What Can You Learn From Children?
“YOU’RE acting like a child!” If those words were directed at us, we would likely be offended. Adorable as they are, little children clearly lack the maturity, experience, and wisdom generally associated with age.—Job 12:12.
Nevertheless, on one occasion Jesus told his disciples: “Truly I say to you, Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matthew 18:3) What did Jesus mean? What qualities do young children possess that adults do well to imitate?
Cultivating Childlike Humility
Consider the situation that prompted Jesus’ remarks. Having arrived in Capernaum after a long journey, Jesus asked his disciples: “What were you arguing over on the road?” The embarrassed disciples remained silent, for they had argued among themselves about which one of them was greater. Finally, they mustered up the courage to ask Jesus: “Who really is greatest in the kingdom of the heavens?”—Mark 9:33, 34; Matthew 18:1.
It may seem surprising that after being with Jesus for nearly three years, the disciples would argue about position or rank. However, they had been raised in the Jewish religion, which placed great importance on such matters. Evidently, this religious background, coupled with human imperfection, influenced the disciples’ thinking.
Jesus sat down, called the disciples to him, and said: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and minister of all.” (Mark 9:35) These words likely dumbfounded them. Jesus’ reasoning directly contradicted Jewish notions of greatness! Jesus then called a little child to his side. Warmly embracing the child, he drove home his point: “Truly I say to you, Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens. Therefore, whoever will humble himself like this young child is the one that is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens.”—Matthew 18:3, 4.
What a profound object lesson in humility! Picture the scene. A group of large, solemn adult men surrounding one small child, their eyes firmly fixed on the child. How timid and trusting the child was! How free of rivalry and malice! How submissive and unassuming! Yes, the little child beautifully epitomized the godly quality of humility.
Jesus’ point is clear. All of us must cultivate childlike humility if we are to inherit God’s Kingdom. In Jehovah’s family arrangement, there is no place for competitive strife or pride. (Galatians 5:26) In fact, these are the very traits that prompted Satan the Devil to rebel against God in the first place. No wonder Jehovah hates them!—Proverbs 8:13.
True Christians seek to serve, not to exercise power. No matter how unpleasant the task or how lowly the recipient, true humility moves us to minister to others. Such humble service brings rich rewards. Says Jesus: “Whoever receives one of such young children on the basis of my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives, not me only, but also him that sent me forth.” (Mark 9:37) Cultivating a generous, humble, childlike spirit unites us with the highest Personage in the universe and his Son. (John 17:20, 21; 1 Peter 5:5) We will reap the happiness that comes from giving. (Acts 20:35) And we have the satisfaction of contributing to the peace and unity evident among God’s people.—Ephesians 4:1-3.
Teachable and Trusting
Jesus next highlights another lesson that adults can learn from children: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a young child will by no means enter into it.” (Mark 10:15) Children are not only humble; they are teachable. “They soak up information like sponges,” says one mother.
Thus, to inherit God’s Kingdom, we must take in and obey the Kingdom message. (1 Thessalonians 2:13) Like newborn infants, we must “form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word, that through it [we] may grow to salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2) What, then, if a Bible teaching seems hard to understand? “Children keep on asking ‘Why?’ until they find satisfying answers to their questions,” observes one child-care worker. We do well to imitate their example. So keep studying. Talk to experienced Christians. Ask Jehovah for wisdom. (James 1:5) Doubtless, your prayerful persistence will in time be rewarded.—Matthew 7:7-11.
Some, though, may wonder, ‘Could not teachable people be easily misled?’ Not if they have reliable guidance. For example, children instinctively turn to their parents for guidance. “Parents prove that they can be trusted by protecting and providing for their children on a daily basis,” says one father. Surely we have similar reasons to trust our heavenly Father, Jehovah. (James 1:17; 1 John 4:9, 10) Jehovah gives us unfailing guidance through his written Word. His holy spirit and organization comfort and support us. (Matthew 24:45-47; John 14:26) Drawing on these provisions will keep us safe from spiritual harm.—Psalm 91:1-16.
Cultivating childlike trust in God also gives us peace of mind. One Bible scholar observes: “When we are children we set out on a journey with no means of paying the fare, and with no idea of how to get to our journey’s end, and yet it never enters our heads to doubt that our parents will bring us safely there.” Do we have similar trust in Jehovah as we journey through life?—Isaiah 41:10.
Implicit trust in God helps us to avoid attitudes and actions that could endanger our spirituality. Instead, we have full confidence in Jesus’ words that our heavenly Father knows our deeds and that as long as we seek first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness, God will care for us. This will help us to resist the temptation to focus on material concerns at the expense of spiritual responsibilities.—Matthew 6:19-34.
“Babes as to Badness”
Although born imperfect, little children are refreshingly pure in heart and mind. For this reason, the Bible urges Christians: “Be babes as to badness.”—1 Corinthians 14:20.
Consider five-year-old Monique, who excitedly told her mother: “My new friend, Sarah, has curly hair just like mine!” Sarah’s different skin color and ethnicity were not mentioned. Says one parent: “Little children are color-blind. They have no idea of race or prejudice.” In this respect, how beautifully children reflect the viewpoint of our impartial God, who loves people of all nations.—Acts 10:34, 35.
Children also possess a remarkable capacity to forgive. Says one parent: “When young Jack and Levi fight, we tell them to apologize, and soon they are again playing happily. They don’t brood, dredge up the past, or make demands before extending forgiveness. They just move on.” What a fine example for adults to imitate!—Colossians 3:13.
In addition, little children readily acknowledge God’s existence. (Hebrews 11:6) Their natural candor often moves them to witness boldly to others. (2 Kings 5:2, 3) Their simple, heartfelt prayers can touch the hardest of hearts. And when under temptation, they can display remarkable moral strength. What precious gifts little children are!—Psalm 127:3, 4.
You may wonder, ‘Is it possible for adults to recapture the beautiful qualities associated with childhood?’ The simple and reassuring answer is yes! Surely Jesus’ command to “become as young children” proves that it is possible.—Matthew 18:3.
To illustrate: A team of art restorers may work to repair a priceless masterpiece. In the process, they remove layers of built-up grime and reverse previous crude restoration attempts. After much patient effort by the restorers, the original artwork’s rich colors and natural beauty are revealed for all to see. Similarly, with persistent effort, the help of Jehovah’s holy spirit, and the loving support of the Christian congregation, we can recapture the beautiful qualities that blossomed naturally when we were children.—Ephesians 5:1.
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Children are humble by nature
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Young children are not prejudiced, and they quickly forgive and forget