In thousands of Sunday Schools around the world today, instructors will ask a simple question. After reading from Matthew 18:1-6 where he says, “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” the teacher asks, “Why should we be like little children?”
Someone will offer the ordinary and I think mostly wrong answer.
Take one minute and write out what the Sunday School answer is, on a separate piece of paper.
Finished? Here’s what you wrote. “Because children are meek and obedient and humble, and submit to their parents the way that we should submit to our Father in Heaven.”
If that’s what you answered, A. You’ve never been a parent, or B. You’re afraid fellow Sunday school students would scorn you if you answered truthfully, or C. Your children all died before they reached the age of two.
If any of these are the reason for your answer, I sincerely offer my condolences. But I’ll hazard a guess that you answered that way because you never really thought very deeply about it, or have never considered the question that Jesus was responding to.
I can prove my point, I think, using examples from my own family.
My sister and I both have exceptionally thick hair, thus proving the point that pulling or shaving stimulates the growth of extra hair follicles. Mary and I used to settle most disagreements by the hair-pulling test. Whichever of us had the most hair-pulling stamina conquered the other.
If we’re to be like little children because of their obedience, why immediately after learning to say Mama and Dada most babies learn to say ‘no?’
|Chris was quiet and shy. . .and a biter in nursery.|
If children obey their parents so readily, why were the bedrooms NEVER cleaned first thing on Saturday morning?
|Be as the little children? Joseph is annoyed by his twin, Matthew, for trying to get into the
My granddaughter, Kate, nicknamed her bald daddy, “Fuzz.” She’s not quite 2 1/2. I ask, “Is that respectful?”(She looks like a “Who from Whoville, doesn’t she?)
You get my point. I’m fairly confident that it is impossible for a child who is not yet of the age of accountability to be possessed by demons. . .but I have certainly seen tantrums that gave me pause. Indeed, when Jeffrey R. Holland called his children, (or all children?) “bedlamites” I had to respect his honesty.
You parents know I’m right.
So what did Jesus mean?
Remember the question that the Lord is responding to. The disciples wanted to know who was the greatest; who had the highest status. There are several accounts in the New Testament (excepting the book of St. John) where James and John wanted to secure certain honors. (Have you ever noticed that it is only in the book of John that the Apostle John is called “Beloved”? He gave himself the nickname.)
I think the answer to be like a little child is the Savior’s mild way of telling them not to seek for social status.
The universal virtue that young children share is that they are not “respecters of persons.” They don’t have to put another down to make themselves feel good. They express their irritation without subtlety, take a whack at the irritator, receive an answering whack and move on. A minute later the dust has settled and been forgotten.
My grandson Michael is five. (He’s holding up the chocolate rabbit in the photo above.)He was playing with Uncle Brian and Aunt Kelsi’s dog, Koda, recently when a little black boy came over and started to play with them. Koda’s just a pup and was chasing the children and sticks that were thrown by them. Michael’s a friendly little fellow and was so pleased to have a new friend, he encouraged the new boy’s participation in game by saying. “Koda likes two things, chasing sticks and chasing brown boys.”
There aren’t many black families in Provo, Utah. Michael’s natural, childish impulse was to elevate the unique aspect of his friend to the status of being preferred. Children are naturally inclusive, whether his comment sounds like a page out of Uncle Tom’s Cabin or not!
Think about this! If Michael said the same thing while playing on a High School football team, he’d be labeled a racist. . .possibly even disciplined. But in his childish mind, there was absolutely nothing different in observing the tint of the other child’s skin than if he had said “blond boys.”
I have been a nursery worker several times. I love it when one of the little girls wears a new dress or sparkly shoes. The other girls want to touch and admire the lovely item. I’ve never seen any sign of jealousy. I truly think they enjoy the article of clothing on their nurserymate as much as if it was their own.
Seeking status necessarily demeans others. Exercising dominion over others because of some external condition can very quickly lead to unrighteous dominion.
Next time the question is asked, “What did Jesus mean when he said to “be as this little child,” pause before you respond.
“Work and play with others the way that children do, forgive readily, offer praise, be without subtlety, seek no social status or dominion.” Isn’t this closer to what Jesus meant?
I love comments, whether you agree or not!
If you enjoy these musings, would you mind sharing them?