“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” — Matthew 18:1
I remembered an opportunity that I had to sit-in on a 3rd grade class and just watch and observe the children. When I was in college, one of my child psychology classes required that we do a study and a group of us received permission to attend one of the local elementary schools.
The amazing thing that we observed was that the majority of the kids didn’t have any inhibitions. They felt like they could do anything. Just let them try. If the teacher asks who would like to sing a song, a sea of hands was raised. Whatever the request, everyone seemed to volunteer.
— Who would like to put this puzzle together
— Who would like to read a story
— Who would like to act in the play
— Who would like to go on an errand
— Who would like to wash the chalkboards
— Who would like to empty the trash
— Who would like to collect the papers
— Who would like to straighten up the desks
— Who would like to be the line leader
— Who would like to help in the office.
Everyone wanted to help. It didn’t matter what the job was. There was no prejudices, no opinions, no competition-everyone just wanted to help. They were all anxious to help, anxious to learn, anxious to do for their teacher whatever they asked. They had complete trust, faith and hope in them. They wanted to help and expected nothing in return. No praise, no extra credit, no special privileges, no money, nothing. These children loved each other and their teacher and wanted to help just because they were asked. These children didn’t have any hatred or selfishness in them. The word “no” I can’t do that had not become a part of their vocabulary yet.
This is what Jesus was trying to show the disciples. I’m told that the word child as it is used here, has the same meaning as servant. They are interchangeable. Jesus wanted the disciples and us to come to him (the teacher) just as a child or servant. He was us to be anxious to serve, anxious to do whatever is asked, no hesitation, no preconceived notions, no excuses, no fear of ridicule or embarrassment.
Jesus calls on us to serve.
How many of us are children of Jesus? How many are anxious to do whatever Jesus asks of us. Are we wiggling in our seats with our hands raised trying to get his attention so he knows we want to serve? Do we raise our hands for whatever comes before us or are we selective or do we need to pray about it or just say no because I don’t know how to do that. Or do we say, I’ve already done a lot in the church, it’s time for someone else. I don’t have time, I don’t think my spouse would want me to do that, what will people think about me.
We can convince ourselves that we are just not ready to serve the Lord or serve him the way he wants us to but what does Jesus say:
“Anyone” that means everyone, all of us, the entire world, the rich, the poor, the young, the old, the sick, the famous, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, friends, co-workers, bosses. Everyone! Must become like a child and turn away from sin in order to get into the kingdom of heaven.
The disciples lived and walked with Jesus but they still had the cultural and worldly attitudes about serving Jesus. They were still thinking about their position in his kingdom. They wanted to be greater than others. Not like children, willing to do whatever Jesus asked, be anxious to please the Lord.
How do we respond when we are asked to do something in the church for the Lord?
Your Pastor may ask you to sing, be a lay speaker, or give a prayer. A friend may ask for help maybe to move something, to watch the children, to help with a particular problem. You may be asked to serve on a committee, may be asked to help with a dinner or clean up after the dinner or to serve. The Lord may be leading you to go out and talk to others about eternal salvation.
How do we respond? Do we make excuses, sure we do sometimes.
Here are some of the common excuses that we use that prevents us from being servants/children of the Lord.
1. I don’t have time.
2. I don’t know how
3. I’ve served my time
4. I’m not able because of my health
5. That’s beneath me
6. That’s a dirty Job
7. I’m too old
Have you ever heard a child use an excuse like these?
All the excuses we use are conveniences to not do something for the Lord; it is also a measure of our faith. If our faith and trust in the Lord were stronger, we would never question or make excuses.
Children have unshakeable faith; they believe that they can do anything-they want to do everything.
We need to be like children when it comes to the Lord, no inhibitions, we need to be wiggling in our seats and raising our hands – anxious, excited, enthusiastic and humble for doing the Lord’s work.
Think about your service to the Lord?
Are you excited about it or are you hiding in the back of then church?
Make it a point this week to be like a child again because unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Rev. Thomas Beckette is pastor of Nighbert Memorial United Methodist Church and a member of the Logan Ministerial Association.