Skip to main content

The Kingdom Belongs To Such As These

Heaven's Gate
Q: What do you take from Matthew 19:14 and what are the implications of that verse? I guess the other part of the question is when Jesus is talking about the children and says the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these (or those who are like children), in what ways should we be like children? Children tend to be curious and ask a lot of questions... right?

A: Your question is a really good one.

I'm sure that there is more to it than this. But here's my best effort at the present time. I think asking a lot of questions and being curious is definitely something that is characteristic of children. I know other interpreters I've heard discuss this passage also make a big deal about the simple trust that children often express in their parents. They say that we (as Christians) are to likewise have simple faith and total trust in God.

These are certainly true statements. However, I don't think that this is the intent of this passage. By making a big deal about these characteristics of children we are separating the verse from its context. I think they end up making a point that the Holy Spirit, through Matthew, was not trying to make. In my opinion, anyway! That's not to say that children aren't like this, at least in general, or that these things aren't true. I'm not saying that we shouldn't ask questions, be curious, or simply trust what God says! Of course we should.

Baby feet
What I mean is: the text doesn't say that the kids came to Jesus and asked Him a lot of questions or that they trusted everything He said! In Luke's telling of the same events, it's "babies" (NIV) not "children" that are brought to Jesus. So maybe we should say that Christians should cry a lot and sleep most of the time like babies? That would certainly appeal to some segments of the "Christian" population!

I am a firm believer that we are supposed to get our meaning "out of the text" (a process called exegesis). We are not to read our meaning "into the text" (a process called eisegesis). We can make the Bible say anything and everything with the second method. Very dangerous.

In Mark (10:13-16) and Luke's (18:15-17) telling of this same event, they add "receive the kingdom like a child." This may point to the faith aspect of "receiving" the kingdom.

I think part of the meaning of this being included is linked to the disciples. Jesus says it to them. It is in response to their conduct. They were rebuking people for bringing children because children were not valued in the culture. At least, not as children... they were valuable because they would grow up and become adults. The disciples would prefer to wait until they are older and more important before they come and bother Jesus. It would seem like a waste to them for a Rabbi to spend his time with some kids. But Jesus responds that the kingdom belongs to "such as these." That is, the kingdom belongs to those whom the world does not esteem. This same truth is taught elsewhere in Scripture which emphasizes God's heart in the gospel:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:27-31, NIV)

Receive the gift of salvation
If 1 Corinthians 1:27-31 is speaking the same truth, the last part (v. 31) is really important. The "receiving the kingdom like a little child" part might have something to do with receiving the kingdom knowing that we are worthless on our own to receive it. Just as a child cannot "work for it" or "earn it" and is considered "unworthy," so the kingdom of heaven must be received as a gift! This, of course, is the whole message of Christianity. That we must receive the kingdom and salvation as a free gift of God!

If the character of children is in view (which I don't think, but it's possible), then there is another aspect of how kids behave that is important. I've seen it in my own children recently. They really have a heart to spend time with their "daddy!" My kids love to spend time with me. They want to be with me. I am often convicted when spending time with my children - I lament that I'm not always as excited to spend time with my heavenly Father as they are to spend time with me!

We are told to love God with an undivided ("all") heart and mind. Children are the closest thing I've ever seen to having a "single eye" and intention when wanting to spend time with their parents. It fades over time. Eventually kids (usually in the pre-teen stage and beyond) begin separating themselves from their parents. Before that, however, it really is amazing to see how loyal and dedicated children are to spending time with and having the attention of their parents.

Despite these interesting tid bits about the character of children and my own personal "object lesson" from God in the recent past through watching my own children, the intention of this particular teaching of Jesus seems to be focused less on the "children" and more on those who would try and keep the "less important" people from coming to Jesus. If we hope to receive the kingdom, we must confess our own unworthiness to earn it and receive it as a free gift of a gracious and loving God. We must also never try and restrict people from coming to Jesus based on our own judgments of who is worthy and who is not.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:1-8, NIV)

Amen! Thank you, Lord!

Comments

Popular Posts

Prayer vs. Petition

Q: What's the difference between prayer and petition? Phil 4:6 for example.

A: An excellent word study question! When attempting to study words from the text it is necessary to analyze the word being studied in the original language (in this case Greek) as attempting to look up the words in English will often produce erroneous results.

For example, in English the word petition has within its range of meanings things that are certainly not within the scope of meanings for the Greek word (i.e. “a sheet that is signed to demonstrate agreement with some principle or desire for some social action to be taken” is part of the range of “petition” but not of the Greek deesis from which “petition” is translated).

The word most commonly translated as “prayer” in our English Bibles is proseuche, which appears 36 times in the New Testament (NT) in one form or another (for the purposes of this study, we are only examining the usage of these words as nouns – the verbal forms will not be included…

What is Salvation, Part 4

Q: What is salvation and can you lose it?

There's the saying "once saved always saved". Using the scripture that no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand. (John 10:29) but it says in verse 27 My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me. So the no snatching is referring to those who hear and follow, in other words who are obedient to His Word. So, the ones that do not heed the call of the Lord and follow can be snatched?

What about sin hardening the heart? (Hebrew 3:13)

Shipwrecked faith? (1Tim 1:19)

I have heard the saying - "It's not how you start the race but how you finish it."

In Hebrew 3:14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,

If you aren't a true follower of Christ then how can you have the strength on your own to even run the race. It is because of Christ and who He transforms you to be that you would even want to run the race at all. So…

The Judgment Seat of Christ

Q: If our sins are forgiven, what are we going to stand judgment for?
A:Part of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that "...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). This is great news indeed! How amazing that the Holy and Righteous Judge and Creator of the world has made a way for rebellious and wicked sinners to be reconciled to Him.

Jesus the Christ, the one who became accursed by God so that all who believe in Him could be justly forgiven, and who rose from the dead and who is exalted at the right hand of God, has secured a victory over sin, death and the devil both now and forever. On the foundation of this completed work of Christ, believers can have assurance that they will be able to stand on the Day of Judgment. This is why it is good and right to sing the praises of Him who has overcome!

Because of what Jesus has done, the Bible teaches very clearly that our salvation is not on the basis of deeds, but on the basis of…

The Church Isn't A Business

I used to be a salesman. I sold a lot of different stuff. I worked retail. I did door-to-door. In all my various jobs my function was essentially the same. I was the link between company and customer.

Successful companies know their customer demographics. Many sales meetings revolve around numbers. Persons are treated as statistics. The customer becomes a set of numbers, preferences, and habits. Really successful companies cater their goods and services to a target demographic.

It's all about the consumer experience.
I remember when I began in pastoral ministry. People assured me that my experience as a salesman would be beneficial. They said there was a lot of overlap between pastors and salespeople. That may be true in our experience. But is it true of what we read in Scripture?

When I open my Bible and read about Christ's church I see a beautiful design that is very different from a business. Night and day different.

When Jesus walked the earth He rebuked those who failed t…

Lift Up The Son, Part 1

"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life." (John 3:14-15)
There is a difference between outreach and evangelism. Outreach can take many different forms. It can be service. It can be advertising. Outreach can (and should) contain evangelism. But it doesn't always.

Sometimes Christians fall into the trap of preaching ourselves. Preaching our churches. Preaching our favorite doctrines, moral battles, pressing burdens, or our pet programs.

To be sure, there is a time and a place for all of that.

But Christians must also remember the counsel of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles:

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake. (2 Corinthians 4:5)
We do not preach ourselves. We preach Christ Jesus as Lord. We present ourselves as servants of others for Jesus' sake. Our service to them can take many forms. …