Rev. Dr. Cecelia A. Walker, Director, Pastoral Care
Princeton Baptist Medical Center
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to Him, and placed the child among them. And He 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 18:1-4)
One Sunday after church in preparation for a business trip, I went to return a pair of shoes that I had purchased the night before. When I presented them to the sales clerk, she politely explained that because it was Sunday, she only had a limited amount of money in the register and could not refund my money that day. As I remember it, the amount was only thirty-something dollars and I could not “comprehend” how that was too much to ask. I went back and forth with the lady and finally, frustrated, I left very displeased with my experience. As I pulled away from the store, my daughter who was approximately seven or eight years old said, “Mommy, I am very disappointed in you. You did not act like Jesus. The lady explained to you that she was just following the rules and you kept pushing until you hurt her feelings.” Challenged by my daughter’s evaluation, I immediately returned to the store, approached the lady and told her what my daughter had said and apologized for my behavior. Initially, the woman said that she was not hurt by our exchange, but the tears that welled up in her eyes and rolled down her cheeks betrayed those words as she whispered, “Out of the mouth of babes”.
Matthew 18:1-4 comes from a section of Scripture in which the disciples had been arguing about who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven and finally decided to ask Jesus to settle the matter. To make His point, Jesus called a child and placed him in the middle of them. He informed the disciples that children are actually models of how we can enter and develop in the kingdom of heaven. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus used the example of a child to teach adults how to grow up?
He said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Many times we determine that Jesus is referring to the innocence and vulnerability of children, which is probably accurate and appropriate. However, I think He also wants us to capture and emulate the sensitivity and awareness children have of others’ feelings. That kind of caring only comes when we learn not to be so focused on our desires that we miss the needs of those right in front of us.
Prayer: Dear God, thank You for the clarity of Your Word… for helping us to see that pleasing You and maturing in You requires childlike humility and dependence. We confess that we have sometimes esteemed greatness above humility. Help us by Your Holy Spirit to serve You and Your people in ways that bring honor and glory to Your Name. Amen.