Guarding and proclaiming the unchanging truth in a changing world

Matthew 18: Learning From Children

23rd March 2021
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From the moment of birth, we are on a journey towards independence and self-reliance. We celebrate milestones of independence like learning to walk, learning to talk, and learning to drive. Now we can move ourselves, communicate by ourselves, travel by ourselves. We measure our worth—our greatness—by our capacity to do things without help, whether solving a problem, earning a living, or moving something heavy.

And while the journey towards independence and self-reliance is an important part of adult maturity, is it a helpful model for spiritual maturity?

Rather than point to adult independence, Jesus reminds us that children teach us vital lessons about spiritual maturity. Here are three things we learn in Mathew 18:1-5 about Christian maturity.

Dependant trust rather than self-reliant ambition

The question asked by the disciples, reveals something of their heart. They want to know which one of them is the greatest in the Kingdom. They want the honour of being known for greatness. There is selfish ambition and pride of reputation in their question. Jesus’ answer shows that it is entirely the wrong question. He calls over a child and says to the disciples, ‘Forget about greatness—you will never even enter the Kingdom of God unless you change to become like little children’.
Jesus is calling his disciples to acknowledge their dependence on him. He is calling them to trust him, to understand that, in spiritual terms, they are entirely dependent on him just as a child is dependent on their parents for everything. Their capacity will not determine their worth in the Kingdom. In fact, Kingdom greatness is measured in taking a lowly position, understanding our incapacity and reliance on the Lord.

Adult maturity is not the pinnacle of spiritual maturity

In elevating childlike faith as Kingdom greatness, Jesus shows us something crucial. In God’s Kingdom, it is not the most capable or impressive we have the most to learn from. Rather, it is the most dependant, the most trusting, the one that takes the lowest position.

How often are we blinded by the most skilful, the most articulate, the most intelligent. How often are we captivated by the most persuasive, the most attractive, the most self-reliant? But in the Kingdom of God, we learn the most from those who trust God with simple dependence—acknowledging their weakness and his strength.

Who are you learning from? Who is discipling you? Seek out people to learn from, not by their impressive capabilities but rather by their childlike dependant trust in Jesus.

Welcoming children is fundamental to Christian faith
Finally, in verse 5, Jesus says:

“…whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Not only does Jesus suggest that children can be an illustration of what Kingdom faith should look like, but he also raises the status of the most dependant, the least capable, the least significant (in the eyes of some) to that of welcoming even himself. To be a Kingdom person, is to value children. They are valuable as God’s children, made in his image. They are valuable as full members of the household of God. They are valuable for the lessons they teach us. Their faith is not defective or partial, rather it is model faith. When they are included and welcomed into the community of God’s household, they teach adults vital lessons about life in the Kingdom.
How can you value, welcome and learn from the children in your church?

The Lift Up Your Hearts devotional series for the month of March 2021 are provided by Canon Craig Roberts, CEO, and his colleagues from Anglican Youthworks in Australia. Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Al James,Youth Ministry Advisor, Youthworks Ministry Support. You can find more of Youthworks excellent resources here.

Prayer: 

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Holy Cross Theological College, Myanmar. Amidst the upheavals and dangers in Myanmar pray for their Anglican College and its students: for safety, for purposeful learning, for strong fellowship. Pray too for the ongoing building work of a new four storey development.

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