THE HEART OF THE CHILD
The Heart of the Child
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “ Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-3 NASB)
If you were to look at the behavior of the first century disciple child like would likely not be the adjective to spring to mind. They were brave, convicted, some might even say confident. Men like Peter and John in Acts 4, the apostles of Acts 5, Men like Steven in acts 7 and those that suffered after his death in acts 8, men like Jason, and Barnabas, Silas, and most certainly Paul could not be considered like children could they? After all these are stalwart defenders of the faith and powerful men of God who fearlessly went to persecution and even death for their courage and conviction, how could they be considered like children?
To complicate the waters a little more the Apostle Paul on four different occasions speaks of maturity as something to be sought after. He shows this twice in the book of Romans specifically the 2nd and 14th chapters, once in Ephesians 4 and again, depending on the translation, in Philippians 3. Maturity is praised and immaturity warned against in Hebrews 6. Even the word translated perfect in James 1:4 means to become mature.
So who is that will enter the kingdom the childlike or the mature?
13 Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “ Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.
(Matthew 19:13-15 NASB)
The simple answer is the mature who are wise enough to seek him like a child. The Apostle Paul wrote twice in Romans (11:25 and 12:16) that we should not be wise in our own estimation. Both of these passages are likely reaching back to Proverbs 3:5 where we are told to trust the Lord and not to lean on our own understanding. This is repeated again in the 7th verse where the wise writer instructs us not be wise in our own eyes but rather to fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Isaiah 5:21 is a similar warning. The Lord through the prophet proclaims woes upon those who are wise and prudent in their own sight.
So how can we both be childlike and mature?
Seeking the will of the Father
I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me
(John 5:30 NASB)
The inevitable conclusion is that the first test of wisdom is considering whether or not this brings us closer to the desire of the Father. Proverbs 8 and 9 (yes the whole chapters) speak a great deal about this. Ultimately the passages are summed up (at least in part) in James the 3rd chapter.
13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
(James 3:13-18 NASB)
Paul in Galatians 5 writes the flesh and the spirit desire against each other and are in opposition to one another. Proverbs teaches us that the first lesson of both wisdom and knowledge is the fear of the Lord. We fear Him and trust Him as a child does his father. When our trust is in our own strength and our own wisdom, having matured in our own estimation so that we no longer seek His council and will in humility, then we are no longer like a child. Is this not intrinsic to the lesson of prodigal from Luke 15?
The danger of being wise in our own estimation is that we begin to be neglectful of the things that God has tried to teach us. On subjects ranging from drunkenness, to pornography, to baptism, to the modern day homosexual movement the doctrines of men have reasoned away truth and warning.
We reason passages so that they are set against each other, we try to redefine sin through narrower and narrower prisms so that our lifestyle is acceptable, we boldly proclaim, as so many do today with drinking, that the scripture never actually says don’t do it all. Yet every one of these is a way of ignoring what God has said through the preponderance of the scripture. Each of these is reasoning from the desire of the senses rather than in humility respecting the will of the Father. If we have come to the point that we have decided that our faith is about what we can get away with instead of what is pleasing to the Father, then though we may claim to be His child, we are already well on our way to the far country. Let us become like little children, seeking Him in humility, so that we may become truly wise.