Monday, May 31, 2010



In just three verses in Luke 18:15-17 we have the message of the kingdom bottom-lined and it's all about being like a child.

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

In the parable just before this story about children Jesus said, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Now Jesus says, "You must receive the kingdom of God like a little child in order to enter into the kingdom." This seems to be saying the same thing. And, there seem to be several ways we can hinder children from coming to Jesus.

The theme here is: Disciples of Jesus must remove all hindrances that keep children from coming to Jesus. The disciples were slightly annoyed that people were bringing babies to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them. They scolded those who were bringing the babies to Jesus. They certainly didn't seem to think that children were strategic appointments for Jesus to bother with.

Jesus took this opportunity to make an important illustration out of this incident. Jesus ignored their rejection of the babies and countermanded what they were doing. He invited all of the little children to come to Him. He gives a most significant reason for embracing the children. The reason? The kingdom of God belongs to the little children.

Then Jesus makes a most amazing statement which is the lesson He wanted to make clear: "Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Two things come to light here: FIRST-Don't hinder the children in any way from coming to Jesus. So, what are the things that we do that might hinder children from coming to Jesus.

1. Our pride in thinking that children don't know enough and haven't lived long enough to understand the things of Jesus. 2. Parental beliefs-There are two ways to hinder children from coming to Jesus. One is to indoctrinate your children with your beliefs. If you do this without encouraging your kids to think it through on their own to embrace it for themselves, you run the risk of propagandizing your children to believe what you believe without thinking about it. This will most surely set your children up for losing their (your) beliefs later, when attacked. The second is to ignore sharing any sort of beliefs with your children, believing they must be left alone to figure it out on their own. This sets your children up to be lost and confused throughout their lives. There is nothing redeeming about this approach at all.

The best way is for you to embrace your beliefs personally and to set an example for your children. This sets up your children to be more fully persuaded by the observation and influence of your life, based upon your relationship together. If you don't possess certain qualities, you can't pass them on to your children. But, most importantly, from your own faith and lifestyle you have the opportunity to advance the conversation about faith and about Jesus.

The SECOND thing that comes to light for me in this passage is the clear understanding regarding who will enter the kingdom of God. Jesus says that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he comes as a little child. What are the characteristics of a little child? A few obvious ones are a simplicity, pure heart and thinking, inquisitive, an openness to learn and a curiosity.

Possibly the best characteristic of all is that children are trusting. I think this is what Jesus loves the most. He is looking for and waiting for "ANYONE" who will come to Him with simple and pure trust. For adults this is very difficult; for children it's easy and very natural. So, come to Jesus as little children.



We come now to the 2nd story to focus the disciples' faith. Here in Luke 18:9-14 Jesus shares a parable that is most contemporary for us today:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

Luke warns us right away that Jesus was targeting a certain group of people-those who are confident of their own righteousness and look down on everyone else. Then he shares the parable.

It's obvious that Jesus is going to make some important comparisons for us to consider. Two men went to the temple to pray-a Pharisee and a tax collector.

NOTE the Pharisee's stance in prayer: FIRST-He stood by himself to pray. SECOND-He exalts himself right in front of God. THIRD-He looks down on the tax collector as less than righteous. FOURTH-He lists his checklist of righteousness, exalting himself even more.

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

NOTE the tax collector's stance in prayer: FIRST-He stood at a distance. SECOND-He didn't look up to heaven. THIRD-He beat his breasts in humility. FOURTH-He prayed a very brief prayer.

NOW NOTE what Jesus' evaluation was of these two men: "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Bottom-line is the Pharisee's prayers didn't even reach the ceiling and the tax collector's prayers reached the heart of God. And the result is that only one goes home justified. The problem? Jesus sums it up with "For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Two things are most clear to me from this parable: FIRST-The Pharisee's checklist of performance and status was all he had to talk about before God. Since he chose to exalt himself, God will surely humble him.

SECOND-The tax collector does not exalt himself at all. On the contrary, he throws himself into God's mercy. Since he chose this stance to humble himself, God will surely exalt him.

This story and its applications are so right on target for me. I am continually setting out to do something-even something good and righteous, laying out my plans and asking God for His help. What's the difference between me and the Pharisee? Oh, there is a difference, but very, very little. Sometimes by my actions I am putting forth my list of accomplishments and performance, thinking them to be so important.

It is so difficult to throw myself on the mercy of God, depending and waiting for Him to lead out. This doesn't mean to not use your giftedness, but it's all about dependency. Am I depending on God to lead out and empower what I do? And, am I willing to leave all the results-good and not so good, to Him.

One of the thoughts that helps to hold my focus together is found in Psalm 127. I repeat it to myself frequently. Check it out. Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. I desperately want God to be my builder and to watch out for my security. How about you?