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13 People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. 15 I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he hugged the children and blessed them.
Buddy the Elf appeals to us in part because he has an innocent, child-like quality. At one point he said, “I just like smiling; smiling’s my favorite,” and he called it “good news” that “I saw a dog today!” * The disciples “scolded” people for bringing children to Jesus. Why? “In ancient society, children were powerless and often overlooked.” ** But Jesus would have welcomed Buddy, as he did those like him. He “hugged the children and blessed them.”
Lord God, grow in me the childlike trust and wisdom to always value the eternal treasure you offer more highly than any of this earth’s temporary possessions. Amen.
“The fact that these youth voters are coming in so strong in an off-year is very concerning,” said news commentator Jesse Watters. “It looks like they’ve been brainwashed. This new generation is totally brainwashed.”
Radio personality Peter Schiff similarly said, “Let’s raise the voting age to 28. If I was still 18 I’d support this.”
It’s been a while since I was young, but people were saying similar things about my generation (I’m an elder Millennial) while I was growing up. Actually, people are still saying things like that about Millennials, even though I’m over 40. The oldest Gen Z folks are 25 and have been working full-time jobs for a few years. Even a good chunk of Gen Z aren’t kids anymore.
We’re seeing a lot of talk about this right now in politics, but for those of us who grew up in the church and paid attention, this is nothing new. Our childhood pastors taught us that children were a precious gift and that Jesus loved children, but we were never asked for an opinion or given a voice. I distinctly remember speaking up about a theological issue when I was 17 in a group of my dad’s friends, and they looked at me like I had just assaulted one of them, then continued without acknowledging my comment. Don’t get me wrong—young people do have a lot to learn about life and make some missteps. But failing to learn about the changing state of the world from the people closest to it is also a major problem in our culture.
Like many other times Jesus spoke about something countercultural, his purpose here was two-fold. He sought to teach the establishment (in this case, adults) something serious about their faith, but he also sought to give value to the unappreciated and sometimes completely dismissed efforts of an underrepresented part of society. We saw this when the woman at the well came in and washed Jesus’ feet, and he scolded the religious leaders who callously dismissed her sacrifice. The point wasn’t that we should wash each other’s feet, it was that we should value the contributions and sacrifices made by people outside of the religious establishment. In today’s passage, Jesus gives value to the children who came to seek him out for much the same reason.
It goes without saying that we all value children, but all too often, we value them as children and not people. We can very easily dismiss complex emotions because the children feeling them lack the vocabulary to express it in ways we understand. We all value children, but when was the last time you learned something from a child? When was the last time you asked a child’s opinion not because you thought it was cute, but because you looked forward to the insight? I’ll be honest, this is not something I regularly do—but it’s absolutely something I should.
** HarperCollins Christian Publishing. NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Kindle Locations 220266-220267). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
*** Karen Chakoian, study note on “Childcare” in The CEB Women’s Bible. Nashville: Common English Bible, 2016, p. 1241.