Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 Work of a Child
One of the psychological realities of getting older is that we go through phases in which our behavior can radically change. One of these stages is called middle aged crazies. It is called that because often, somber, serious, responsible people suddenly become involved in behaviors many of us would consider rather crazy for them. One of the theories for this has to do with our personality preferences. Personality preferences have to do with how we prefer to function in this world. In order to use our strongest function we often suppress our inferior or weaker preference. In middle age this weaker or inferior preference rises to the surface in either a child-like manner or else in a childish manner.
The difference in child-like and childish can be explained in the difference a child that is spoiled and selfish and a child that desires to learn and to please. Most of us have experience or observed these differences in children.
If you go to Walmart very much you can see example of these two types of children. There you children who lovingly and trustingly holding their parents hand as they look about in wonder at all the thing in the store. These children are well behaved and are a delight to their parents. On the other hand, you can see children who have no disciple, throwing temper tantrums, being rude to anyone who comes within their attention span who are little demons to their parents).
In our passage this morning Jesus uses children as his example. He tells a parable of children who are not playing well with others. He compares the generation in which he lives with children in the market place. Some believe Jesus is speaking of himself and John the Baptist as those who are crying out we played and you did not respond. Others believe (I hold this position) this generation of which Jesus is speaking is saying to Jesus and John, you did not do what we wanted you to do.
Either way, the issue is one of ignorance; the ignorance of commission, which has to do with intentionally ignoring and is the ignorance of arrogance or the ignorance of omission, which has to do with not caring and is the ignorance of foolishness. Arrogance or foolishness, both of these choices has consequences.
Preacher, we have heard about the consequences, when we die can end up in hell. Yes, I would agree that the ultimate consequence of ignoring the message that Jesus came to bring us would be the consequence of eternal separation from him. I agree that it is ignorance because I do not believe any sane person would deliberately chose the path to hell. However, hell is not the only consequence of ignoring Jesus. There are other consequences that affect us even now.
Look at verse 25 again. Jesus is thanking God that what he came to proclaim is understood by children, not the wise of this world. And what did Jesus come to proclaim, the Kingdom of God. And what is the Kingdom of God? It is the purpose of our existence. It is the reason we were made. It is discovering our place in God’s creation.
In Mark 10:15 Jesus tell us, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Now, do you think that Jesus was telling us to become like that spoiled child at Walmart or was he telling us to be like the loving, trusting child? Is it the childish one who gets into the Kingdom or the child-like one who gets in? Is the child who wants to do it their way or is it the child who does it the way God wants it done?
Folks, look at what the wisdom of this world breeds. It breeds ignorance. It breeds arrogance. It breeds destruction.
We use philosophy to try and disprove God. We use logic to try and justify our arrogance. We use science not to gain knowledge but to pursue those things which produce greed, sloth, envy, lust, pride, hatred, gluttony. The mantra of our world is might makes right, seek pleasure and avoid pain, and like there is no accountability. The result has been the pollution of this planet, the rise of injustice and inhumanity toward our neighbors, and certain, steady march towards judgment. Is it any wonder Satan could stand before Jesus, show him all the political structures of this world and say with absolute pride, these are all mine.
It will not be science that saves us. It will not be economists that bring us peace in this world. It will not be philosophers or scholastics who walk with us when we cross the portal of death. The thinking and reason of this world are just that, the thinking and reasoning of a world that is fallen, finite, and foolish when it responds to God’s loving outreach in a childish manner. It is only in child-like faith that we can understand what Jesus states in verse 27. Jesus is the way to know God and the only way we can know Jesus is if God draws us. John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
Folks when we are God’s children, he will be there to pick us up. When we hurt he will provide comfort. When we worry, he gives us hope. Someone once ask a theologian why God uses the analogy of a child. This is the best answer I have ever read or heard. A child will let God be God and will let God be God on God’s own terms.
Earlier I mentioned other consequences of our being like the generation to which Jesus is speaking, a generation trapped in the ignorance of omission and commission. Look at verses 28-30. These verses speak about the work of child.
A yoke was an instrument of work. A yoke was put used to allow to animals to work together. It is also a word used to describe a work tool that helps a person to carry a load in two equal portions. In the time of Jesus, Rabbis taught that the Torah, the law was a yoke and that the yoke of the Torah gave rest and ease. Jesus expounds on this truth.
When children set the rules often one if not both of the following happens; the rules are overly harsh, and/or the rules changed by the kid who has the most influence.
When Jesus sets the rules the rules are founded on God’s love for us, they give us grace, and they do not change. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Life becomes easier when we know what is expected and what is provided. God does not make excessive commands. He does not give us direction to limit us, but to set us free.
In this country, there was a time in which children had their childhood stolen by companies. The child worked for the profit of the owners. Children also had to work on the family farm. The difference is they were working for the good of the family. The work of a child is to grow to become part of the family.
The yoke of our Lord is to guide us to growth in God’s family.
At one point during a game, the coach said to one of his young players, “Do you understand what cooperation is? What a team is?”
The little boy nodded in the affirmative.
“Do you understand that what matters is whether we win together as a team?”
The little boy nodded yes.
“So,” the coach continued, “when a strike is called, or you’re out at first, you don’t argue or curse or attack the umpire. Do you understand all that?”
Again the little boy nodded.
“Good,” said the coach. “Now go over there and explain that to your parents.
Child-life and aware-childish and ignorant, what path will we chose.