Jesus said to be like a child. In Mark 10:15, he specifically says, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. Those are not only surprising words, but they are an ultimatum. These are even more startling considering that at the time they were spoken, children had little intrinsic value in their childhood state. Their value being only in the future functioning adult years. Those of us with children, who can be overwhelmed by the tasks of taking care of what is by nature immature and often challenging can ask, like the disciples who pushed away the children, what could the God man be saying?
There are, of course, two elements of a child. There is the selfish element that seems to disregard any thought of anyone else in the world’s needs besides themselves. This is what we see with the crying toddler throwing a tantrum in the grocery store when they aren’t allowed to buy the candy bar. This is a bare bones expression of the childishness of our original sin nature inherited from Adam. But I think we all suspect that this is not what Jesus is getting at here. There is an innocent element to children. And this is the intrinsic value to children, this is what we celebrate. The child with no guile, no alternative motive, who sees everything with a new and uncynical light. Good is good and evil is evil.
It this second element that Jesus is obviously referring too. We must be like a paidion (Greek for young child) in approaching God. This is the attitude that Jesus commands us to have. We are to have the joy, beauty, and wonder of children as we approach our loving heavenly Father. There is also a secondary element coming out of this that may be worth calling attention to. And that is it what a child sees. The child sees and pays attention to the smallest of things. They can take pleasure in the most innocuous of items, a cardboard box becomes a castle, a small puddle becomes an ocean, a dandelion a thing of beauty to behold. They have joy in these small things. They grasp on to moment. They are not worrying about the big picture. They are lacking suspicion, their thoughts are not cluttered, they have trust, and they are into the now without the distraction of the past or the future just as we should be in prayer, bible study, and loving our neighbor. They can be this way because they are trusting their parents to take care of the rest just like we can trust our Father God.
We do take all scripture in context. Jesus is not saying for us to abandon stewardship, parenthood, good government and other important things of mature adulthood to go and play unicorns in the field. The scriptures are overwhelming in the call for responsibility. But we can take with us our maturity, and integrate it with the required wonder, vision, and trust of the small child and count on Jesus and the cross to “cover our backs.” We can put off the worry of the moment to take on the wonder of the day. In so doing, we take one more step to be more like Jesus Christ. Strangely, child-likeness with God is an unwavering command and not an optional lifestyle.