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What Jesus Taught Us When He Said "Let the Little Children Come to Me"

What Jesus Taught Us When He Said "Let the Little Children Come to Me"

Believers today can learn much from the way Jesus treated children. As displayed in His teachings, children symbolized such qualities as faith, humility, and God’s love for His people - Christians. Children also reflect a level of righteousness - godly virtue - due to their innocence. We see this very clearly in a verse from the Book of Matthew.

“Jesus said, ‘Leave the little children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to me, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew 19:14)

Here Jesus emphasizes that children carry with them qualities fit for a believer. If Heaven belongs to children, then adult believers should strive to be more like their younger counterparts. How do Christians go about accomplishing this feat? By examining Jesus’ teachings where He discusses children and studying other relevant Bible passages, we can begin to glean a greater understanding of how we should be more like children. What exactly does Jesus say about children?

'Let the Little Children to Come Unto Me' Meaning

“Jesus said, ‘Leave the little children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to me, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew 19:14)

Jesus does not say that Heaven belongs to people such as adults, but rather the children. What is the difference between children and adults? To answer this question we can look at the status of children within biblical and modern society. Children enter into the world needing plenty of care and instruction. They are not independent, but rather totally dependent upon parents or caretakers. This only changes as children grow older and ideally, wiser. We often view children as someone in need of guidance and very much see ourselves as a source of that wisdom. What we can then infer from this verse is that we should be more like the children in also seeking wisdom. Jesus made clear that His efforts on Earth were to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Those who are lost need guidance.

Jesus cannot guide us without us first acknowledging our need for Him. This equivalent to children being guided by a parent. Without acknowledging their need for the parent (our need for God), we deprive ourselves of wisdom. Or worse, we deprive ourselves of the kingdom of God. Another key idea in this verse is that Jesus admonishes His disciples to not prevent children from coming to Him. He said this after they rebuked the children. Another interpretation of this passage, aside from the physical limitations, is to not impose the wrong teachings upon children either. Jesus wants to teach those who are willing to follow Him, and children more so than adults are willing to learn (James 1:5).

"Just then, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years approached from behind and touched the end of his robe, for she said to herself, 'If I can just touch his robe, I’ll be made well.' Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Have courage, daughter,’ he said. ‘Your faith has saved you.’ And the woman was made well from that moment. When Jesus came to the leader’s house, he saw the flute players and a crowd lamenting loudly. ‘Leave,’ he said, ‘because the girl is not dead but asleep.’ And they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. Then news of this spread throughout that whole area.” (Matthew 9:20-26)

This passage gives us an example of Jesus’ interactions with adults and a child. The woman Jesus healed approached Him with complete faith and received the healing she sought. In the following miracle, Jesus encounters adults who do not believe. A group of people was mourning the loss of someone, though Jesus told them she was not dead. Despite Him presenting them with truth, they didn’t believe and laughed at Him. These people may not have believed because of what they witnessed for themselves. If by their own observation she appeared to be dead, they had no reason to think otherwise, especially if they didn’t follow Jesus Christ. Jesus used this opportunity to not only heal the child but reveal His power. Faith can bring healing, but first, we have to choose to believe.

Why Does Jesus Say, 'Let the Little Children Come'?

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a small child and had him stand among them. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4)

Jesus directly states in these verses that His followers, adults, must humble themselves like a child in order to gain entry into Heaven. Humility is defined as being modest about one’s own level of importance in relation to other people. Children showcase humility in their ability to hear and take direction from others. That includes teachers, parents, and other adults. Children respond to authority figures. Jesus is the authority figure. In order to allow Him control over our lives, we have to submit to Him. We only accomplish this through humility. Jesus is not saying here that children are more important than any other type of person. This would mean that people lose their importance the older they become. Instead, what Jesus is saying is that through humility we become greater because we become more conformed to His image.

Children Are to Be Protected

“And whoever welcomes one child like this in my name welcomes me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses will inevitably come, but woe to that person by whom the offense comes.” (Matthew 18:5-7)

Children have always required the protection of adults. This has been true through human civilizations and within the animal kingdom. Jesus cautions those who would seek to harm children, indicating that this particular sin is especially egregious to Him. Similar to the protection given to young children, this truth of protection also applies to God’s children, the believers. Time and time again throughout the Bible there are stories where God’s people were at war with another group of people. Whether they won the battle or loss, in the end, God always supported His people. He offered protection and restoration when He saw fit. This is how God treats believers today.

Why Does the Bible Refer to Believers as Children of God?

Children carried significance during the era of the Old and New Testaments. They still carry meaning today. We protect our children, educate them, and guide them in the way we think is best. Children turn husband and wife into parents. They bring meaning to the term family. The Bible has plenty of verses that talk about how we are to treat children in society, and how we should aim to be more like them. The more we can read Scripture and establish areas of growth within ourselves, the more we can accomplish what Jesus has set before us.

Though no one remains a child forever, we can conclude that the same truths that apply to those young in age also apply to us. We are God’s children. The Bible refers to us as such because we rely on God for the same reasons a child depends on a parent. We need God’s wisdom, instruction, protection, healing, and more. We become children of God by acknowledging His place in our lives. The more we humble ourselves the more we can make this a reality. As stated earlier, this is only possible through Jesus Christ. John Piper shared this on desiringGod.org,

"But if you want to use 'children of God' in a fully biblical sense, you have to talk about through Jesus Christ, meaning through faith in Jesus Christ and what he did. Those who believe are welcomed through Jesus Christ into God’s family (Romans 3:25). That’s the first implication of saying adoption is through Jesus Christ."

Photo credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/jacoblund

aaron brown profile pic bioAaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes to Salem Web Network’s Crosswalk platform and supports various clients through the freelancing website Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. 

Get in touch at aarondanthony.com and check out his short story “Serenity.” 

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

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