They brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:13–16).

“Too young,” thought the disciples. “They can’t understand, so keep them away.” But Jesus took this opportunity to demonstrate to millions of yet unborn people that God wants the children. There is no age limit in his invitation, “Come unto me.…” The promise, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved,” is not fenced in to those of an “important age,” any more than to those of an “important position in life.” In fact, just as the rich and powerful have a harder time putting aside hindrances to coming to the Lord, so those who proudly feel they have reached an age that is worthy of more respect have a harder time putting aside their dogmatic presuppositions and fixed intellectual positions to listen with eagerness and expectation to the Word of God.

What is a little child like? All the ones I have known ask questions. And a child often uses the answer to his question as the base for a further question. A child wants to make progress in finding out things, and is excited about discoveries.

“He spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying. What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: that all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God forever” (Josh. 4:21–24). Here Joshua is telling the people of Israel to answer their children’s questions about the twelve stones that were taken out of Jordan. And it was to be made clear to them that the purpose of God’s drying up the Jordan river was not only for the people to cross but so that all the people of the earth might know that God is mighty, and knowing that might come to worship the Lord forever.

Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD: and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:4–7). Believing parents are to teach their children continually the facts that need to be verbalized, as well as exemplifying these truths in their conduct. Within the family there should be a mingling of questions and answers, growing knowledge unfolded from the Word of God, and practical living out of the teaching of the Word.

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Almost everyone has an influence upon children in some way, whether the children next door, or the children coming into the store or the library, or the children coming to one’s class in school. If it is not possible to be with children when they are going to bed, eating breakfast, walking in the park or woods, sitting at meals, or stretched out on a beach or the back lawn, still it is possible to gather them together for Sunday school, which through many years now has become an acceptable place for even the children of agnostics to go. And it is possible to pray for them also.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke we have the strong warning that anyone who “offends” one of the little ones, or causes a child to sin, would be better off being cast into the sea with a millstone hung about his neck. Quite a vivid picture, and one needing some solemn thought. The just God who is perfect in his holiness has declared that people who lead little children into sin will be punished. Paradise lost? Childhood lost? Innocence early destroyed? Trust trampled upon? Jesus told the disciples, “It must needs be that offences will come, but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh” (Matt. 18:7). Woe to all who hurt and mislead little children.

A young man stood looking out over our vegetable garden with me the other day, after I had been remarking on the spiritual lessons to be learned in gardening, and said, “I wish I had been given some answers when I was in Sunday school.” He was thinking that some of his history might have been different if when he was young he had been given confidence that truth was defendable. “I was twelve when I left Sunday school, and I gave up all ideas of Christianity being true. You see, I used to ask my teacher questions, and the answer was usually, ‘You can’t understand that until you are older; in fact, I don’t even understand it myself.’ I thought that if that was all he could say, the whole thing must be worthless, and I might as well not bother going any longer.”

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Isn’t a child supposed to have a quick and easy faith? Christian faith is believing truth that is said. Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. God had told Abraham something that he believed. Eve and Adam believed Satan rather than God. There has to be something said, a verbalized explanation that is believed, before there can be faith.

A child is being robbed, or “offended,” if he or she is not given the truth with enough explanation and answers to questions that there is a measure of understanding. The wonderful faith of a child is the quickness to believe truth when the one telling it is confident that what he tells is accurate. It is sad to tell children things that are not true, knowing that they will discover the deception later and be disillusioned. It is also sad to have children ask adults questions and never get answers that are understandable statements of truth. The Bible is strong in what it says about responsibility to the next generation. Physical harm, moral harm, psychological harm, emotional harm, are all bad, but spiritual harm is even worse.

There is a twofold teaching in Matthew 18:1–6 when Jesus speaks of the millstone. First, there is the warning to anyone who would harm the child, and second, there is the warning that strikes in the opposite direction. The disciples are the very ones who had tried to push children away from Jesus, and now they are brought up short when they ask who shall be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them.…” That child is to be an example to us of the need to have the humility of being at the beginning, looking foward to life, not looking back with pride.


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