by Marsha Dowell
In Matthew chapter 19, disciples and religious leaders were crowded around Jesus. The religious leaders were interested in the legalities of marriage and divorce; Jesus began explaining the differences between legalities, and the matter of the heart.
An interruption came when children were brought for Jesus to lay His hands on them and pray. The religious leaders and disciples were NOT amused. They had important things to learn. But Jesus stopped them in their tracks with this verse: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of Heaven.”
Heaven belongs to the children? Why? What about us?
So, just what is it about a child that Jesus wants us to see and understand and emulate? That is the question that requires some observing on our part. Here are some things I have observed and learned:
Keep an eye out for the child who discovers something, or experiences something, for the first time. Watch his face, his eyes, as he takes it in. What will you see? Joy, wonder, and amazement. God’s Creation surrounds us. Just because we’ve seen it already doesn’t negate the power of God’s Creation. An adult King David saw it . He says in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship.” King David’s words express joy, wonder, and amazement.
Two, watch the child who finally learns to share what he has with someone else. Once he comes to terms with the experience, watch how he interacts with the child he is sharing with; they now have a relationship. Furthermore, it is a relationship that is non-judgmental. The relationship does not hinge on color, or nationality, absence or presence of disabilities. In Matthew 22:36-39 Jesus identified the greatest command as this one: Love God, and love one another. Jesus is telling us relationships are the MOST IMPORTANT THING. Relearn how to develop them with God and with others.
Three. Match their abilities to hear and be aware. Have you heard the saying, “Little pitchers have big ears”? Children hear everything. You try whispering, spelling; but you can sense their heads pop up, their eyes turn, and they become still. They are aware of everything around them, and use that awareness to pick up on anything they can. As adults, we become dull to what is around us. We are missing cues, prompts from God, and even spiritual dangers. We need to relearn from children the value of awareness. In I Peter 5:8 the apostle advises, “Be alert! Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Work on your awareness of others around you, and your environment. Learn from that little pitcher – the child.
Finally, learn from a child’s laughter. It is contagious. Be sure to expose yourself to it, and share it with others. The apostle Paul gives us this reminder in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say, rejoice!” Have you ever wondered just why the children were drawn to Jesus? Would they be drawn to a grim countenance? Of course not! But they would be drawn to a face that smiled and reflected joy. Mark describes Jesus as taking the children in His arms and blessing them in chapter 10. I cannot help but imagine there was laughter, too, laughter from the children AND from Jesus.
I am sure that you know of other characteristics of children that might explain Jesus’ statement “For to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.” The Son of God wants all of us to be children of God. So keep observing, keep learning, and keep emulating: “To all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God.” (John 1:12)