Act Like Little Children!

January 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

Matthew 18-20  For the past few days, I have been trying to put together some related thoughts from this section of Matthew.  It begins with Jesus teaching that we should be like children, then, it seems to me, that many of the passages that follow are lessons about that theme.  “He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said:  ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:2-4)

First, children are important to God.  There are a few stories that follow which demonstrate that idea.  First is the story of the lost sheep.  The one lost sheep is so important to the shepherd that he leaves the other ninety-nine to find that one.  In Matthew’s version (different from Luke’s more famous telling – probably told in a different setting), the story ends with this lesson:  “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (18:14)  Also in this context is the story of the disciples rebuking the parents who tried to bring their children to Jesus so he could touch them and pray for them.  This was, in their minds, an effort to protect Jesus’ time and ministry, yet Jesus corrected them with his famous saying:  “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (19:14)

Second, little children are forgiving.  If you watch children playing, you’ll see they can get mad at each other, yet a few minutes later they forget the offense and are playing again.  We adults tend to hold the offense much longer.  There are some stories of forgiveness in the sections that follow Jesus’ command to become like little children.  Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (18:21-22)  Peter thought he was being generous; Jesus told him that real forgiveness doesn’t keep score.  That’s just like children.  Peter’s question is followed immediately by Jesus’ story of the unforgiving slave.  This story demonstrates that those who have received God’s forgiveness (as children!) will extend that forgiveness to others.

Third, little children are generous.  They learn the lessons of sharing more easily than adults.  Chapter 19 (verses 16-22 – immediately after “Let the little children come to me!”) tells of a rich young man who wouldn’t follow Jesus because he held t00 tightly to his temporal wealth.  He came asking what he must do to obtain eternal life, but went away sad because he couldn’t let go.  The story of the workers in the vineyard, where the ones hired late in the day received the same pay as those hired earlier, demonstrates not only God’s generosity but also our hard-heartedness toward it.

Finally, children know their low position in life.  They know they are needy and that others must meet their needs.  This is demonstrated by the stories of chapter 20.  The workers in the vineyard thought they deserved more, even though they were paid the agreed-upon salary.  Next, James and John wanted the highest positions in God’s kingdom.  Jesus used that incident to teach the disciples a lesson in humility.  He said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” (20:26)  The chapter ends with the story of two blind men who called for Jesus to heal them.  Though the crowd tried to quiet them, “they shouted all the louder, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us.’”  They recognized their need and Jesus’ ability to meet it.  Jesus responded to their cries showing again how important the lowly are to him.

I had to be reminded this weekend of how I hold on to things I am passionate about.  I wasn’t acting like a little child, in the good sense of the word.  Let’s be like little children, holding loosely to offenses and temporal things and humbly recognizing our low position and our utter dependence on Jesus.

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