It is recorded in the gospels that when the disciples tried to prevent little children from coming to Jesus, He rebuked them and told them to let the little children come. In doing this He said, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Mark 10:14-15, Luke 18:16-17 NIV) On another occasion Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In response He called over a young child who was standing near and said, Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4 NIV) So what is it that is so very unique and special about a child’s faith?
Perhaps there are several things about little children that we could say our Lord wants us to emulate. However, since He said unless we become like children and receive the kingdom of God like a little child we will never enter it, it is of the utmost importance that we understand what is meant about how a child would receive God. Think about how little children receive us as parents (e.g. who we say we are, what we say about life, what they see us do, etc.) Do they ever question that we are who we say we are? Do they routinely question what we tell them? Do they always question what we do? As long as they are “little” children the answer is usually no. They pretty much accept who we are, what we say and what we do. Unfortunately, when they get older they often do start to question what we say and what we do and what we tell them to do. In fact, there comes a point when a lot of teenagers and young adults think their parents hardly know anything. It is at this stage where they start to think they know everything and know better than mom and dad—after all, they are old-fashioned and out of touch with how things really are.
Now which type of person do you think God most desires? The one who simply accepts Him—who He is, what He says, what He does, etc.—or the one who questions and doubts and thinks he has to figure it all out on his own? Obviously the former is preferable. This is what I believe is at the heart of why we must become like little children. In 1 Corinthians chapter 1 Paul speaks of how the Jews wanted signs and the Greeks wanted wisdom (in a worldly sense) which is why the message of the cross was foolishness to both types of people. In chapter 2 Paul goes on to say that when he came to them he did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom, but with a demonstration of power from the Holy Spirit. Then he further clarifies that what he preached and the knowledge he shared was not the kind of knowledge you can get from learned men, but rather knowledge that came directly from the Spirit of God. This kind of receiving and believing comes straight to us from the mouth of God just as what a parent says to a little child goes straight to them.
Suppose if you will that a young lady, instead of simply accepting what her parents tell her, goes out and tries to find books, tapes, CDs, websites, magazines, radio and TV shows, classes and a variety of other people who themselves seem to be very learned—and she seeks from them the real truth as opposed to what her parents tell her. No doubt she will get even more confused because all these resources offer a never-ending supply of contradicting opinions and theories. But over time she begins to settle on a few that her mind can best grasp and that appeal the most to her sense of how things ought to be. At last, she has her basis of belief, sort of, and she even goes to an institution of higher learning that teaches what she likes the most and then she is herself a degreed and learned person of the highest order. One day she sees another person listening to her parents and believing them and doing what they say, and she shakes her head in disgust at it. “That poor, immature little simpleton” she thinks as she basks in the gratifying self-love and pride which reminds her that she knew better than to take her parents at face-value.
And thus it can be for all of us if we are not careful. Rather than take God at His word, we think that there must be some other meaning. “Did God even say that?” we may ask and in so doing repeat the primary question of the first great temptation that the devil used to dupe Eve. Like many, she wanted knowledge and she wanted more than God had seen fit to give her. So she took the fruit from the tree of knowledge rather than from the tree of life. We have such a yearning for learning and the feeling of pride that goes with it. To be much studied is a badge of honor and esteem. The bible does tell us to study to show ourselves approved and so I am not saying we should avoid it altogether. But I do think as we approach the Word of God and as we tune in to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we should keep in mind the words of a friend of mine who, when talking about peoples’ understanding of the bible said, “You know Danny, sometimes I think it just means what it says.” How true. We need to come humbly to God, believing Who He is and what He says, and receive Him with a childlike faith.