In Matthew 18:3, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The King James Version puts it that, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”
Now that ‘enter into’ bit got me thinking. You see, throughout my Christian walk, I have held that verse in the light of my initial Christian ‘training’, if you like, where people told me that it means that you need to remain ‘teachable’, almost pliable, so that you can accept Jesus’s teaching in a heart that is ready to receive His word.
And while I agree with that, in that we do need to be ready and wiling to learn from the Master, I think there’s more in that verse. The key for me was in that KJV verse, where it said, “Except ye … become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”. It’s the ‘enter into‘ – as in entering into the spirit of something. Say you’re at a Church service, a Gospel concert, or indeed a rock concert. You’re not fully ‘joining in’ unless you ‘enter into the spirit’ of the event. You won’t get the full benefit, and you certainly won’t enjoy it as much as would someone who does enter into it.
And so it is with the Kingdom. To really enter into the spirit of things, as it were, you need to become like a child. You need to accept things with simple faith, in a trusting and carefree manner. It’s not complicated. You are allowed to ask questions, including the awkward “Why?” question which is both beloved and feared simultaneously by all parents! You can’t enter into all the benefits of the Kingdom unless you become like that. Think of it as a mindset that encourages the manifestation of the Kingdom in your life. Remember that “…the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17) Those three fruits are much more easily enjoyed if you come to Him with a childlike spirit, and experience the awe and the wonder of a child seeing things for the first time.
In order to reinforce this teaching further, let me give you an example of the kind of mindset that is the antithesis of the childlike mindset. In most groups of people, sadly especially in churches, there are people who thrive on gossip. They complicate things so much and delight in spreading rumours and lies about fellow believers, and without discussing their ‘grievance’ with the victim….perhaps it’s a doctrinal difference or something and rather than talking about it with the person they have the problem with, they instead ‘warn’ their fellow believers against that person and his ‘dodgy’ beliefs. A dear brother of mine has recently been subjected to this treatment by ‘godly’ people who really should know better!
I find it sad that these people, who could have so much freedom and joy in Christ, decide to fill their empty lives with harmful gossip, hatred and other inane rubbish. This is why they ‘cannot enter into’ the Kingdom things, as they would if they were ‘like little children’. Come on, guys, there’s a Kingdom to be entered into! There’s righteousness, peace and joy to be had; Kingdom power to change lives…all if we’re childlike and trusting rather than ‘grown-up’ and serious.
In summary, then, I believe that when Jesus said that ‘those who don’t become like ‘little children’ cannot enter into the Kingdom’, He meant that they can’t enter into all the blessings that the Kingdom gives. This is because their attitude is not the delightful, carefree, laid-back approach to life that little children have.
I think of my grand-daughter – she’s 5 – and her delightful sense of humour, her inquisitiveness, her spontaneity. I think this is the way that Jesus meant for us to live. It doesn’t mean that we’re not allowed into the Kingdom if we don’t have a childlike attitude, it means that by not being childlike, we exclude ourselves from the blessings. We can’t enter into it. If we’re all really serious about theology, sin and hellfire and damnation – and serious about gossiping about other people; concentrating on the negative all the time – then it’s no wonder we don’t appropriate what God has for us! We simply can’t!