Childlike or Childish?

Luke 7: 31-35
1 Tim 3: 14-16 / Psa 111

…wisdom is proved right by all her children.
(Luke 7: 35)

To be like a child once again,
Is to be like Jesus in His ways,
And this can only happen when
Our hearts are open and by God’s grace.

(Jesus said), “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” (Luke 7: 31-35)

Reflection

Jesus was referring to the religious leaders of the Jews, particularly the scribes and the Pharisees, who were being childish in their unreasonable criticisms against Him and John the Baptist. They were behaving like spoiled children who tell their playmates, “You can’t join OUR games because you don’t follow OUR rules.” They did not want to accept the New Covenant that Jesus and John the Baptist were teaching, because they did not want to lose their control over the Jewish people. The Good News was a threat to their exalted position. Their blind obstinacy, prejudice, and hard-heartedness marked their spiritual immaturity.

Jesus said, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt.18:3). God wants us to be childlike in our faith, but not to be childish in our ways. There is a great difference between being childlike and behaving like a child. Children are beloved of God because of their trusting curiosity and adaptability to change. It is a childlike quality to follow and obey, and in the process to learn. Because of their innocence, they trust those in authority, and are easy to teach. This is not the case with the childish. They are usually the spoiled brats who always get what they want because they throw a tantrum if they are disappointed. They do not act their age because they refuse to grow up. St. Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1Cor.13:11)

In many religious communities, we may find leaders and members who possess childlike qualities, but we can’t miss their childish counterparts as well. While the former give of themselves unselfishly for love of service to God and community, the latter cling to their selfish attitudes, and their vested interests get in the way of cooperation and unity. Like the stubborn Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time, the childish ones among us only make their world become smaller, and stunt the growth of love and peace in their hearts because they refuse to accept the changes that are happening around them. They are forever griping and critical about “new things” that they are not familiar with, or do not conform to their “tested ways”. Like spoiled brats, they complain to or blame higher authorities, instead of confronting the immediate problems or challenges before them.

Christ is our Model to follow if we are to grow from being childish to childlike in our ways. All of His qualities are plain to see in the Scriptures: humble, forgiving, compassionate, kind, unassuming, transparent, understanding, respectful, patient, trusting and truthful.

Teach us, Lord, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, and by constant meditation on Your Word how we can be more childlike in dealing with situations and other people. For we are still childish in many ways, and only by Your grace can we become Your children. Amen.

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