Those were Jesus’ words to his disciples when they tried to keep them away. Actually, even before saying those words, Jesus brought the children close to him. It’s a beautiful image of Jesus, as he is surrounded by the least and often overlooked of his day (Luke 18:15-17 NIV).
I’ve heard people describe children as “little angels.” I can appreciate the cuteness factor, depending on the age of the child. But, Jesus doesn’t get sentimental with children or talk about their goodness quotient. He does, however, refer to them as an object lesson as it relates to how persons ought to relate to the Kingdom of God. And, it must have surprised his disciples. After all, they had Jesus on a schedule and these children were taking up valuable time. They weren’t doing a good job with crowd control and it was frustrating them. They thought this situation was doing the same to Jesus too, but what he did and what he said showed them otherwise.
Vacation Bible School starts next week at University Heights Baptist Church. The building is being transformed into the snow related “Everest” theme. It takes a great deal of effort to put on such a presentation, and fortunately we have the man and woman power to get us ready. I’m also glad that our people pull together and don’t stress out too much over the decorations. Sometimes we have to move things around to create an environment conducive for learning.
Children are among the most neglected and vunerable in our world. This is true even in our community. The Springfield Public Schools provides information about the number of students on free or reduced lunch, and the numbers are staggering. It is especially troubling to realize that for many of these students, were it not for meals being offered at school, they would not eat. When school is in session, they can anticipate at least two meals a day. During the summer, however, the circumstances are different. Our church is becoming more educated about these needs with the intent to help our neighborhood elementary school. Many of these students face the triple threat of hunger, hygiene, and health issues. The need is great.Let
I don’t think we can approach church work the same as it has been. Perhaps the social and economic needs have been present for a long time, but it seems nowadays there are greater difficulties and churches are facing the realities of their neighborhoods with their eyes open to them.
Jesus affirmed children and said that adults can learn something extremely important from them. He said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18.17 NIV).
There are many things children cannot do, but the one thing they can do really well is receive. Children are great receivers. Jesus knew that, and he also knew that adults have problems with this aspect of life. We prefer to see how well we measure up in comparison to others. This is probably why Luke positioned this incident between the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector, and the encounter with the rich young ruler. The behavior of children as they put themselves in a receiving posture goes counter to those who think they measure up on their own.
Of course, the Bible does admonish us to give. As Frederick Buechner once wrote, “It’s not only more blessed to give than to receive, it’s also a lot easier.”
Children face many pressures in our world. Although written decades ago, David Elkind’s The Hurried Child remains an important resource in working with and understanding children. The subtitle of his work is “Growing Up Too Fast, Too Soon.” Elkind writes, “If child-rearing necessarily entails stress, then by hurrying children to grow up or by treating them as adults, we hope to remove a portion of our burden of worry and anxiety and to enlist our children’s aid in carrying the load. . . yet we do our children harm if we hurry them through childhood.”
Those disciples were in a hurry, and as a result wanted to hurry those children along and get them away from Jesus. I think we need to be careful that we don’t fall into that trap as well.
In one of my earlier pastorates, I had a woman come to me and make a comment about my family. She was unhappy with the amount of time I was spending on church people and attending social functions. At that time, my daughter was very little and I was trying to balance being a dad with being a husband and pastor. From this woman’s perspective, I wasn’t doing a very good job with the last duty. She said, “Your family is hurting your ministry.”
That comment was made over 15 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday.
I don’t remember exactly what I said to her, but I do recall how I felt. I got upset at her critique but at the same time renewed my commitment to my wife and daughter. From that experience I learned that my family is my ministry. They are going to be with me a lot longer than any group of church people will.
We adults, especially parents, struggle with the balance of being at work and at home. We constantly wrestle with the amount of time we spend with our children. What we don’t need to do is “hinder” the children from reaching Jesus, like those disciples were doing. It is through our love and actions that children see and learn about Jesus.
That’s what I hope happens at VBS next week. The children are coming. Let’s do all we can to get them to Jesus so he can touch their lives. In so doing, let us also be grateful that at some point our lives someone else helped us get to Jesus too.