“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” –Matthew 18:3, NIV
This verse has been on my mind a lot this week. Well, the essence of this verse has been on my mind. I just now got around to looking it up to read the actual words, as opposed to those I remembered. And now I want to memorize it. How easy it is to forget that Jesus wants us to discover the strengths of children and use these strengths as we go about our kingdom business.
No. Jesus isn’t calling us to a life of immaturity. There are other places in the Bible where we’re told to grow up. In the context of this command, the disciples have been arguing about who will be the greatest in God’s kingdom. Jesus calls a little child into their midst and tells them to stop bickering about who’s best and to strive to be like the kid. That child had no hope of being the most important among such a group, so the child was simply there, came when called, and allowed himself (or herself) to be Jesus’ object lesson of the day.
Children have many strengths that adults tend to lose as they grow up. I’ve been reminded of one of these this week—which is why this verse has been on my mind. I’m reading a book (which I’ll be reviewing in a few days) about a little girl with cancer who does some inspirational things in her final year of life. God only granted her twelve years of life on earth, yet she made the most of that time, establishing (with the help of her family and friends) a non-profit organization for encouraging other kids with cancer. Her example motivated many grown-ups along the way.
It all started just a few weeks after Jessie Rees learned she had cancer. Her parents walked into their kitchen to find her filling paper bags with toys from her own collection to give to kids she’d seen in the hospital that day.
When kids see that something needs to be done and know that it’s the right thing to do, they don’t stop to work out a perfect plan or consider the sustainability or cost of the project or worry about what other people might think or if they need special permission. They just do what they can with what they have and believe that all will work out well.
Granted, someone needs to plan and consider and work out the fine details. Jessie needed all kinds of help from the adults in her life. But nothing would have happened if she hadn’t taken that first step with childlike faith.
This grown-up has a lot of dreams that she lets the adult in her hold back. I need to learn a lesson from Jessie and start taking a few more childlike steps of faith. I’m going to start by memorizing this verse. Then I’m going to do what it takes to mark some of my dream achievement to-do list items done.
Jesus, thank You for the inspiration of a little child. Teach us to be more childlike as we pursue the plans You’ve made for us. Amen.