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Dedicated to depending

Matt 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  

Glam likes to sometimes say 'Hey Daddy, do you remember when I was little and I used to...' The rest of the statement is usually something she used to think. Now that she is 'grown up' she finds her 'childish' thoughts funny. Its super cute when she says it. (Writing it down without the six year old Glam nuance and Glam inflection just doesn't do the cuteness-factor justice. )

Here's the thing though - there are things kids do and things kid think that if I did or thought I'd be goose of the year. Say for instance, I cried every time things fell short of my expectation threshold - which is nearly all the time. Not just cried but sobbed, then howled, then sobbed and then, when someone tried to correct me, contorted my face into a snarling grimace replete with a furious pirouette and a huffing puffing run-march in the opposite direction - screaming and yelling. Or, to give another example, what if, on realising that someone a bit younger was playing around with my stuff, maybe my chain saw, I promptly marched over, snatched said stuff, whacked said stuff-player-arounder on the back side and then retreated to my own side of the shed to the back-howl of my younger brethren. 

The point is that there are many things about kids that we are trying to discipline out of them - selfishness, impatience, bitterness, temper tantrums, covetousness, scatter brained-ness etc - then Jesus comes along and tells us that the archetypal kingdomite is a little child!? It's at this point that the classic 'child-like faith' card is pulled which is a card I'd like to put on as number one in a sermon series called 'Top Ten Heretical Christian Cliches'. For not only are kids just downright selfish and naughty and demanding (not all the time but a lot of the time) they will also believe anything - and I mean anything. I could tell Glam we live in Sweden and she would believe. I could tell her four wheel drives are five dollars each and she would believe. I could tell her, as a friend of mine did with his son, that what she finds in the toilet is someone called boris and we flush because boris wants to be with his boris friends in boris-land and boris can't get to boris-land until she flushes and she would believe this as well. 

We don't of course, tell em untruths or boris stories too much cause we love em and also because we don't want them to distrust us when they eventually realise we are liars and/or exaggerators. So if kids are not only inherently naughty but inherently gullible does this mean we can take Jesus' kingdom equation of one plus one and get two where 'two' equals the two quintessential kingdom traits: naughtiness and heretical gullibility? Are these the kingdom principles we learn from little kids?

Nope, that's not it at all. 

The fact is that we as adults are probably just as 'naughty' and 'selfish' and even as gullible in some ways as kids. The difference is for us as adults these things are sub-surface a lot of the time. For kids no such veneer-like airs and graces exist.  And as for the the 'child like' faith thingy well the thing is children don't have child-like faith. It's not just that they'll believe anything they are told (which by itself contradicts the robust, cross carrying, mission inspiring faith of the bible). It's also the fact that they can only parrot, not confess, anything they are told (which contradicts the idea of heart conviction as well as mouth-confession). You put these together and there really is no such thing as child-like faith - in fact later Paul will tell us in Corinthians that when he was a child he thought as a child but when he grew up he put aside childish things. 

I'm not denying kids of a certain age can believe and have genuine faith -they certainly can, but the age group the Jesus most often uses for sermon illustrations is the toddler age and herein is the lesson. 

There is something fundamentally childish about the Kingdom 'greats' because a toddler or infant, in their very essence, are humanity's smallest, most dependent, most fragile and most needy of citizens. In fact for infants and toddlers the single greatest trait of their existence is need. They need food from someone beyond themselves. They need water or milk  from someone beyond themselves. They need shelter and clothing from someone beyond themselves. They need love from someone beyond themselves. If some journo had shoved a microphone in the face of the kid Jesus had stand in front of everyone and asked that kid 'tell us what you believe so that we can all be great in the kingdom' the answer would have been at best a goo or a gaa or at worst a dazed stare. If you don't believe me ask some random little kid what he believes. 

The Jesus Kingdom sermon isn't in what a child might believe or how they believe but in their very existence of necessary need. 

That little kid would have stood distinct in their smallness before the disciples - especially before the disciples who all, we know from other scriptures, wanted to be greater than everyone else. So when Jesus does his sermon-picture thing, he shows with one humbling illustration the quintessential kingdom characteristic - need. It aint about child like faith: its all about infant-like dependence on God. 

That's why we are told we must humble ourselves and  elsewhere we are told 'Apart from me you can do nothing'. We can do nothing great in the kingdom, in fact we can't even cross the threshold of the kingdom without changing and becoming like little children. But how cool is it that He says 'unless you change and become like little children...' and 'whoever humbles himself like this child' as in an ongoing kind of thing - a process. A kind of bible / Jesus authorised childishness. Kind of gives me hope that there is a process and progression and that all one has to do is humble oneself but of course the very next question is how? There is no how 'though' which means all we can do is child-pray to Him in faith dependence like a child child-cries for feeding / warmth / love. That's the point because there are no 'hows' for infants and toddlers anymore then there is a 'how' plan for adults needing the King and Kingdom. 

There is just the need and the promise of loving fulfilment to those who humble themselves.

So…. 

I kind of think there are three cool applications from this scripture for parent-types. 

One, every time you see the inadequacy of your kids remember you own inadequacy without the precious Lord Jesus. 

Two, every time you see 'three steps forward two steps backward' growth in your kids love them and remember your own ebb and flow faith-growth and that the Lord God loves you and your kids more than you love your kids to the power ten million. 

Three, we should take Jesus word's to humble ourselves seriously and we should do this in dependence on His Spirit, in His power, for His Glory and for our satisfaction. Additionally, as our kids grow and forget their own dependencies (i.e. Hey Daddy remember when I was little and I....) remind them again and again that 

unless they humble themselves and become like little children...

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