Jesus and His disciples are still in Capernaum at someone’s home. It may have been Jesus’ home or Peter’s or James and John’s home. We are not told that there were a lot of people there but there must have been at least a few, otherwise where would the child used in today’s illustration come from. Besides all that, Jesus always drew crowds, especially when He was at home.
I’m assuming Jesus’ disciples had been hashing this question out before they brought it to Jesus. Were they upset because the tax collectors singled Peter out as the one to approach regarding Jesus’ behavior? Was Peter still down by the sea fishing during this discussion? What place of importance were they arguing for? We know that they were expecting an earthly kingdom. Were they planning out the seating order at their “King’s table?”
The disciples brought their question directly to Jesus for His input. Apparently they hadn’t come to any consensus among themselves. Jesus threw them a HUGE curve with His answer. I wonder what they were thinking as Jesus calls for a nearby child and gets him/her settled on His lap for the lesson. “Can’t we ever just get a straight answer?! Does everything have to be another lesson?”
Jesus puts the child He has just called over, front and center in the group of disciples who have approached Him. Instead of giving them the answer they were seeking, He gave them the answer they really needed. The disciples had become proud of their positions with Jesus. They even believed there were lesser valued individuals within their own group. Jesus knew they needed an attitude change.
“Unless you give up your glory seeking attitudes and become as humble as a little child, you will have no part in My Kingdom.” Ouch!
I spent a lot of time thinking about this analogy Jesus is using today. I thought about the children of today compared to the children of Jesus’ time. I Googled children and humility until I felt googley eyed! I don’t have the perfect answer to Jesus’ example. I’m going to share some of what I found instead.
First of all, I LOVE children. I think they are wonderful and amazing. I also hate what our society has done to them in their self-proclaimed efforts to “protect” them. Parents are forbidden by law from disciplining their children. Yes, I believe in spanking, NOT beating. I believe there are other behavioral incentives and deterrents besides spanking that should be employed too. But more than anything, I believe that being consistent and loving in whatever behavior modification you choose is critical. And YES, children’s behavior DOES need modified. Even the best child in the world needs a parent’s guidance to train him/her in what is right and wrong. FOR ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD. We are born into sin and we learn selfishness from day one. Just ask the mother of any newborn. Just watch any group of small children playing. Pretty soon you WILL have a scuffle over whose toy or whose turn it is. These behaviors are critical for the child’s survival and development, but they are not the behaviors that we want to continue with them throughout their life. We model and mold appropriate behavior through loving discipline.
So, what is humility of a child and what did I find in my search. I want to start with a list of terms or attributes that I found on the blog site by Jenifer McGrail, The Path Less Taken. Her list includes: “open, passionate, full of wonder, innately curious about the world around them, driven, humble, innocent, imaginative, and joyful.” I think this is a positive list and certainly agree with it. I think these are the qualities Jesus was referring to when talking about the child in the middle of the disciples. Of course there are also negative terms and attributes that could be mentioned, but Jesus didn’t go there and neither are we.
I found another site, Yeshua = God, that says it better than I ever could. This is what I believe Jesus was talking about.
“Children can make friends with anyone. Spend five minutes with them and you’re their best friend. They might even declare how much they love you. They don’t care how loud they are, and they don’t care who hears them. They’re not ashamed of who they are and they’re not ashamed of who their father is. They trust openly, and forgive easily. They’re in awe of the world around them. Everything is new and fresh, and a dandelion is as amazing as a rose. Their God is too awesome for words. He can do anything. Nothing is too hard for their God. The faith of a child is complete, praying to the Lord without a single thought their request won’t come true. Anything is possible. The sky is the limit.
In short – they are not proud. They are not jaded. They are full of love, friendship, and wonder. And they believe with all their heart God hears them. That He is all-powerful. And yet… they wouldn’t hesitate to run and give Him a hug.
When a child has stability and loving parents, their little world is perfect. If they have a problem, they run to Mommy or Daddy. If they have a boo-boo, it will be kissed, if they have a bad dream, they will be cuddled. If they are scared of thunder, they’ll run into their parents’ arms.”
In my search I also came across this comment from Yahoo Answers and I thought it worth including.
“Being ‘childlike humble’ isn’t a pursuit…It’s a Result. In other words, you continue being yourself, not put on an act, but as a result of knowing the real truth of the matter, that we have, are, and will always be, living in the grace of the one and only true GOD of everything, you’ll naturally, and warmly I might add, begin to feel humbled in the midst of the mysteries yet to unfold.”
This is by no means the totality of my search, but I believe these quotes represent what Jesus is talking about today when He references the humility of a child.
Let’s look at the last section in our study today. Jesus states that anyone who welcomes such a child in his name is in essence welcoming Him, but whoever causes one of these little children to sin would be better off dead. This is one warning we all need to take to heart.
Jesus loves each and every one of us. Weather we are the screaming brat in the store or the angelic child sitting next to his parents in church. If we are being honest, we have probably all been both, at some point in our lives. I know I have. Jesus didn’t love me any less when I was out of control than He loves me when I’m behaving myself. He is probably more pleased with me when I behave. He even calls me to behave. But what He doesn’t call me to be is boastful or arrogant because I am behaving. I have no right to judge others as any more or less deserving of His love because of their behavior. I am called to point to my Father and Big Brother and share that they are MORE than willing to be Father and Big Brother to all who would ask. I am also called to love others in their process of becoming the child God wants them to be. I’m in that same process too.
Father God, I want desperately to be that little child You love so much. I don’t want to be boastful, arrogant, or proud. I know You still love me when I slip into those areas but You don’t let me stay there. You lovingly but firmly remind me of Who really holds the universe. That alone is usually enough to bust my pride bubble. Forgive me for the times when I become the brat. Help me too, to see how You are working in even the most obnoxious of us. Teach me to love like You do. Remind me to put others first, even when I’m in the middle of “something important.” I’ve noticed lately that I need this reminder A LOT! Forgive me God. Now I need to ask my husband to forgive me too, again. Thank You that You don’t give up on me. Thank You for giving me a husband that hasn’t given up on me either.