In Matthew 18:3, Jesus tells us, unless you are converted and become like a child, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. This verse may sound sweet and encouraging, or it may sound slightly misleading. We all either know children, have children, and were at one point a child ourselves. Anyone who knows a child certainly understands the immature, careless, and undeveloped mind of a youngster. The question rises when we realize Jesus calls us to become “like” a child. If we are called to be mature Christians who obtain knowledge and passionately seek after the Lord, then why should becoming like a child fit anywhere in the picture? 1 Corinthians 13:11 says, When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. Though the verses seem contradictory, one verse focuses on the intentions of behavior while the other focuses on the intentions of the heart.
First, let’s define childlike versus childish. Childlike means, “having good qualities associated with that of a child. Childish means, “resembling the actions appropriate to a child”. One term intends to concentrate on the strengths a child has to share while the other focuses on the average standard upheld by children. It is essential to understand the two before making a quick negative judgement on the words of Jesus. So what is Jesus saying?
Dr. Gail Gross says a present and supportive father gives the child a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity (Huffpost). Think about the nature of child. Children are weak, insecure, fearful, and always in need of something. Now ponder the nature of a father. A good father desires to protect, provide, and discipline his children in love. When we see the comparison between the two it is only sensible to understand that children have a deep need to surrender their fears and insecurities to their father. In the same way, we should “become like children” and surrender it all to our Father, God.
In the same passage Jesus continues in saying, whoever humbles himself like this child- he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe Jesus admires the humility of the child and desires for us to take notice. Jesus understands how easy it is for pride to fester in our hearts over time. As we grow, we learn more and more about life, encounter crazy experiences, and meet tons of unique and interesting people. Through the process of living we begin to believe that we have it all figured out. I once heard an older man say, “Blake, I’ve been everywhere but prison and seen everything but the wind.” The heart behind such a catchy phrase is exactly what Jesus is pointing at. Jesus desires for us to redirect our earthly knowledge and gravitate towards His heavenly wisdom. Scripture tells us that knowledge on earth is foolishness in the eyes of God. Society tells us age equals wisdom. Culture says that children are insignificant to society because they are weak and lack experience. However, Jesus says no matter what society or culture says, we will always be children in the eyes of God. Therefore, be humble. Humility must take place on the inside before it can become evident on the outside. The only way to humble ourselves before the Lord is to become like children, and surrender to the Father.
I’d like to leave you with a thought…
Here on earth everything is advanced. Society wires us to think for ourselves and not rely on anyone. What if I told you God doesn’t work by our earthly standards; God ways are much higher than ours. As I study scripture it has become self-evident that spiritual growth starts with surrender. In God’s eyes, becoming childlike in our Faith defines maturity by His standard. One day we will all meet God face-to-face and His standard will be the only one that matters. The question worth asking is this: “Am I a child of God.”