I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.
Matthew 18:3-5, The Message
What does it mean to ‘return to square one and start over like children’ when it comes to seeing God’s kingdom? What’s the deal with children, and what did Jesus have in mind when he said this? What does it mean to be a child?
Perhaps the foremost trait about children is their simplicity in trust. The faith of a child is one that is marked with a simple trust. It’s not that they simply trust, but they know whom to trust simply. Their trust and faith in someone or something is based on their relationship to that person or thing.
Children are able to trust in someone by virtue of their relationship with that person. For example, a child automatically trusts his father or mother by the simple virtue of the fact that they are his parents.
You could try to deceive children, but that deception will only work if you are anyone of real importance to them. Consider how a stranger could try to offer a sweet to a child, but the child’s first instinct would be to recollect his parent’s advice regarding accepting gifts from strangers. Regardless of whether the stranger succeeds or not, it still remains that he will need to overcome the parent’s advice first.
It doesn’t matter who else approaches the child. The bedrock of their trust and faith remain with their parents, first. This is implicit in children and it is difficult to shake (which is sad in a way, because if this faith is shaken, it will be difficult to restore).
Perhaps the most telling way in which a child shows his trust in his parent is how he takes his parents at their word. I remember trying to tease my sister when she was much younger and asked her about something my mother had just said. I decided to just continually ask her “Why?” until she got flabbergasted (yes, my sister still loves me). But somewhere along the line of questioning, my sister finally resorted to simply declaring, “Because Mom says so!”. And that was that.
Jesus is saying here that this kind of simple trust and faith is the key to seeing, understanding and experiencing God’s kingdom. It is a child-like faith… not a child-ish faith -two entirely different attitudes. If you want to begin to even understand who Jesus is; why God loves us so much; and what can you do to respond to this love; then this must be our beginning point. Take God at His word and see where that takes you and I.
Of course, this is not entirely easy for my logical-philosophical mind to swallow. Many of us, in our technological post-modern mindsets, may also find this an effrontery to our intelligence and a step backward in human progress. But then, consider what I just realised regarding the context of this verse.
The disciples of Jesus provoked this response from Him with the question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1, New International Version). The context of this verse is about pride and humility. And that’s where is struck me.
Ultimately, children have faith and trust like they do because they are humble about their station in life. They know when things are way out of their league, and in their simplicity, they also know who to refer things to: the experts… Mom and Dad.
Do we have that kind of humility when it comes to living our lives? Let’s consider for ourselves just how much control over things we really have. Finances? We can plan, save and invest – but do we have an ounce of control over what’s happening in the markets tomorrow? Health? I think many of us know of enough people who have suddenly been struck by various diseases or even death to realise that health is something we safeguard, not control. Careers? Time? Life and death?
As I realise how little control I have over many issues in life, I am struck by how small I really am – how much of a child I still remain – even though I am considered an adult now. So, I draw upon whatever simple faith I have and place my life in the hands of The Expert: my Father in Heaven.
With the faith of a Child.
Copyright © 15 May 2002, Wong Giok Leigh. All Rights Reserved.