Not only do we have a duty to be loving and caring and protective of our own children, but this duty extends to any child with whom we encounter, directly or indirectly. The perception of children ranges from cute to cheap in the minds of many people, and our treatment of them ranges from careful to callous. It is therefore very informative to take a look at how their Maker, the God of Heaven values them. His values must inform ours.
In Matthew 18:1-10, the Disciples of Jesus ask a question about their power rankings in His Kingdom. Imagine their utter shock and surprise when Jesus called a little child and established that little child as the standard of reference for greatness in His Kingdom. And did they get more than they bargained for! Jesus told them, that not only was a little child the reference point for greatness in His kingdom, but that becoming like that little child was also the major criterion and condition for even entering the kingdom – let alone being great in the Kingdom. Was Jesus ignoring their original question? No. So he answers them in Matthew 18:4-5. Take the lowly position like that assigned by social rules and disposition to this little child, and you will be the greatest in heaven. And as a bonus on earth, welcome one such child in His Name, and you will be welcoming the Son of God.
Jesus was not done. In Matthew 18:6, Jesus addresses our responsibility and duty to children, and especially those who believe in Him. By definition, a child enters this world with what we call a “blank slate”, despite their embedded DNA and genetic predispositions. And to the extent that the child needs to be “taught” everything it learns from its environment, we can work with the “blank slate” imagery. Adults are responsible for what is written on that slate. We are to train up the child in the ways of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6). But Jesus goes on to say more than that. We are also responsible to try to block other things from being written on that slate. This is very difficult and near impossible in the 21st Century with TV, the internet and computers… but we are to try with God’s help. We are to aggressively force our legislators to pass appropriate laws to protect children from TV and internet corruption. We are to set Godly examples for them. We are to do everything in our power to ensure that their weak feet and developing minds are not led away from focus on their Creator.
Did Jesus simply offer a suggestion? No. He made a threat and spelt out the details. Matthew 18:6 is graphic and needs no elaboration. Note that the disaster He described is actually better than the real penalty for causing His little ones to stumble. Matthew 18:8-9 is a lesson in commonsense economics. We know that “half a loaf is better than no bread.” So, follow the logic. It is better to part with anything and everything that causes you to stumble, and threaten to disqualify you from entering Eternal Life with God, rather than allowing those things to send you to hell. Why? Because the loss of limbs and faculties will be just for a few years on earth, but life or death in eternity by definition is forever. Furthermore, whatever loss we endure on earth will be restored in heaven, if we make it. There will be no “cripples” or “handicapped” or “visually, auditory or mentally impaired.”
The final caution is in Matthew 18:10
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