A Father’s Perspective on “Unless You Become as Little Children”
Having children has helped me better understand Jesus’ telling us to be like children. Here are lessons I’ve learned about having a childlike attitude.
In Matthew 18:2-3 Jesus placed a child in the midst of His disciples and told them, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
What does this mean? Become as little children? Does it mean that Christians should act childish—just play, eat sweets and nag their parents when they don’t get their way?
Obviously, that’s not what Jesus meant. Later in the New Testament, Paul urged Christians to mature past “childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
These two scriptures don’t contradict each other. Paul was emphasizing maturity, but Christ was emphasizing something completely different.
I believe that being a father of two children has helped me better understand what Jesus was saying about how His people should live. I will share some of those thoughts in this blog post.
We should never forget that God wants us to relate to Him as children because He is our Father.
What can little children teach us about living Christianity?
1. Little children want to spend time with their parents.
We probably have all been guilty of saying, “Oh, I can’t wait to get a break from the kids.” I might say it in a humorous way, but my kids absolutely love hanging out with my wife and me.
From morning until bedtime, it’s “Mum, can we do this together?” or “Dad, how about we do that?” A child’s innocent love is unconditional. You can have a nice house and nice things, but most little kids are satisfied simply with having their basic needs cared for and being able to spend time with you doing things that cost nothing—taking a walk, going on a bike ride or playing a game.
We can “become as little children” by longing to spend time with our Heavenly Father. When we are away for some time, our children miss us and are excited for us to get back home. Isn’t this the way Christians should be with their Heavenly Father? Do we long to spend time with our Father in prayer, Bible study and meditation? We are told to “draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
We can “become as little children” by longing to spend time with our Heavenly Father. That helps us build and strengthen our relationship with Him.
To learn more about building a stronger relationship with God, explore our articles on “Prayer, Fasting and Meditation.”
2. Little children are often swift to forgive.
There have been many times I have apologized to my children for my behavior or something I said. And they have always said the same thing: “It’s okay, Dad.” They are always very quick to forgive and forget. They don’t look for vengeance or compensation. In fact, they often console me when I feel bad about how I treated them.
Both of my children got disciplined once when my wife and I couldn’t determine which child was telling the truth regarding an incident that had occurred. After we learned what actually happened, we apologized to the innocent one, and the response was, “Can I have a hug, Dad?” and “It’s okay, Mom.” Our child didn’t condemn our wrongdoing, but rather was swift to forgive and slow to anger.
We should be the same way.
We must be the same way with others.
Jesus also taught us to abundantly forgive (Luke 17:3-4). This lesson was hard for the disciples—and for most adults—to learn. But it is something that often comes naturally to little children.
We can “become as little children” by being quick and generous with forgiveness.
To learn more about how to do this, read “How to Forgive.”
3. Little children trust their parents.
Little children often see their parents as all-providing, all-knowing superheroes because they unconditionally trust their parents to care for their needs. (This is why it’s so tragic when bad parents break that trust through abuse or neglect.)
Years ago, I was asked by one of my kids, “Dad, do you know why . . . ?” I had to honestly reply, “No, I don’t.” The response was a surprising, “Huh, I thought you knew everything!”
We “become as little children” by faithfully depending on our Father to provide for our needs.Another time I told my kids, “Even parents make mistakes.” They were in shock! To my little children, I was the all-wise dad who never made a mistake. Even though they now know I’m far from perfect, they do know that they never need to worry about what they will eat or wear. They trust that their parents will provide for them.
We should look at God, our Creator and Provider, the same way.
He wants us to bring our wants, needs and desires to Him regularly in prayer. He wants us to take our problems to Him. He wants us to get His counsel by reading His Word. He wants us to trust in Him to deliver us from our trials. He wants us to develop greater faith and confidence in Him as our Father and Provider (Matthew 6:25-32; James 4:15; Proverbs 3:5).
We “become as little children” by faithfully depending on our Father to provide for our needs.
To learn more, read “Depending on God.”
4. Little children aim to please their parents.
It is true that children are, at times, mischievous and selfish. However, they also have a deep-seated desire to make their parents proud.
Children don’t ordinarily want to displease their parents. Hurting their parents is far from their minds, despite their playful and occasionally witty nature.
So, let’s remember what Christ said and “become as little children”!
To learn more about this topic, read “Like Little Children: Lessons for Life.”