In the often misunderstood verses of Matthew 18:2-4, Jesus says that we must “become as little children.” But Jesus was not referring to faith here, but rather to humility. Whoever “humbles himself” as a little child is the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” and unless we are converted to become like little children, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said these things in response to the disciples’ question, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
It is doubtful that Jesus recommended that we strive toward child-ness. The Christian philosopher John Lennox once said;
“When Jesus told us to have a child-like faith, he wasn’t telling us to be stupid.”
It is equally unlikely that He was saying that we should strive for sheep-ness (John 10) There is no discussion of faith in the Matthew passage. Rather, Jesus is exhorting us to seek the humility of a child who has not yet latched on to ambition, pride, and haughtiness. Children are characteristically humble and teachable until they are not. It’s a question of posture and disposition.
While a theology degree is not a precondition to salvation, we should not be content with a simple understanding of the gospel either. On the contrary, child-like faith calls us to do the opposite – it calls us to pursue Christ with the curiosity of a wide-eyed child, constantly asking, “Why?”
The faith of children is not the kind of faith we are supposed to have. At least not like children that are easily tossed to and fro and moved by every wind of doctrine. Children are easily fooled and led astray. Children tend to accept things unquestioningly, often missing truth while being drawn to myths and fantasies. Christians are not to have the faith of children.
Rather, we are to “test everything” and hold on to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21), comparing all things to God’s revealed written word and not so tolerant, open-minded, and ‘enlightened,’ that we accept the fanciful notions of every theological passerby. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” but that doesn’t mean we accept blindly as children often do. True faith, the gift from God, is characterized by “assurance” and “conviction,” not by blind belief for no reason. Childlike faith, while perhaps a good place to start, must mature into faith that leads to certainty and a heart filled with joy that only comes from an assured confidence in the object of our faith—Jesus Christ.
A few questions:
1. Are we to strive towards childlike faith?
2. What sort of infancy do you think pleases God?
3. What are some ways in which adults in the faith overcomplicate the things of God?