Learning from Children — Part 2

This is the second post of a three-part series of a message I preached last Sunday. Hope you enjoy it. 

There is a second lesson Jesus wants us to learn through His precious children and that is…

B. The Lesson of Humility

To understand this lesson, we turn to Matthew 18:1-6:

“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. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’” (Matthew 18:1-6).

You have to love the way Jesus used children as visual aids for His lessons. These were the days before Power Point or multi-media presentations. They didn’t even have overhead projectors! So Jesus did the next to the best thing: He motioned to a little kid playing nearby and made him stand right in the middle of the disciples to teach them a lesson about humility.

But I am getting ahead of myself here. I don’t know what to say about the disciples. They were running around with the greatest servant leader of all times and they were constantly bickering about who was the greatest among them. At one point, James and John even enlisted the services of their Mom to ask Jesus if He could position her two sons on either side of Him when they got to the Kingdom. Jesus, of course, told her that she had no idea of what she was asking.

Unlike the time when the disciples tried to stop children from seeing Jesus, this time Jesus didn’t get indignant, He simply showed his favorite “Power Point” – a small child with no power, no pretention to greatness and no claim to favored status in the world. The text says the child was of “low position.” Jesus took that child, and said, “Look at how this child is – not worried about being important or better than everybody else. Become like this child and you will be the greatest.”

We all know that when children are small they care little about power and position. It’s only later, as they learn from adults, that they start noticing whether their parents drive a Cadillac Escalade or a Dodge Neon or whether they live in the north or south end of town. Small children are the original egalitarians and they don’t go around pulling ranks.

I once heard Chuck Swindoll, the famous Christian author, tell the story of a five year old girl who was tired of older kids picking on kids like her so she decided to start her own club. And the motto of her club was “Nobody big, nobody small; everybody medium.”

And that’s the lesson Jesus wants us to learn from God’s little children here: In spite of what you may consider to be evidence to the contrary you are made of clay and you are returning to clay. You have no reason to feel superior to anybody else on the planet.

Moses put it this way in his song in Psalm 90:

“You turn men back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, O sons of men.’” (Psalm 90:3)

Do you pick up some irony here? Here is Moses, the most important prophet in the nation of Israel, getting old and thinking of his imminent death. Moses knew that no matter how important or beloved he was, when it came time for him to go, there would be no arguing with God. God would say “return to dust” and before the dust settled, he would be a goner, so what is the point of feeling superior or treating anyone as inferior to ourselves?

This is a sober realization, my friends. The truth of the matter, whether you like it or not, is that when it’s all said and done, our names, our achievements, even our religious zeal, do not give us any advantages in this world. We are what we are because of Jesus so all glory goes to Him.

Now, there is nothing wrong, of course, with aspiring to be something great as long as we don’t allow this aspiration to replace God in our lives. And we should never do it at the expense of other people. Remember: Nobody big, nobody small; everybody medium.

Paul said it this way in Romans 12:16:

Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.” (Romans 12:16).

I am familiar with a church that has an outreach to needy people in their community. On particular weekend people go into the homes of approximately hundreds of families, bring a box full of goods and share the story of the resurrection with people. Just about every year one of the pastors gets a phone call from someone wanting hi8m to sort of handpick a house just for them. Usually the conversation starts like this, “You know I have always wanted to do get involved with this ministry to the needed, but I have a problem with…” And the list can include anything from house with cats to allergic reactions to cigarettes, to “dirty” houses… you name it. The pastor always has to politely encourage people to look for another ministry because they are obviously not ready for this one.

Imagine if our Lord thought that way when His heavenly Father informed Him that He was going to come to this place called earth and be born a baby with all the traits of earthiness and mortality associated with it. “I will go… if the people receive me as the King that I am.” Or “I will go… if I can live in a palace, surrounded by servants who will tend to my every need.” Or “I will go… if they will accept my message.” Instead, the Word of God says that the eternal Son of God temporarily gave up His claims of divinity to become one of us. He pitched His tent among us, deeply flawed human beings and, in the process, He became a servant, willing to go the distance, even the distance of spilling His own blood so we could have hope of forgiveness and reconciliation with the God who made the universe.

We read about this in an old Christian song, which Paul quoted in his letter to the Philippians (Chapter 2:5-8):

“… have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very natureGod, 
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing 
    by taking the very nature of a servant, 
    being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death 
even death on a cross!
(Philippians 2:5-8).

I am so glad that Jesus, who was God Himself, didn’t put any conditions. He was willing to humble Himself — He came, he suffered; he died and lived again, just so we could experience forgiveness and achieve reconciliation with the God who made us. Salvation is free but it was not cheap — it cost the life of the Son of God Himself. What does that mean to you?

I remember one time I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, attending a huge conference, where both Billy Graham and Luis Palau spoke. I will never forget Palau’s remark, after the MC introduced him with a detailed, flowery introduction that ended with, “So it is my honor to give to you this great servant of God, Luis Palau.” Palau stepped up to the podium and, almost sheepishly, whispered into the mic, as if speaking to himself, “If he is a servant, he is not great; if he is great, he is not a servant.” And that is the part of his sermon I remember the most – and it has stayed with me for the rest of my life.

The second lesson, then, God wants to us to learn through His precious children is this…

Don’t feel better than anybody else. And don’t be proud. The Bible says that the one who mistreats the poor offends the God who made them. A friend of the poor is a friend of God. 

Ivanildo C. Trindade