Luke 18.17 records God promising anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.
This is a very familiar warning to us but few take it seriously because most of us don’t understand what He means to receive the kingdom like a little child.
We usually begin by thinking of sweet and innocent children all of whom will go to heaven because it only seems fair. Those of us who have children however know they are often not so sweet nor innocent but are rather quite overt in their selfishness.
This takes us back to ignoring the meaning of God’s warning because it fails to make sense to us.
Perhaps His meaning can be understood by what He teaches around this lesson. The preceding lesson is about two men praying, one who is self-righteous and one who understands himself to be an unworthy sinner. It is the humble God acknowledges as being right with God.
While children are selfish they are generally humble. Children don’t assume they have earned anything or are worthy of something. They do have expectations but its based upon who they are as related to those they love and not upon their performance.
This is the first meaning: we cannot enter the kingdom of God without receiving it as a gift from God.
We cannot do enough good works to satisfy a holy God’s requirement for perfection. We must receive His pardon or compare our performance to that of Jesus with the winner receiving the kingdom of God.
Jesus alone was perfect.
The next story is of a man who wants to get to heaven but wont give up his wealth to get there. This man will live well now but will live forever without God in misery.
Children will abandon all for the one thing they really want. Children are by and large not long term savers, they are usually all in at the moment before moving onto the next all-in adventure.
To receive the Kingdom of God as a child is to welcome God’s gift of free eternal life with an all-in attitude.
Its like a child receiving their most desired Christmas present, nothing else matters. So too we must receive God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness with wholehearted thankfulness and devotion if we are to live with God forever.
Finally, the key word in the entire teaching is ‘receive.’ God’s heaven is a free gift that we can never earn.
While the purchase of the gift by the Father was the incomparable blood of His Most Beloved Son, He freely offers His payment in full for a debt we can never repay.
Children are great at receiving gifts, they don’t hold back from receiving something free.
The Father wants us to do the same toward His gift of an eternal kingdom of life, love and peace through Jesus the Savior.