Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is what it would look like to become like a child the way that Jesus asks us to. To be honest, that has always confounded me. I think kids are adorable, but they aren’t necessarily known for their wisdom or sophistication. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe Jesus is telling us to stop assuming our adult selves are so wise and important and live with a little more trust and abandon.
“He [Jesus] called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” -Matthew 18:2-4
Recently I was sifting through old photos with this verse in mind and was struck by the carefree spirit that came through in photos of me as a child. I wasn’t yet weighed down by expectations placed on me by society or myself or even the church. I know many people look back on troubled childhoods in which they were forced to bear burdens meant for adults, and that saddens me. However, I am grateful that when I look back on my own life as child, I see someone who lived freely in each moment and trusted her parents for the rest. Isn’t that what God wants of us, too, as His beloved children?
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” -1 John 3:1
One thing my counselor told me is that Jesus never told children to become like adults, but He did tell adults to become like children. That has stuck with me, and it is something worth pondering. I often read Jesus’ command to become like a little child and brush it off, pointing to other verses in Scripture that esteem planning and responsibility. It’s true that Jesus calls us to a higher standard of living, one characterized by wisdom and discernment. The more I think about it, though, I think that childlike faith actually goes hand in hand with those virtues. It isn’t an uninformed faith, but rather one that is simple and uncomplicated. It isn’t clouded by constant doubt or worry. It is one that loves God, loves others, and lives in joy and hope without being anxious for tomorrow, because “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
I once heard a story of this concept being illustrated by a pastor during children’s church, when the kids came down to sit at the front and hear a mini lesson. According to the story, the pastor took a $20 bill out of his wallet and held it out to the adult members of the congregation, asking if anyone would like to take it as a free gift. Of course, everyone was skeptical. Why is he doing this? They probably wondered. What are his ulterior motives? There may have even been several people who needed that money, but pride prevented them from publicly accepting it. Having no adult takers, the pastor then turned to the group of children gathered at the front and asked if any of them would like the $20. The kids went wild, waving their arms and jostling around excitedly in hopes that he would pick them to receive the gift. I think this is how Jesus wants us to receive the Kingdom of God- excited, expectant, and trusting that there is only good coming from His hands.
Give us childlike faith, Father.