At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Having called a little child to him, Jesus placed the child among them. He said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-3).
As you can see in this issue of our church newsletter, Vacation Bible School is almost here! Our teachers are preparing their lessons, colorful and creative decorations are being assembled, and donations are piling up. It’s always an exciting time of year, and of course what we await with the most eager anticipation is the arrival of the children. They are the reason we host VBS year after year. We look forward to sharing the gospel with them, and we treasure the opportunity to see the Lord cultivate a sincere and lasting love for Christ in their lives.
Yet I wonder how many of us have considered the ways we can become the ones learning from the children. We usually assume, rightly so, that VBS is about introducing children to their Creator, Savior, and Sustainer. But according to Jesus, every moment we have with children can also become a chance to learn more about living in God’s Kingdom. For us adults, that means getting ready for VBS is not only about making sure we’re primed to teach and serve; it’s also about ensuring we’re willing to learn from the children.
In the ancient world of Jesus’ earthly ministry, children were often considered an inconvenient burden. Their dependence on parental support was frowned upon, and they were easily overlooked within their cultural context. It was nothing short of stunning, therefore, when Jesus responded to his disciples’ heated dispute regarding greatness by placing a child in their midst. True greatness begins with humble reliance upon God to give us the security we need and to determine our worth. We cannot experience life in God’s Kingdom, says Jesus, until we’re willing to humbly accept God as our King and until we acknowledge our need for His provision.
Our efforts to earn greatness through our achievements and our performance count for nothing in God’s Kingdom. On the contrary, when we derive our worthiness from them they drive us farther and father away from the Lord. One of the primary antidotes Jesus offered for such futile endeavors is to spend more time learning from children.
Learn from their helplessness, learn from their curiosity about what they don’t know, and learn from their simplicity. Even if you’re not actively volunteering with VBS this year, I encourage us all to spend more time with our church’s children. They need us, and we need them!