“Children should be seen, not heard!” was the saying I remember hearing around my childhood house. Sadly, this is still the way children often are made to feel today. As though they were a disturbance, a nuisance, a distraction. Nothing to contribute to the world of adults. What they say is, well, terribly childish. And true enough, their hungry curiosity, bold sincerity and ceaseless energy try the patience of every cranky adult. Even the seasoned parent risks embarrassment with a child’s spontaneity. Our kids have said some things in public that made us wish we were just their babysitters.
But such are the God-given qualities that make children so very special. God has built in an inquisitiveness that keeps them asking, observing, and always wanting to learn more. They’re full of questions and anxious to share their discoveries. There are no pretenses with little ones. They can be abrupt but you’ll almost always know what they are thinking. And make no mistake about it, they have a capacity to grasp spiritual truths at a profound level. Kids are readily stirred towards genuine thanksgiving to God for the least suspected things in life. Like their pajamas, spill-proof cups and Transformer™ underwear. This is something to be desired and emulated in our stuffy adult lives. I don’t think I have ever thanked the Lord for my underwear! But what a blessing it is to be excited over the little things in life. Too often we take them for granted.
Not quite three weeks ago my four-year-old son drew a picture of three crosses, as one would imagine the scene at Calvary with Jesus in the middle. On his own initiative he drew it, then colored it and put his name on it. “This is for Jesus,” he said, handing it to me. “I am going to give it to Jesus in heaven. It’s a birthday present from me to him.”
That act of thoughtfulness and sincere love for Jesus brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. When was the last time I expressed such gratitude and care for my Savior, let alone prepared a gift for him? I believe Luka’s artwork rose to the heavens as a sweet smelling aroma to the Lord. His little heart birthed this simple worship, reminiscent of the spikenard poured over Jesus’ feet by Mary in spontaneous, thankful adoration (Jn 12:3).
“Can I go to heaven right now?” Luka went on to say. “I want to go to heaven without dying. Do we eat food in heaven? I want to fly around when I get there!” The thinking process of this almost-five-year-old is rather humbling when I consider how little thought we adults typically give to these subjects. I can’t recall the last time I heard any BIG people express such immediate and sincere desire to go to heaven and bring along a gift for Jesus. Isn’t it also revealing that children were the ones who spontaneously worshiped Jesus in the temple? And when the prim-and-proper religious leaders heard it they were indignant and told Jesus to make the children stop. Jesus then responded, “…have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?” (Matt. 21:15-16)
No wonder the Lord sharply rebuked the disciples when they hindered the children from coming to him to ask for his blessing. He quickly told them that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these little ones (Matt. 19:13-14). Perhaps the disciples thought those children would be a nuisance to Jesus and “should be seen but not heard.” Maybe they felt those children were not important enough to merit the Master’s attention? Whatever the case, they couldn’t have been more misguided. Jesus set the record straight and gave a new example for all to follow. When asked who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus did the unthinkable for a 1st century Jew. He took a little child and put him in the midst of them as the object lesson for his answer. What Jesus said next was radical.
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt 18:1-6 ESV)
We shouldn’t forget that Children are demanding, selfish, impatient, moody, terribly persistent and downright sinful at times. But so are most adults, no? We’re all born as sinners and it’s in our nature. Nonetheless, Jesus selected children as the exemplary recipients of God’s kingdom. Clearly these words puzzled every listener then present. Two thousand years later they continue to challenge this 21st century father to learn from his own curious and bubbly children!
Kids have a lot to offer our adult world, so be careful to not exclude them from yours. Jesus certainly didn’t. And the next time you are around a five-year-old, take note of his thought process, sensitivity, curiosity and above all, his inquisitive ability to receive the things of God with joyful certainty! You will likely come away with a good lesson to put into practice.
Mark at uThinkology