Have you ever wondered what it means when Jesus tells us “to become like children”? I guess he doesn’t mean to run around, scream all the time and break things. Then our world would descend into chaos! 😉
Let’s look at Matthew 18 where Jesus first uses this expression. In this part, his disciples ask him who is the greatest in God’s kingdom. Jesus answers their question by taking a little child and placing him among the disciples. Then he starts explaining:
And Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18,3
The word for “change” here is read in the Greek as “στραφῆτε“. This comes originally from the Hebrew “schub”, which means “turn around”. And in this metaphorical sense, it means “to repent” or “turn back to God”. Only when we repent and turn around to God can we become like little children. (Okay… so now let’s scream and run around xD !!)
Let’s look at how Paul uses the term in one of his letters:
Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 1.Corinthians 14, 20
Paul makes it clear that we shouldn’t be children in our minds and decisions.
A little child is innocent, curious and knows that it needs shelter. It is open and honest and asks for everything. It knows how dependent it is on its parents and needs their help and support. And most parents forgive their children quickly when they do something wrong. Moreover, a child hasn’t accomplished anything but is used to receive. The kingdom of heaven can’t be earned, it can only be accepted by grace.
In the ancient world, children were generally seen as minor. But look at what Jesus says about these “insignificant” humans. He continues by telling us:
“Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18,3
To be a child means to be small, especially before God. The aspect of humility is important here, which is expressed by a “lowly position”. Only the one who is humble and the servant of others is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus places the world and the kingdom of God upside down. The ones with power, authority and pride aren’t the coolest in Jesus kingdom. On the contrary, the humble and low servants are the greatest.
Jesus’ message in this passage is a call to repent and turn around to God. It is an invitation to humble oneself before him and become innocent and unprotected like children with a complete trust in God who provides for them.