracles and will continue to believe if we don’t talk them out of it!
Children have no problem in receiving a gift. They are excited about a gift. They are joyful when they receive a gift. Adults are afraid a gift will have a string attached to it. When we adults receive a gift, we feel obligated to give a gift back thus making all things even. God gave His Son to pay for our sins and religion tries to devise the means to pay Him back somehow. Sometimes you just need to take a gift and say thank you! We even make the statement when someone gives us a gift or performs some service for us by saying, “I don’t know how I could ever repay you!” If you could you, you would actually nullify the gift by turning it into a contract agreement. Just take the gift of God or a friend and say thank you! We could no sooner pay God back for the gift of His Son for our salvation than a poor beggar could buy out Wall Street. Just take the gift!!
Salvation is free! If God charged for it, perhaps more people would have it. You can sell puppies for a $5 a piece much faster than you can give them away. You still have to give kittens away for some fuzzy reason!
Children feel as though their status is increased when they receive a gift. The gift says you are special to a child. When we receive Christ, our status upgrades automatically. An adult feels like their dignity has been slandered by a gift when no payback is expected or wanted—“What do you think that I am a charity case?” In the case of salvation, before we receive Christ we are worse than a wretched charity case, we are actually dead in our trespasses and sins but now in Christ we have been raised from the dead. Receive the gift of Life!
After we receive the gift of salvation in Jesus, our service in the Kingdom will only be about love for God and love for others, it can never be about a payback. We never earn our right to Heaven; eternal life is received as a gift and nothing more.
Trust is kind of like faith but different. Faith is, believing in something you cannot see. Trust is, believing in that something you do see. A child may not trust himself to cross a foot-log over a creek but he would trust his father to carry him across. A child blindly puts his hand in his parent’s hand to cross the street, without double checking his parent’s ability. Adults are skeptical of experts because they are skeptical of themselves. We are even skeptical at times of God.
Skepticism in God is distrusting God; of who He says He is and of what He says He can do. Skepticism in the church is distrusting the people or even the institution of the church. An overwhelming majority of children love church. They love the music, the stories, the coloring pages, their buddies, the puppet shows, the skits, snacks, and even the teaching. They are not caught up in the drama or politics of adults acting like spoiled children—they just show up for the fun, food, fellowship, and a little bit of Jesus. Maybe we adults ought to try that sometime.
If only we adults could be more like Jesus and more like kids. Too bad we don’t mature up when we grow up. When we see one who grows in godly wisdom and maturity while still having child-like faith, child-like trust, and a child-like frame of reference; we call them a saint. The Bible calls all Christ followers saints—perhaps it is the bar for which we reach, believing like a child that all things are possible with God.
Lord, help me to be like a little child. I want to wrap my arms around Jesus and not let go. I want to believe, trust, receive, and have an attitude like a child. There is a lot of adult attitudes in me that need to die so I can have the attitudes of a little child. The world will think me foolish but that’s okay I don’t understand them anyway! In the name of Jesus, Amen.
(Yep, the little sad-faced boy in the picture is me at about three years old. I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was eleven but I can not remember not loving Jesus in spite of my many sins.)
Harry’s podcast of this message.