A clue, please

Anybody out there with a clear idea of what it means to receive the kingdom as a little child?

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9 thoughts on “A clue, please

  1. Having had little children around my house many years, I think it means that they accept as true, believe, and trust God/Christ quickly.

    When I taught Bible Club in our neighborhood, the little children never questioned the truth of Bible Stories.

    Little children are sweet and innocent, if they come from a family that loves one another.

    Older children begin to question things.

  2. In my limited experience children are nasty, brutish and short. Far too short, in my opinion. And while this perhaps demonstrates that I don’t come from a family where the members love one another, it does show one of the limitations of interpreting Scripture by personal experience alone.

    Which is not to say that what Jesus says doesn’t have to do with how life is, but I think it also has to do with right theology. There is pelagianism in the suggestion of human innocence–we are born condemned and live the life of traitors to God from the first. At least pelagianism is what one senses. And there is arminianism in the suggestion that credulity is the same as faith (credulity is no gift of God). Perhaps I’m wrong there, but I sense you’re saying it is something they have. I don’t believe it can be that, that they have the bare merit of choice, that neutrality of balance in the will which I understand is at the heart of the Arminian theory.

    There has to be a relation of this bit with the parable before: which is not about human innocence, and the one after, which is about the things we leave–or the things we think we have. I have a feeling it is that children have nothing and aren’t usually stuck on pretending they do. Or perhaps better, that they receive everything with no effort to repay.

  3. Having had kids, worked a lot with kids, and having a very clear recollection of the process by which I learned to be truly wicked, I think it’s a few things:

    1) Children below a certain age don’t think abstractly. They take things at face value, tend to be naively honest and credulous, and everything is immediate and emotional. They may do bad things, but they simply aren’t capable of the sorts of wickedness that require multiple levels of indirection. I believe that “like a child” is indicating that a certain level of sophistication can hamper entry into the kingdom.

    2) They are dependent, and they haven’t had the experience of taking their basic needs into their own hands. They don’t worry about how they are going to get their next meal, acquire shelter, or whatever — even in cases where a parent fails to provide a meal of shelter, the child just takes it in stride. It’s just a matter of fact. Acquiring security for themselves isn’t something that would even occur to them. (I think about Saul having to be lulled to sleep by David’s harp in this case).

    3) They sincerely want to please their caregiver; it’s very rarely a conniving attempt to get cookies or something. Their biggest fear is losing relationship with their primary caregiver. Most other fears stem from that.

    4) For children, it’s natural to “cry out” to the caregiver when troubled, up to a certain age. God talks about how he is upset when his children don’t cry out.

    Now, when you encounter these characteristics in a child, it is impossible not to love him. Adults who have these characteristics tend to end up very poor and marginalized, and often drawn into lives of petty crime to survive, but the impact is the same, IMO, when you recognize that this is how they really are, and not an act. With a few petty crooks I’ve come to know well over the years, I’ve found myself feeling ashamed in comparison. As if I’m half-phantom, or a serpent.

  4. You have to become good? I admit I’m having a hard time making out what you’re saying, probably mostly because I have become used to people interpreting Scripture based, well, on the context and what’s in the text.

    Do you really think Jesus is saying there’s some kind of virtue in children? Unless you quit thinking abstractly, ye shall all likewise perish?

  5. No, that’s definitely not it. There is no more virtue in being childlike than in being an adult. And I don’t think the text is suggesting that people purposely go out and age-regress themselves to earn salvation. As far as I can see, this is meant to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive. But I suppose it could be at least “diagnostive”. If someone’s relationship with God is more like a his relationship to a hammer, he ought to take pause.

    The Lord’s prayer opens with “Our father”, presumably showing that the relationship aspect is quite significant in the approach to God. That’s all I think this is saying. And, of course, it presumes that the average person will have an idea of what is different in the relationship of child to father as distinct from other relationships.

  6. I can’t agree with that last part, that it is saying something the Bible already said elsewhere. Of course, you may not agree with me that the Bible never repeats itself, but that is one rule I never try to interpret without.

  7. Well, I think you’re right in your interpretation approach — I think we should approach the Bible from the perspective that there is not a single superfluous word.

    I just think the two things go together. The “our father” is a demonstration of how we are to pray, putting into implementation the advice about “like a little child” in Mark 10:15. The “like a little child” admonition in Mark 10:15 isn’t exactly redundant, because without it, one could still attempt to interpret the “our father” as endorsing some other father-son relationship — for example, “our father” isn’t talking about the sort of reverential relationship that an elderly Chinese man has with his dead father, or the relationship that a new college student has with his retired father. It’s supposed to be about the relationship of a little child to his father.

  8. I was working on Luke 18. I don’t think it has anything to do with fathers. It has to do with how children receive things. It has to do with the former parable of the publican and the latter advice to the rich guy. Little children have nothing and receive what they do not deserve.

  9. Oh, I think you’re right — and I think your interpretation applies to Mark 10:15 as well. Children freely take what is given, unearned, and are happy with it.

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