At some time in their early childhood each of my children have found themselves with a broken toy or something of significance to them and each of them has said, “Daddy can fix it.” More often than not they are wrong… I can’t fix it! It is usually some badly made plastic piece or a specific part that I don’t have the ability to recreate or either the tools or know-how to fix.
However that doesn’t stop them declaring that I can fix it, from decapitated dolls to mangled Slinkys, they are sure I can make it as new. Even after I haven’t been able to fix things the first few times this happens they still declare I can fix things which I simply can’t. In fact my youngest two would often keep persisting that I could fix it even after I told them I couldn’t, they weren’t satisfied until they saw me make at least some attempt to fix it. My youngest still declares I can fix things, even though I am sure that more often than not I haven’t been able to fix her broken toys.
I was thinking about these experiences when I realised that there was a connection here to our own relationship with God.
Before we get to the scripture I want to use here I should just say that the passage I want to discuss here is often used to illustrate faith, however some people would argue that the passage doesn’t talk about faith at all but about humility. If you are one of those people don’t stop switch off yet, because my view is that in fact this passage talks about humility in order to show us the relationship between humility and faith. So lets look at the scripture in question which is found in the first part of Matthew 18.
1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Now the background to this passage is that the disciples have been arguing over who will be greater in the kingdom of heaven. So it makes sense that Jesus is teaching the importance of humility to his followers, however I think he is saying more than this, yes, he is also saying, as bible teachers the world over have taught us, that our faith must be that of a child. Knowing about the humility lesson though helps us to understand how we can have faith like a child. You see to my children when they were young, when they found something broken their first inclination was to get their father to fix it, and not only that… they also believed that I could fix it. Why? Because they couldn’t, and who does the things for them that they can’t do? Their parents! From our kids point of view; Mum and Dad look after us, they do the things that we kids can’t do. In our family they assign the role of fixing things to their dad, (which is a weird phenomenon in itself considering my low success rate with fixing things) in other family’s it might be their mother, or their grandfather, or their older sibling, they see as being able to fix things.
What then is our inclination as adults when things go wrong? When we need someone to do something we can’t? Who do we go to? Are you starting to get the picture? You see I think Jesus is saying to us that we need to accept that there are things we can’t do and we need our God to do them for us.
Humility as Jesus teaches it, is not about believing we are inadequate. It is not about believing that someone else is better than us. It is about accepting that there are things we don’t know and some things we can’t do and that that’s okay. It’s about being willing to receive; willing to learn and willing to let someone else help us. Namely God, but also by extension the people and beings he created.
One of the concerns sometimes raised when this verse is used to teach faith is that it might be misinterpreted as promoting blind, unquestioning faith. This is a valid concern and we need to recognise that blind faith is not what Jesus is promoting at all, in fact in using young children as an example Jesus shows that is okay to ask questions, after all young children do. They ask lots of questions!
Eventually though all of my children, except my youngest lost this strongly held belief that I can fix all things and my youngest is even now starting to lose it. This is part of their growth and maturing to learn that neither me, nor any other person can fix all their problems. The challenge to us is to help young people maintain their belief in God, to help them understand that while we, as humans, are fallible their God is not. Where and when we can’t help them, God can.
This again calls for humility on our part, being prepared to admit that it is not ultimately us that our children need, but God. In being humble enough to recognise this we practise our own faith in God. Faith through which we know that he can lead our young people to Christ and that his Holy Spirit will walk beside them on their journey through this world.
Alexander, D. & Alexander, P. (Eds.), (1984). The Lion Handbook to the Bible. Herts, England: Lion Publishing.
Barker, K. (Ed.), (1995). The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
Brand, C., Draper, C., & England, A. (Eds). (2003) Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Reference.
Davis, J.D. (1977). Davis Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids,Michigan: Baker Book House.
Goodrick, E. W., & Kohlenberger, J. R. (2012). The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Thompson, F.C. (Ed.), (1988). The Thomson Chain-Reference Bible: Fifth Improved Edition. Indiana, USA: B. B. Kirkbride Bible Co., Inc.
Zondervan. (2010, November 1). Updated NIV Bible Text. Retrieved from http://www.biblica.com
All scriptures references are taken from the New International Version of the Bible, unless otherwise stated.