By Michael E. Brooks
“Then Jesus called a little child to him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you shall by no means enter the kingdom of heaven'” (Matthew 18:2-3).
Several days ago, I watched as three three-year-old boys played together on the Khulna Bible College campus. One was trying to peddle a bicycle with the other two riding on the seat behind him. I admired his willingness to work so hard on behalf of others. I also noted their joy in and appreciation for his effort.
It is common to consider the qualities of childhood that Jesus had in mind when he commended little children as our examples. Innocence and purity seem obvious. Unselfish humility is suggested by the context, as it was the opposite that the disciples were displaying. The more I watch children, however, the longer the list of such characteristics becomes.
One of the things which I appreciate most is the simple pleasure that is common to almost all small children. They have not yet become sophisticated (or greedy) in their expectations. The smallest gift satisfies. Simple games enthrall them.
In contrast, as we age we become satiated with various experiences and more and more difficult to satisfy. Our appetites grow in both amount and in variety.
Sadly this affects many people in their approach to religion. First, their religion is practiced to provide pleasure or satisfaction for themselves, rather than to please God. “I don’t get anything out of the service” is a common complaint. However, it is totally inappropriate.
Worship is not designed for us. It is homage to God, designed to honor and bring glory to him.
One might respond, “But are our assemblies not also for the purpose of edification? Is that not for our benefit, so that we receive encouragement, instruction, or other blessings?” That is true, but the emphasis in Scripture is always in our encouraging others, rather than focusing upon what they do for us.
“Teaching and admonishing one another” (Colossians 3:16) is an unselfish activity.
The fact is that I can only control what I contribute in worship, edification, or any other activity. I cannot guarantee that another’s words will be exactly what I need at any given time. I can attempt to interpret and apply them as relevantly as possible, and to appreciate his attempt to help me and to glorify God.
An additional faulty approach to religion that is caused by increased appetite, is the desire for greater variety, or a new approach, or a more sophisticated (or “spiritual”) experience. Older songs, familiar texts, and traditional orders of worship leave some bored, uninspired, and looking for change.
Is this due to inadequacy of the assembly, or is it rather a sign of selfish desire? I increasingly find the simple satisfaction of the child to be exemplary in this regard.
I also note that those who are looking for a more satisfying worship experience today, will usually continue to look, no matter how many new improvements are tried. What satisfies today will soon fall short.
Let us be like little children in our unselfishness. Let us also learn to be easily satisfied, accepting that which God provides with thanksgiving.