Matthew 18:1 "At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."Were children the same then as now?
First off, "the little children" in the day of Christ were different than today. Theirs was a world of regulation and obedience. On the other hand there are behaviors classic to youth of all ages. The youthful David in the pastures with his flock had much in common with the farm boy today with his rifle. They do some of the same things and dream similar dreams!
Let's first look at verse 18:3 "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Who are children?
- an unborn or recently born person
- a young person especially between infancy and youth (before maturity)
- a son or daughter of human parents
Are we to become as little children TO BE converted or as a result of conversion?
The Greek translated "converted" is strepho meaning "to turn quite around".
I always thought that this meant children were easier to convert than adults.
Do you not agree that the conversion is when one is "born again"?
Review "born again" from link: BORN AGAIN.
If so, we are in agreement. That's not to say that children are more receptive to teaching than adults, but that's not what this means?
Why are children more receptive to teaching?
- Limited exposure to contrary ideas
- Eagerness to learn
- Ability to learn at a faster rate
- Mimic adults who they love and respect
- Shorter history of worldly pleasures
- More sensitive to love
- Feelings of security with teacher
- Attitude (humility)
- Influence of other children
- Simple faith
- Pride has not yet matured
Rather than "become as little children" to be converted, we come as we are!
Regarding the sinful woman who anointed Jesus' feet, the Pharisees rebuked him:
Luke 7:47 ... I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."There is one word to describe what Jesus is saying in verse 18:3? CHANGE!
How are we to change: from the impurity of learned adult minds to the innocence of a child. Obedience to God's will!
Is sinning a learned behavior? Yes.
Of course babies cry at discomfort. Because they get fed when they cry they learn that by crying they can get what they want. As they have their anger fit what they desire is forthcoming. That is learned behavior. It's called "operant conditioning" and results in "positive reinforcement", which is rewarding bad behavior.
What are some characteristics of young children?
- Active (apathy has yet to set in)
- Sense of humor (not thin-skinned)
- Learn readily (receptive to ideas)
- React socially (Lucas hugged everybody)
- Sense of justice (right and wrong are simple)
- Friendship important
- Reason well. Do not yet go with false perceptions. (Try playing Concentration with a six year old!)
- Follow directions more readily (Obey!)
- Can have long attention spans (persistent)
- Enjoy learning and knowledge (open to truth)
Jesus expects us to be like these children when we "turn around" our lives. What is it that we are expected to do? Change! Old persons to new!
The old person's are antithetic to the genuineness of the little children. The old person with hate, anger, thin-skin, apathy, rationalizing, unfriendlinss, illogical, stubbornness, and rejection of truth is to be put away. Conversion is a transition from being the sinful old person to an innocent new person!
Do children do wrong?
Sure. That is original sin. We are born with a propensity to sin!
What are the first things children demonstrate?
- anger accompanied by crying tantrums
- "No!" They learn disobedience when it doesn't meet their desires.
- "Mine!" Selfishness
- "I don't want to!" Self-centeredness
- Slapping or pinching. Violence
- "Give it to me!" Demanding
- "I didn't do it!" Lying.
- Many others
The propensity to rebel is inborn, but the attitude of sin is learned. Infants do what infants have done since the days of Seth, but the continuation and growth in "sin" is learned as parents react to their wrongs by positive reinforcement. Disobedient children have become masters of weak parents. The start is benign, but by adolescence some of us have already grown teenage terrorists!
Rebellious or different children are a product of permissive parents. Parents who want mature children grow civil children. Those permissive parents who allow children to "do whatever they want to do" create adults who "do what is right in their own eyes!" We must teach obedience and submission to authority.
Do Christians still deal with childish sins? Yes we do! It will be a burden until we die!
Do we love and forgive children who try to obey well and sometimes slip up? Yes. Under what conditions? Sorry!
Does God forgive those adults who still do the occasional sin and slip up? Yes. Under what conditions? Contrition and repentance!
Why does God forgive even Christians of their sins? Jesus endured the same temptations which men endure. He knows that it is hard!
How bad does a child have to be before we commence "tough love"? Open rebellion and rejection of authority?
How do we do toughlove? Emancipate the youth to be on his own.
How does God do his toughlove? Emancipates the sinner to be on his own!
For either the parent or the sinner, there is the danger that either may be destroyed. Real love is toughlove! Toughlove does hurt the parent. Toughlove does hurt our Father in heaven. Why?
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."Because he loves you so much that he wants you to never die! He loves you so much that he sacrificed his only son to die in your place! His loss is your gain! All you must do is have faith in that payment and live in innocence as children do!
Verse 18:6 says "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
One other thing: Little children do not offend by nature! They love being with other children because there pride and power and jealousy have yet to be learned. We are to love the other "children" (Christians) and be in accord with them, just as children who play together in innocence.
Right now I'd rather be playing on a playground with little children than pursuing happiness by things adults do.!
For more on John 3:6 see my YouTube Video at link: