A little child. Somewhere between ages 7-10 maybe? Certainly younger than 10. Not an infant, but no middle schooler either. Just a kid.
We’ve all had some experience with small children. Maybe we are parents of a small child. Or a grandparent of one. Or maybe we have a kid brother or a kid sister. Or maybe we’ve just babysat for a little one before. We all know what a small child is like and if we were to make a list of their most common qualities, it might look something like this:
Eager to Please
There’s lots of stories of children in the bible. In Matthew 15, Jesus heals a little girl who was demon possessed. In Matthew 17, Jesus heals a little boy who is having seizures. In Mark 5, Jesus raises Jairus’ 12 year old daughter from the dead. In John chapter 6, Jesus uses a small child as His assistant in the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. In Matthew chapter 21, versus 14-17, we hear the voices of children as they sing songs of praise, “Hosana to the Son of David!”
But there is one story having to do with children that is repeated in 3 of the 4 gospels. Pretty impressive seeing as how even the Christmas story isn’t repeated in all four Gospels. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus tells the story of people bringing their children to see Jesus and the disciples aggressively shooed them away. And Jesus wasn’t happy about that. He said: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and blessed them.
If you don’t receive the kingdom of God like a little child, you will never enter it. Wow. That’s strong. Makes me wonder if Jesus spent much time around children. But we know he did. Maybe he noticed some things about kids that we don’t always notice. Or, maybe he noticed something about us that we’ve never noticed. So let’s look at our list. Of the common qualities of children that we came up with, which ones might actually help us receive the kingdom of God and the message of his son? As it turns out, probably quite a few.
Trusting? Oh yea.
Needy? You bet.
Dependent? For sure.
Curious? Without a doubt.
Enthusiastic? Double yes!
Persistent? Oh boy.
Playful? Couldn’t hurt.
Affectionate? I’d say so.
Powerless? That would probably help.
Disobedient? I’m gonna say no.
Eager to Please? Yes.
Open Minded? This is a biggy.
Fearful? Hmm. Actually, yes!!
Imitators? Are you kidding? Of course!
Self Centered? Uh, no.
Irresponsible? We’re on a losing streak.
Forgetful? That’s better.
Well, wouldn’t your know? Turns out Jesus was probably right about this one. The kingdom of God probably would be easier to receive if we approached the Creator of the Universe with the same mindset as little kids approached Jesus. And once upon a time, that wouldn’t have been so difficult. After all, we were kids once. Those qualities used to describe us, didn’t they? Enthusiastic. Filled with wonder. Curious. Forgiving. Dependent. Open minded. Honest and trusting.
But then life happened. We learned to do for ourselves. Everyone pushed us to become independent and so we did. We grew in knowledge and, as a consequence, grew in skepticism. We experienced betrayal and stopped trusting so much. Someone embarrassed us and we stopped being so darn transparent. We saw 10 bald eagles in one day on a trip to Alaska, the mighty Colorado river on a trip out west, and skyscapers in New York and, somewhere along the way, lost our wonder. We tried to be persistent, but felt like we were beating our heads against a wall. We tried to remain curious, but frankly, it just made us feel confused, even overwhelmed.
I’m sure Jesus gets all that. I’m sure he knows exactly what’s happened to us. I’m sure he knows exactly how we lost our wonder and came to be so skeptical. It may have even happened to him. But I think his instruction still stands: “Receive the kingdom of God like a small child.”
Your Turn: So here we are. We’ve worked our whole lives to put away childish things. And now we need them back. Can we get them back? How do we do it? Let me hear your thoughts.