Pastor of Decatur United Methodist Church.
Each day Hope and I coordinate our schedules to discuss who will take the kids to school and who will pick them up. Each day we pile in the car to drive to school. We have conversations about what the day will look like; perhaps finish last minute homework.
When I was a a kid I remember riding the school bus to school. I remember getting up to stand outside to wait for the bus. Sometimes we would be outside before the sun even came up. My first bus was bus 43. We all loved this bus and this bus driver. He was super kind to all of us and took great care of his bus. I am sure he calmed the fears of our parents who sent their little ones to school.
Then as I got older, things didn’t always go so well on the bus. I recall this one bus driver who I really just didn’t like. Truth be told, I don’t think he liked being a bus driver or even liked being around kids. That’s not a good combination for a bus driver. I’m pretty sure my parents called the school complaining about him on occasion. Something of my time on his bus really stuck with me. This bus driver who didn’t really care for kids told me one day that children should be seen and not heard.
Now perhaps this is something that you heard growing up. But for me, I had never heard this before and it just sounded mean from this grumpy old bus driver. Children should be seen and not heard. This idea that it’s ok for children to be around as long as they keep their mouths shut.
Evidently, we have the English to thank for this saying. It comes from England in the 15th century and was originally meant particularly for young women. So not only is this saying directed to keep children quite, it is also sexist in the way it came about. https://writingexplained.org/idiom-dictionary/children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard
Have you ever been around those people who just don’t like children? Now I have to admit that kids often will give you plenty of reasons to not like them. Such as when you go to change the diaper and the kids realizes he isn’t finished going to the bathroom, “yes I would like a shower, thank you.” Or when your kids confesses for you to their teachers how much you like to drink wine, “yes, thank you for the phone call.” There are plenty of kids that know they know it all, and are always happy to tell you. So, in fairness, it’s understandable why some people just don’t care for children. Maybe sometimes you have even felt this way.
While I’m not a kid anymore I am a parent. Now I often find myself analyzing how I act toward my own kids and the kids around me. And there are plenty of times I also find myself judging other people for how they act towards children. Now the whole judging people thing isn’t great, but I can’t be the only one right? Even if you don’t personally like kids, you care about them and want the best for them.
And the good news is, we are not the only ones, Jesus cares too.
Jesus was this figure where often he would have these large crowds around him. If you read the stories about Jesus in the Bible you find that these crowds followed him everywhere. Sometimes we read about Jesus wanting to get away from the crowds for a bit of peace and quiet.
Matthew tells us this story in Matthew 19:13, where Jesus is spending time with these crowds that had followed him. He is teaching them, talking with them, and healing the sick, in other words, he is busy. Then some religious leaders come up to Jesus and try to trick him into messing up. Perhaps this is kind of a stressful time. At least it’s a busy time. There is a flurry of activity with people vying for Jesus’ attention. He has sick people waiting for him to heal. There are people even there trying to mess him up. In the midst of this, Matthew tells us in verse 13: (Matthew 19:13)
13 Some people brought children to Jesus so that he would place his hands on them and pray.
In the midst of these crowds; in the midst of this day’s work; in the midst of the hustle and bustle, some people get the bright idea that now is a good time to bring children up to Jesus so he could take the time time to place his hands on them and pray. People pushing into Jesus, Jesus working with all these people, then here come some children.
Jesus’ friends, called his disciples, see what’s going on, so they go up and know they need to run interference. They need to save Jesus from these little kids getting in their way—perhaps they are thinking children should be seen and not heard. In Matthew’s words:
13 Some people brought children to Jesus so that he would place his hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded them.
The disciples decided that they knew better, and that Jesus had more important things to do than be distracted with children. Perhaps the disciples were ready to go home, and they knew that more people, even children would keep Jesus occupied and keep them from going home. Or perhaps they didn’t really like kids. Who knows? But what it boils down to is that the disciples scolded these people to keep them from bringing the children to Jesus.
The disciples thought they were doing the right thing, but Jesus does this thing that takes them by surprise. And what Jesus has to say is important, because I think it has something to say about how you and I should think about children. (Matthew 19:14-15)
14 “Allow the children to come to me,” Jesus said. “Don’t forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.” 15 Then he blessed the children and went away from there.
In the midst of the busyness of the day, Jesus stops, bends down, and says bring the children here. He says, don’t stop them from coming to me, the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children. Jesus says, children are important; I value these children. And not only that, God values these kids, and the kingdom of heaven belongs to people just like these children.
In a culture that says, children should be seen and not heard, Jesus does the unthinkable. He brings the kids into the inner circle, praises them, and embraces them. In sum, children matter to Jesus, children matter to God.
Because children matter to Jesus, children should matter to you.
If you are a parent or a grandparent this makes complete sense. Of course you know that your children matter. But what we find in this story is that we are talking about more than just your own children. It’s easy to love your own family. It’s easy to care for you own children. I don’t know if you noticed this, but Matthew doesn’t tell us that parents brought their children to see Jesus. It says that people brought children to Jesus.
It doesn’t matter if you are a parent or not. Jesus says you have an opportunity to bring children to Jesus.
This is difference than what we usually think. So much of society is centered around taking care of your own. Caring for your own children. Making sure your kids get the best education. Making sure your family is taken care of. Much of our society is built around people taking care of themselves and taking care of their own families, their own children.
But Matthew tells us that Jesus says elsewhere that you are supposed to care for more than those that are close to you. In (Matthew 5:46-48) we read these words of Jesus:
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
In this, Jesus tells us that if you just take care of yourself then you are no better than anyone else. Jesus is trying to tell you that if you are to be a follower of Jesus, it is important to care for all people, especially all children. It doesn’t matter if a child is yours by birth, the child should matter to you because she or he matters to God.
Where are the children in your life? Not only the children in your family, but the children that cross your path, perhaps children you work with or have influence with. These are the children you are called to bring to Jesus.
If you are a teacher or work in the schools, you do this on a daily basis. Through your teaching and your care of your students you show them daily that they are important—you bring to Jesus.
If you are involved with scouts, that is what you are doing. You are teaching young men and women that they are important—you are bringing to Jesus.
If you have nephews or nieces you too have the opportunity to show them how valued they are. You have the opportunity to show them Jesus.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, you can bring the young to Jesus.
This is such an important thing. This is what the church is about. We do a lot of things in church, but Jesus says that the kingdom of God belongs to people like these little children. Children matter to Jesus, children should matter to you.
You know, God doesn’t just give us stories about Jesus to make our individual lives better. Think about what our church would look like, if we all acted like those people who brought children to Jesus. Imagine what our community would look like if we acted like those people who brought children to Jesus. The impact, the love.
This is who Jesus wants us to be. This is who I want us to be. This is who we say we are in our vision statement - a church committed to hope in our community by connecting families and and children with the life changing love of Jesus. Can you see it? Can you dream it? Can you live it?
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.