Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 18:5 (Holman) “And whoever welcomes one child like this in
My name welcomes Me.”
God accepted us in our weakness. We are to do the same for others. The way we treat the child-like accurately reveals the way we are treating Jesus, however much we claim otherwise.
Some pilgrims travel the world to visit holy sites, trying to discover God. For believers, a child is the only shrine we need. We sometimes feel, if Jesus were among us, we would never be able to do enough for Him.
He is among us! “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’ “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’” (MT 25:37-40).
How else could our Heavenly Father view His children? Like us, He wants His own to be loved and nurtured. We parents love our children. People kind or unkind to them are kind or unkind to us. Would we expect God to feel less attachment and loyalty to His children than we do to ours?
We are to love the childlike for a much higher reason than merely natural affection or pity. We are to bless them in Jesus’ name, for His sake, as if we are doing it directly to Him, for we are.
Don’t separate the Lord’s presence from His children’s presence. Jesus loves to come in humble disguises. Our stoop in lowliness is the lowliness that permits the King to enter us. “Whoso lodges the King’s favorites will not be left unvisited by the King” (Maclaren).
When we welcome children—love them, are kind, warm, and tender toward them—we are doubly blessed. We see the benefit and joy we give the child, plus receive the advantage of having Jesus draw nearer to us.
One way we know we have the child-like heart Jesus commands us to have is by tenderly and graciously receiving children. One measure of a believer is how well they treat people who can’t help them. Why is this true? Because this is what Jesus did for us? He is self-sufficient. There is nothing inherent in us He needs. He loved us solely because He loved us.
It is hard to overstate the importance of a child. Children have huge value in God’s eyes. When the Twelve tried to keep mothers from bringing children to Jesus, He rebuked them. A German teacher, in the spirit of Jesus, daily bowed before the children in his class as a way of saying they might become great someday. One of his students was Martin Luther.
D. L. Moody once said his preaching had resulted in two and a half converts at church. When someone said two adults and one child, Moody said, “No, two children and one adult. The adult has only half a life to give.”
This resonates with me. I understand Moody’s reasoning. I’m 58 years old. If God lets me live my allotted three score and ten years, I have only 12 piddling years to give Him—and that’s only if I give every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year. He deserves better. I wish I had more time to give Him.
Children have more time, a lifetime, to give. To be good stewards of the limited time we have left, we must raise up younger ones to carry on the work after we are gone. Mold children for Jesus. “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” (Wm. Wallace), way into the future. By influencing children we extend our own influence for decades to come.
An aged Scottish Pastor once gave up his pastorate and retired, thinking he was a failure because he had only one convert, a little boy, the entire previous year. The convert was Robert Moffatt, famed Scottish missionary who served in Africa over 50 years.
A mother once went to a ladies mission society to hear a missionary speak. Only women were allowed to come, but since the lady could not find anyone to watch her son, she took him with her. He was deeply affected for missions by what he heard. His name was David Livingstone.
Milton Brock, a former member at Second, as a boy of 10 once went with his mother to a WMU meeting to hear a foreign missionary speak. He was so moved over lostness that he had to run out the door into the woods to find a tree to cry under. Years later we asked him to take charge of our first Global Impact Celebration. He said no, but as he drove from our office, he said it seemed like God spoke into his ear, “Milton, what happened to the boy under the tree?” He was so overwhelmed that he had to pull his car to the side of the road and weep. Once he composed himself, he called our church, and said he had changed his mind. He would oversee our GIC. A child’s moment influenced an adult’s decision that affected a whole church.
For believers, few tasks rank as more important than working with children. God blesses any who bless children, in homes, churches, schools, and cultures. Be good to your own children, to children who cross your path, children in orphanages, and children trapped in slave trafficking.
Matt. 18:6a “But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little
ones who believe in Me . . .”
Jesus seemed to shift here from the humble to the weak, expanding the scope of His words to include all who trust Him. Jesus was telling the Twelve their desire to be great was a movement in the wrong direction, toward selfish sin, wrongheaded ambition, and a pride that could stifle and turn off a fellow believer. He wanted them to stop moving toward actions that would hurt others. Jesus expected the Twelve to forget about their own personal advancement, to focus on weaker lambs of the flock, not self.
The only way a believer can be truly great is to make every effort to help others become great. If the Twelve did not squelch their lust to be the greatest in the kingdom, they would eventually start stepping on others, especially the small and weak, the ones who couldn’t push back. People obsessed with greatness inevitably walk on others to reach the top.
Jesus asked them to do what He did when He paid the temple tax (17:27). To not cause another to stumble, He was willing to forgo a privilege He was entitled to. Jesus asks us to curb our liberties. He did.
If we cause a weaker believer to fall, we lack a childlike heart, and are thus not fit for the Kingdom. We are responsible for our own consciences, and for the consciences of fellow believers. Of our behavior, always ask, “Would this help or hinder a weaker believer?”
We must limit our freedom if it might cause another to fall. We are given liberty not to flaunt it. It is far better to give up our rights than to give up our witness. No Christian can ever be great if he or she only considers their own rights and privileges when making decisions.
Use less liberty than you have. Blustering about rights is not a Christian virtue. Christianity by its nature calls us to do more than we are required to do. In our decisions, weigh how each choice will affect others. This consideration will cause us to do more than we are obligated to do.