If someone were to tell you that you are like a child, how would you react to it? We might not react to it positively because such a description is usually derogatory. To say that someone is like a child, it is usually meant that he is naïve, unwise, immature and helpless. However, it is interesting to note that Jesus said that we must be like children in order to enter into the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:1-4). In what ways must Christians be like children?
Little children are humble and receive correction more readily than adults do. When children realized that they had done something wrong, they will quickly realize their error and feel bad about it. A child once stepped on my foot, and when she realized it, she started crying. An adult would probably deny that he had done it. In contrast, adults tend to be prideful. In the context of Matthew 18, the disciples were asking Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:1). As adults, we like to be people of importance. Aren’t there certain “lowly” jobs in Singapore that we might avoid because it is too embarrassing to do? Furthermore, we can see the pride in adults in that we do not like to be told that we are wrong; it is difficult for us to swallow criticism.
Pride hinders us from entering the kingdom of God. There were those during Jesus’ time – i.e. the Pharisees – who refused to obey Jesus because of their pride (Matthew 21:28-32). In order to follow Jesus, we have to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23). Christians ought to be like children: humble and ready to receive correction. When we humble ourselves, God will lift us up (James 4:10). Are we ready to receive correction and repent when we fall short?
Children are honest and innocent. The false doctrine of Calvinism teaches that children are depraved and sinful. However, Jesus taught that the kingdom of Heaven is made up of people who are like children (Matthew 18:1-4). Is Heaven full of depraved and sinful people? Certainly not, children are innocent! Because they are so innocent, we often play tricks on them, and they readily believe. Part of their innocence can also be seen in their honesty: children are so honest that it is difficult for them to keep secrets. In contrast, adults can be malicious and have evil desires. Paul taught that in understanding, we should be like men, but in malice, be like children (1 Corinthians 14:20). Certainly in understanding the teachings of the Bible, we must not remain like children; we have to learn to eventually eat the strong meat of the Word (Hebrew 5:12). However, in terms of malice and other evil desires, we ought to be like little children: children are not malicious!
Having evil desires and thoughts hinders us from being part of the kingdom of Heaven. Before we can become a Christian, we must repent of our sins and evil desires (Acts 2:38; Galatians 5:19-21). Even as a Christian, we must continually abstain from such evil desires. Christians ought to be like children: honest and innocent. We ought to “provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17) and also be “harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Are we honest and innocent in our dealings with all men?
Little children are always hungry (1 Peter 2:2). When we think of babies, all they do is cry, eat, and sleep. When the babies are hungry, and do not get their milk, they will cry; even in the middle of the night they may cry because they want their milk. Furthermore, they are hungry not just for food, but also for knowledge. They will ask many questions: what is this? What is that? Why? Why? Why? They are like sponges, ready to absorb any knowledge we give to them. In contrast, adults sometimes are satisfied and complacent about their education. We are lazy to upgrade our knowledge and skills. The Singapore government even resorts to giving out incentives to Singaporeans in order to encourage us to upgrade our skills.
A lack of hunger hinders us from entering the kingdom of God. In John 6, we read of some people who were hungry for physical food but not spiritual food. They had seen Jesus performing the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. They kept following Him after, but not because they believed in Him; they followed Jesus for more bread. Jesus told them to labour instead for spiritual food (John 6:27); unfortunately many were uninterested and departed. Even Christians can be complacent about our faith, when we are satisfied with our level of Bible knowledge. Christians must be hungry for God’s Word just as babies are hungry for milk. Only when we hunger for righteousness, can we then be filled (Matthew 5:6). Are we taking every opportunity we can to learn more from God’s word?
Let us be like little children, who are humble, honest, and hungry. The next time someone says that you are like a child, perhaps you can now take it as a compliment. Let us not forget what our Lord Jesus Christ said, “except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”