Tonight I have the incredible privilege of being able to talk to people at the United Center about sponsoring children through World Vision, an incredible organization that helps children living in extreme poverty around the globe. In getting ready for tonight’s event, I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite teachings about the “Kingdom of Heaven.”
In Matthew 18 we find Jesus teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven, a topic that was one of Jesus’ favorite things to teach about. In Matthew 18:3-5, Jesus states, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
It is important for me to remember this teaching and realize that I need to humble myself every day, and follow the lead of Rabbi Jesus as a child would.
In the first century, teaching children the text was of utmost importance. Notice one of my favorite quotes from the Talmud, “Before the age of six do not accept pupils; from that age accept them, and stuff them with Torah like an ox (Bava Batra 21).”
When the rabbis would first start teaching children the Bible, they often would put a dab of honey on the children’s hands to illustrate what the word of God was like. In the first century honey represented something incredibly sweet, good and enjoyable. It was almost a delicacy and literally the only sweet thing one could find to eat.
Another one of my favorite quotes about children and their importance is from the Talmud, “The world subsists through the breath of schoolchildren.”
So we can see from Jesus’ teaching and rabbinic literature that children were incredibly important. Also, maintaining the attitude and humility of a child was central to being a disciple.
One other passage that has been on my mind lately is Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25. This past year I followed the weekly Torah/Bible schedule done by Jewish people around the world. I also added in the weekly gospel portion that is followed by Messianic Jews. One thing that struck me during this period was how much the Bible talks about the poor and the oppressed. It is a teaching that is repeated over and over again. Jesus has some brilliant teachings on this topic in Matthew 25:34-40.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.