~ by Dave Kinsey
As someone involved in children’s ministry for all of my adult life, I have often referred to—or listened to someone refer to—one or two key passages in the New Testament where Jesus talked about children and used children as an example.
In Luke 18:15-17 we read:
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Mark L. Strauss, in his book “How to Read the Bible in Changing Times,” says, “Today we might think that children are worthy of the kingdom because they are pure or innocent, not having learned the evil ways of the world.” He goes on to explain that “without understanding the social and cultural world of the first century, we could misapply this passage.”
What was that social and cultural world’s view of children? “They were viewed as insignificant, irrelevant, and totally dependent on adults. Jesus’ point,” Strauss says, “is that the only way to enter the kingdom of God is by acknowledging our insufficiency and total dependence on God.”
Another text that is often referred to by those of us who work in children’s ministry is Matthew 18:1-4.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “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.
Here Jesus is using a child as an illustration of what it takes to be great in God’s eyes. God values humility. And again, He makes the point that to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must be humble.
Maybe children understand their dependency more intuitively than we do as adults. Maybe that’s why most commitments to Jesus Christ happen between the ages of 4 and 14*, while adults age 19 and over have just a 6% probability of becoming Christians.**
Maybe I haven’t been reading these passages as well as I could have. Because by understanding the social and cultural world of the New Testament these two passages underscore the Gospel message even more emphatically: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8 ESV That’s what I think. What do you think?
*International Bible Society survey
**Barna Research Group
~ graphic by Jeffrey Frankus, freeimages.com