Many of us are familiar with Jesus’ statement that we must enter His kingdom like a child if we are to enter it at all. We describe it as having a childlike faith, but is that what He said? Certainly we should trust in our Heavenly Father in the same way that a young child trusts in his earthly father, but in the passages we refer to, Jesus said nothing of faith. In each instance, the theme is humility. The disciples weren’t getting it. They were arguing among themselves as to which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom. Presumably based on the question they asked Him even after His resurrection (Acts 1:6,) they were imagining an earthly kingdom in which favors would be handed out to the closest associates of the new leader. Jesus is letting them know that’s not how His kingdom works. One cannot enter it on his own merit in pursuit of his own glory. One must entered it in humility, desiring God just as a little child desires his parents.
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4 NASB)
This is one way we get misled. The idea of a childlike faith is not without merit, but here many of us have assumed a scriptural support for a concept that is actually something entirely different. We have missed the main point and thereby promoted a teaching that I believe is actually harmful to our faith. We promote faith without reason. We are encouraged to turn off our minds and just believe. Yes, it is possible to accept and believe without understanding. The true faith of a child is no less true because he cannot fully understand what he believes, but we advise him never to grow up!
Children are trusting, but they are also naive. We cringe at the thought of a child approached by a stranger who says, “Your daddy said to come with me.” We teach them as soon as we can not to go with strangers. We are not preparing new believers in the same way. Often we are inadvertently encouraging them instead to pursue the stranger. Any time we listen to someone else tell us what God said and do not confirm for ourselves that He did indeed say that, we risk following a stranger into danger. Just as it has become common for parents to give children a code word so that if they do need to go with someone new they will have a token of the parent’s authority, we have God’s word in the Bible. Everything we hear should be checked against the Bible before we accept it as truth. And remember, even Satan quotes scripture. One isolated reference does not constitute proof. The Bible is a big book. It can be made to say just about anything if one picks just the right fragment.
Trust in God as a child may trust a father, but accept no impostor. Have a child’s humility, but have a mature faith.