In Matthew 18:1-4, Jesus’ disciples come to Him and ask “who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?” In His reply Jesus says “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”. It is clear that Jesus used a little child as the visual aid, and in His words. Not a teenager, probably not even an older primary school child, but a little one, maybe preschool age, and I fell to wondering, ‘what is it about little children that Jesus was highlighting that was so important for Him to make such an emphatic statement as “I tell you the truth…”? It is surely not their ability to have a toddler temper tantrum is it!? There is that, and several facets of little children’s behaviours that don’t seem to be what Jesus is after.
Well Stella suggested that it was trust that Jesus was highlighting. And yes, when you think about it, young children have a great deal of trust before life events, and perhaps traumas, can start eroding or destroying it as they grow up. In fact it may be perhaps that their readiness to trust naturally is why early life traumas have such a deep effect, and maybe that is why Jesus went on to say what He did in the following verses 5 – 6. Little children trust their parents in so many ways in daily life.
When I thought about this it resonated with other recent blog reflections. What is the hallmark of the man or woman who finds peace as their mind and imagination is stayed and fixed on the Lord? It is this “Because he trusts in You” Isaiah 26:3. There we have it! I think that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. We can say ‘Oh yes, yes, yes I know faith and trust are very important in the Christian life’. But do you really know just how very, very important trust in the Lord is, how foundational, vital and essential Jesus is saying that it is here in Matthew 18? Do I really know that? In fact do I realise that trust is the framework, the new paradigm, the foundational structure, the clean lens (see blog No. 351) through which I need to look at the whole of my life, all the daily events, all my relationships, all my hopes and fears, all my battles, all of what I see of myself?
So here seems to be a paradox: in our journey with Jesus it feels we all need to go deeper and deeper into becoming more like little children in our trust in the Lord, while growing up and becoming more mature. Growing up in the Lord certainly seems to have a wonderful twist in it!
As you would now expect thanksgiving is our massive ally in this. The more I focus on all that I have to thank the Lord for, all He is, His character, His promises, His word, all He has done for me in salvation, last year and yesterday, the more my trust in Him will grow. As we have mused before, when I forget his benefits, things go downhill, when I remember them in much thanksgiving; trust and faith grow. (blog no.315) The centurion and the Canaanite woman (blog no.337) viewed Jesus through the lens of simple, straightforward but unwavering and powerful trust and Jesus was astonished and thrilled.
There is one thing we need to be very aware of and guard against in our modern, so called sophisticated, intellectual, scientific, rational age. The voices, inside my head, or from your friend, or from the media etc, and sometimes sadly even from other Christians. They say ‘it far too simplistic to believe that God works in everything for my good as His child.’ The voice that looks down at us for holding to our child-like faith, that the Lord is absolutely loving and powerful, and that that translates into His intimate care for me and my life. The voice that says “Ah well I have moved on from that, it’s more complicated than that, I am now wise and clever and grown up”. Interesting, that sounds just like the voice of the serpent to Eve, seducing her to be wise and clever in her own abilities rather than simply trusting God and His goodness like a little child does its parents. We need to be prepared for the possibility that if I choose the path of child-like faith, fed by persistent thanksgiving, some people sometimes, and even my own inner voice at times, may look down on me like some adults do to children.
Rather let us remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 18, His excitement at the centurion’s and Canaanite woman’s simple faith, and His words in Matthew 11:25-26: “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes Father, for this was your good pleasure.” ‘Little children’ again! Oh come on! Let us be little children more simply committed to radical and persistent thanksgiving, because we have a world view of simple childlike trust that our Lord is utterly good, utterly loving, utterly faithful, utterly powerful and utterly wise. And all of that care, goodness, love and power is directed at me personally, not just to other supposedly more deserving people around me.