Day 95: Matthew 19:13-15 (AD 30)
You’d be surprise how this verse gets weaponised and in other ways misapplied. Just in my own experience I have heard it used as grounds for suggesting that a church was going against the Bible by not running a specific, requested children’s ministry programme. If the church was living in the light of this passage, it was said, they would be running the desired programme.
More commonly it is used to suggest that belief in the gospel is unnecessary so long as there is a general spirit of, “I love you God”. i.e. little children know little more than ‘yes I trust my Dad and Mum’, and the relationship is more or less as simply as that, and therefore we don’t have to know God or have obeyed his command to repent, because he will take us to him anyway.
It’s also used in the futile argument about what happens to those souls of unborn children, or to suggest that all children are automatically saved.
We can rule out the first misapplication on the obvious grounds that if that was correct, you could use the same argument for an infinite amount of programmes, and a church would never be allowed to say no to anything that looked like it might be a good idea. In reality you will run out of human and financial resources at some point. Faith is not the only limiter on such things – God generally allows regular, boring old reality to limit us.
The second and third misapplications can be seen as such because they are trying to apply “Let the children come to me” to mean, ‘All the children have already come to me’, which is clearly not what’s being said. Or they are suggesting that “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’ must mean, ‘the kingdom of heaven belongs to all people like this’. Quite clearly, neither interpretation is a reasonable reading of what Jesus said.
So if it does not mean those things, what are we left with?
The kingdom of God is for everyone who will put their trust in God.
We know from elsewhere in Scripture that putting your trust in God means a combination of confessing your sins, asking for forgiveness and trusting that what Jesus has already done (for reference, see various references to repentance [e.g. Matt 4:17] and believing in Jesus [e.g. John 3:16]). And that’s it. There are implications of becoming a Christian, but there are no barriers to entry on the basis of intellect, age, sex, nationality, race…or anything else.
And yet too easily, we think the best Christians – or even the only ones – are those who think like we do, behave like we do, worship like we do, pray like we do, read the books that we do, have church like we do, or even look like us. The disciples clearly thought that children – being of such limited mental capacity – were not worth Jesus’ time.
Or we look at non-Christians and think, ‘Yeah they’re done…they’ve got no hope’. Perhaps not consciously, but maybe we look at certain demographics or types of person we regard as somehow less likely to be saved. Maybe that affects how likely we are to pray for them. Certainly it will impact how much we will try to engage with them personally.
Don’t add to Christianity to turn it into something complex.
Don’t hide the full gospel of sin, eternity, God, punishment and salvation from small children because they’re not intellectual – they don’t need to be.
Remember that your own faith should be one of complete, childlike trust. Not an unthinking trust or a blind faith, but a total trust and complete faith in the one who – like a good earthly parent – has done everything and more to deserve it.