Summary: What qualities of a child does the Lord want us to imitate? (Outline from Bob Russell in Lookout Magazine February 25, 2001 called "Becoming Childlike" pg. 14)
A lady was cleaning her house and singing Gospel songs as she worked. She began singing, "Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king..." Her little son was in the next room and began singing along with Mom. Something was a little off, however, so Mom stopped to listen. The preschooler's version: "Soon, and very soon, we are going to Burger King..."
Sigmund Freud says that when we are born we are dependent upon our mothers. Soon this function is replaced by the father, who retains that position for the rest of childhood. When an individual transitions into adulthood, the father figure is replaced by many with the idea of God. According to Freud, the struggles of life and the lack of strong, loving father figures inspires the construction of an imaginary Father-God. This Father-God provides for all the psychological needs of the deluded. According to Freud we need to grow up and mature by abandoning this idea of God because God does not exist. We are alone in the universe.
Freud’s strategy for dismissing our sense of a need for God is to call it “infantile,” and mocks it. The Christian calls our need for God infantile and calls this good based upon teachings of Jesus.
There’s something powerful and irresistible about a little child. A baby melts the heart of the cynic, opens the pocketbook of the miser, brings a smile to the joyless, gives hope to the despairing, and turns otherwise ordinary people into obnoxious grandparents. Children seem so nice until we have to raise some. Talk to a stay at home mother and these thoughts of the preciousness of children are meet with a smile but also with a roll of the eyes.
Jesus could not have meant that we are to imitate children in everything. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15, NIV. Babies come into the world with a sense that the world revolves around them. Children need to be disciplined because without the direction of the parents the child will naturally go the way of the world, the way of evil. “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” Proverbs 23:13, 14. Also, Paul tells us, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” 1 Corinthians 13:11, NIV.
Since this is the case, in what sense did Jesus mean that we should be like little children? What traits of children do we need to receive the kingdom of God?
Thesis: What qualities of a child does the Lord want us to imitate?
A childlike faith
God is real to children. They don’t doubt his existence. They find it easy to trust him for the best. But as we grow older, pride takes over. We become skeptical of anything beyond our experience. We find it hard to trust someone else
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1, NIV. God has given us ample evidence to believe in the reality of creation, the wonder of birth, the mystery of a seed, the pain of conscience, the historicity of Jesus, the permanency of the church, answered prayer, fulfilled prophecy, transformed lives, and the durability of the Bible. But that’s evidence, not proof. To please God we have to examine the evidence and then take a step of faith. This requires childlike humility.
In the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, chocolateer Willy Wonka (played by Gene Wilder) launches a worldwide frenzy when he inserts five golden tickets into his famous Wonka Bars. Each ticket gives the owner a chance to tour the chocolate factory and win a lifetime's supply of chocolate. Five children find the tickets and come to the factory for the tour. As the day passes, each of the children falls prey to his or her own greed, except for Charlie Bucket—a poor boy who won the last ticket available.
In this scene near the end of the movie, Wonka unveils his true plan: to find a suitable owner to whom he could give the factory.
Willy: How did you like the chocolate factory, Charlie? Charlie: I think it's the most wonderful place in the whole world. Willy: I'm very pleased to hear you say that, because I'm giving it to you. (Charlie and his grandfather are stunned.) That's all right, isn't it? Grandpa: You're giving Charlie the… Willy: I can't go on forever, and I don't really want to try. So who can I trust to run the factory for me when I leave to take care of the Oomph Loompas? Not a grownup. A grownup would want to do everything his own way, not mine. That's why I decided a long time ago I had to find a child—a very honest, loving child whom I could tell all my most precious candy-making secrets. Charlie: And that's why you sent out the golden tickets? Willy: That's right. So the factory's yours, Charlie. You can move in immediately.