Jesus Loves Them
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. “ Matthew 19:14
In ancient Palestine, men ruled over society. Women were second class citizens, and children followed in a distant third place, just above the despised Samaritans. As we read the accounts of Jesus’ life, we find that He turned things upside down. Instead of fearing the powerful religious leaders, He argued with them, and He broke the molds of accepted religious behavior they had so carefully constructed. Instead of ignoring women, He reached out to them again and again, including them into His circle as equals. And the snotty-nosed, out-of-control children? Jesus honored them by welcoming them into His inner circle, into His life, and into His heart.
In our society, children occupy a prominent place. Many couples construct their schedules around their children’s sports and hobbies, and the needs of the children are a high priority in any decisions in family life. But far too often, we neglect the emotional and spiritual needs of our children. We’re so tired from working hard that we don’t have much energy to devote to them.
We need to take our cue from Jesus. We don’t have more responsibilities than He had! We need to see our children the way He sees them and treat them with respect, patience, and love. If He could carve out time to value children, we can too.
Start your child’s day with love and encouragement and end the day the same way.
I think that most parents and grandparents enjoy giving and providing good things for their children and grandchildren. But the most important thing that we can give them is Jesus. We probably won’t always be there at the times when they need guidance the most but if we have given them a foundation grounded in Christ, we can find assurance that He will guide them to the right decisions. All the things of this world will someday pass away and even if we were to leave our children tons of the things of this world, it won’t be enough to get them prepared for eternity.
Some years ago many parents gave away their privilege of teaching their children about Jesus and then leading them into salvation. Instead they took them or sent them to Sunday School or children’s ministries and made it the teachers responsibility. I’m certainly thankful for those teachers and workers who undertook this great assignment. But little by little that begin to dwindle away because it interfered with family activities, mostly the extracurricular activities of the children. Now it seems that sports, shows, and events have become the priorities of both the children and their parents. It seems that we are willing to give and spend and make provision for our children to experience everything that the world offers at the expense of their souls.
In Jesus’ day the children were largely ignored and though there were the stories about God working through children (Samuel and Josiah, for example), children weren’t considered to be capable of spiritual things. After all they weren’t capable of properly participating in the rituals correctly. Girls in particular were ignored for only the boys would participate in Bar Mitzvah at age 12.
But when Jesus came, He took great interest in the children. In His view they were just as much in need of salvation as adults. One day as He was teaching, children began to gather around Him. The disciples saw them as a disruption and were telling them to go away. But Jesus rebuked them and told them to let the children come to Him. As a matter of fact He said that those who hindered children from coming to Him would suffer dire consequences. Listen to His words:
“Jesus said to His disciples, “Stumbling blocks [temptations and traps set to lure one to sin] are sure to come, but woe (judgment is coming) to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone [as large as one turned by a donkey] were hung around his neck and he were hurled into the sea, than for him to cause one of these [a]little ones to stumble [in sin and lose faith].
Luke 17: 1-2
The strategy of the devil is to get the people of God busy with good things at the expense of excellent things. Whenever I speak to this issue, I hear that all the activities are important and necessary and I am by no means saying that we shouldn’t allow our children to participate in these things. But the Bible teaches moderation in all things. We in the adult world talk about the importance of a work-life balance, yet we rare if ever think about a soul-life balance. Just as it is important to care for ourselves emotionally and physically and to step back from work and careers, it is even more important to care for our souls and spirits. And just as much as our children need the benefits that come from participation in extracurricular activities, they need the benefits of spiritual experiences.
Jesus tells the story of the man who got so busy preparing to live in this world that he neglected to care for his soul. After all his labor and planning one night he went to bed and died. He never got to enjoy all he had accumulated and since he had made no provision for his soul to be in heaven, eternity for him was horrible.
I ask us as parents and grandparents to pause and consider just how costly the things that our children are involved in. I’m not talking just about the monetary aspect or even the time and effort it takes. I want us to consider the value of our children’s souls. Let us ask ourselves first of all if we are living and modeling a lifestyle that puts Christ first and center. Can our children see that our relationship with God and the people of God(church) is our first priority? Or do they see work, playing, and such our priorities and connecting with God and the church only when it fits conveniently around our other activities? Second of all, I ask us to consider whether we are making it our responsibility to talk with our children about salvation and eternity.
One day we will all stand before Christ. We will either stand before the judgement seat of Christ as believers to receive the reward for what we have done with our lives or we will stand before the Great White Throne to be judged. Those who stand before the judgement seat of Christ won’t be judged for their sins for they have already confessed them to Christ who nailed them to the cross, but those who stand in the Great White Throne Judgement will give account for their sins. These will be those whose name isn’t written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Everybody will stand in one or the other judgements. You and I will be there. Our children and grandchildren will be there. Our friends and neighbors and their families will be there. The only question will be is which judgement will we and our families stand before.
I realize that from where we are and where society has pressured us to be it will take a radical change to make the kingdom of God our priority again. But rest assured that God understands radical intervention for it took such for Him to send Jesus to die for our sins. If God was willing to become that radical in His love for us ought it not call forth a radical response from us? I’m not suggesting that we can recall the “good old days” but I am calling us to return to God with our whole hearts. It was Jesus who said that we were to “seek the kingdom of heaven first, and all these other things would be added to us.” That truth still applies. I call upon us a Christians to analyze our priorities. I call upon parents to consider making spiritual activities a priority for themselves and their children. I call upon the church and especially our senior members to see the necessity of ministry to children. We don’t have to lose another generation to the world. Jesus is literally saying to us that His desire is that we bring children to Him and to do nothing that hinders them from coming.
Enthusiasm is contagious. What we are enthusiastic about most of the time will also become the things that excites others. If for some reason you’ve lost your enthusiasm about following Christ, why don’t you ask Him to restore the joy of your salvation? If church has become boring to you, it probably has to others too. Why don’t you ask God how you can help the church to become relevant and exciting again? Whatever we do let’s not forget about eternity.
Dr. John Thompson