“How to Act Like a Child”
“How to Act Like a Child”
Back in the year 2000, the hot ticket Christmas item at the stores was the Playstation 2 video gaming system. At that time, I was gaming on my PC. But after seeing a PS 2 in late November at Best Buy, I really wanted one for Christmas. Erica said ok, but we figured we would get one in February when they were more readily available. I happened to be in the Pryor Wal-Mart one Friday afternoon, about three weeks before Christmas, however, when they got a shipment of three of them. I picked one up, took it home and when Erica got home later that evening, I showed it to her, and said, “Can we play it? Can we play it?” There are times that we as adults can act a little childishly…or a lot. And we know how foolish it is when we see ourselves and others acting childishly. Nevertheless, in our text, Jesus teaches us that there’s a right way to act like little children. Today Jesus reminds us “How to Act Like a Child.”
In the Gospel lesson today, Jesus sees the disciples act like little kids. Jesus spent some time alone with the disciples so that they would know what was going to take place. Jesus couldn’t have been clearer. He described to them His rescuing death on the cross and His resurrection that would bring them, and you, and me, the free gift of everlasting life. Jesus plainly told them, on more than one occasion, what His mission for us was going to be.
Yet the disciples didn’t get it, and they were afraid to ask. I think it is interesting to observe the 12 acting like little kids sometimes, and this was one of those times. They didn’t understand, they didn’t get what Jesus was talking about, but nobody wanted to be the one to be embarrassed by asking the question.
What is really so comical is since they didn’t get what Jesus was saying to them, they just changed the subject to something they liked to talk about. They liked to argue about who among them was the greatest. I think their favorite subject for conversation was: Who Is the Best. It may have been suggested that the money-handler was the most trusted. Why else would Jesus have placed His trust in Judas? Yeah, Judas was the treasurer. Can you imagine an argument being made that he was the best apostle? Peter may have claimed that he had the greatest faith, yet he was the one to rebuke Jesus and to deny Him three times. At any rate, Jesus asked them what they were arguing about on the road. They were remarkably quiet when Jesus caught them, just like when a kid gets his hand caught in the cookie jar. Or when I catch Matthew going into my stash of frosted, brown sugar-cinnamon Pop-Tarts.
Jesus tells them, if anybody wants to be first, He must be last and the servant of all. That’s certainly not what the disciples were thinking. The 12 thought they were stars! I am sure they all had some degree of celebrity for being Jesus’ posse, His gang, His team. They wanted to be in charge. They wanted to use their positions to get better seats at the ball game or cut to the front of the line at their favorite restaurants, and nuke those who weren’t nice to them. (That last one is in the Bible)
Jesus demonstrates this servant thing in Himself. After telling them to serve, He served them, and us, and everyone. He who was born in Bethlehem and lived for us, and died for us, and rose for us, won salvation for us by His death and resurrection.
So today we see the 12 acting like a bunch of bragging kids on a playground. Often, we fall into the trap of acting like spoiled children, too. Many Americans believe that the more status they have, the happier and better life will be. Some feel the need to get ahead of everyone else. You know the classic bumper sticker, “The One Who Dies With the Most Toys Wins.” And if it isn’t more wealth we seek, it is usually more power or prestige. As with the disciples, many times we try to prove who is the greatest, yet that’s the wrong place to start.
Jesus is clear about what is important, as He indicates in today’s text. Trusting in Him. Reliance on Him. We should have the faith of a child. That is faith that trusts. Faith that doesn’t question or doubt. Faith that sees we rely on God for everything good we have. And little kids find it easier to tell others about Jesus, as well. Right?
One day a mother was going through her young daughter’s school backpack and became worried when she saw one of the papers. On it were all the desks for the students in her daughter’s classroom. Each desk was marked with a circle or an X. Quickly she asked her daughter what it meant. The child replied, “Those are the children in my class. Those who go to church I marked with a cross, and those who don’t I circled.” Relieved but curious, the mother asked why she did that. She answered, “It’s so I can tell those who don’t know about Jesus.” Still curious, the mother asked how her daughter knew that. The daughter replied, “I asked them.” (Matthew) That straightforward attitude makes kids kids, and points out how as we grow up we may lose some of the straightforwardness we had as kids, especially when it comes to our faith in Jesus Christ.
As we grow older, we may be shyer and less willing about expressing our faith. Yet, in our spiritual life, God enables us to act like little children, in a good way. In the text, Jesus was making this point to the 12. Jesus presents to the apostles a little child. “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me” (v 37). This is the straightforward answer that the child might give: “God is with me.”
We end with this: Ken Klass wrote in an LHN devotion back in June about how in 1947 Sylvia Bloom became one of the first employees of the New York law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Apparently, she did a good job. She stayed with the firm and watched it grow to more than 1,200 lawyers. She stayed on and watched it grow for 67 years. Bloom’s principal job was that of a secretary, an administrative assistant. It was her job to do for her boss all the correspondence, all the time-consuming things he didn’t want to do, or didn’t have time to do.
One of those things she did for her bosses over the years was to buy stock for them. They would tell her what they wanted, and she would call in the order and, as long as she was putting in an order for them, she put in an order for herself. Now, her order was never as big as theirs; how could it have been? After all, she was only a secretary.
Well, that’s the way Sylvia Bloom lived her life.
She and her husband never had children, so work was what gave her purpose. Not so many winters ago (she worked there until 2014), when Sylvia Bloom was 96, one of her colleagues saw her climbing out of the subway and trudging through a snowstorm to work. He stopped and inquired, “Sylvia, what are you doing here?” Her shocked reply says it all. She said, “Why? Where should I be?”
Well, she died in 2016 and, after a protracted period of time, her estate has been settled. Settling the estate took a while since it took a long time to contact three brokerage houses and the eleven banks which held Bloom’s $9 million. It came as quite a shock to people. Nobody knew, nobody, not her closest friends, not her relatives, and most believe not even her husband knew how much she had put away.
It was Bloom’s lifetime secret, and the thought of the surprised faces that would come after she died must have given her a laugh. To be honest, I respect a woman like that. She knew how to keep a secret, which is what people in her position are supposed to do.
And I am here to tell you not to be like her. That’s right. Don’t be like her when it comes to sharing the riches of your Christian faith. Because of Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and Easter resurrection, we have been given an inheritance which is worth more than 9 million bucks. Our forgiveness, Jesus by our side, the promise of the joys of heaven have made us incredibly rich, and the Savior has asked us to share that wealth with others. It is something our thankful hearts should be glad to do, day in and day out. Like a little kid tends to do.
When Jesus tell us to be like children, He is not telling us to be whiny or to keep asking for things we shouldn’t have or to keep saying, “Are we there yet?” The Lord says to each of us that we are to have faith like a little child. It is my prayer that for each of us, we will love, trust, and share Jesus just like that.
In Jesus’ Name.