Luke 18:15-17 “And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, ‘Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.'”
I’ve never noticed before that the text in the King James uses the word “infants” in this passage. Paintings and drawings depict the Savior at this moment surrounded by grade-school kids, and sermons are preached about what attributes of young children we should emulate: we should be honest, innocent, trusting, and kind, the way children naturally are. But as I read this verse while nursing my daughter, a two-month old, I’m thinking of it a little differently. When I look at my baby I can’t help but think, dependent. Completely and utterly dependent. This child cannot do a thing for herself. She is totally dependent on me and her daddy and the other adults in her life for her care and existence. I think we can learn something about our relationship with God by considering the dependency infants have on adults.
Dependent for nourishment. At two months, my baby can’t so much as hold a bottle to her mouth. She’s still learning how to coordinate her tiny hands, arms, and legs. All she can do when she’s hungry is cry out and hope someone responds. Like infants, we are to “desire the sincere milk of the word, that [we] may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). God’s word is the only source that provides all the nutrients we need to develop properly, spiritually speaking. If you had to go in for a spiritual checkup every so often, would your provider see that you are putting on weight, building yourself up with the spiritual nourishment of God’s word? Would they see a pattern of growing and learning, or be concerned by low growth and stunted development? Just like the APA discourages parents from giving babies water, because it takes up valuable room in the stomach without providing any nutrients, we shouldn’t be filling up on anything less substantial than the pure word of God. If you’re taking in more articles and books written by uninspired men than you are the holy scriptures, you need to reevaluate. You might be setting yourself up for uneven growth or worse, spiritual sickness.
Dependent for cleanliness. Babies are messy. It seems like they’re always exuding some bodily excretion or another. And while they do complain (loudly) when they’re dirty, there’s really nothing they can do about it; they need their caregiver to clean them up. Similarly, it is not within us to clean up the mess in our souls. Proverbs 20:9 reads, “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” The answer is no one! In Psalm 51, David asked God to wash away his transgressions and cleanse him from his sins. He knew he was unable to remove the filth of his sin on his own. Christians’ sins are washed away at baptism (Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 22:16), making the church spiritually clean for Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 5:26). And don’t babies seem to get messiest right after a bath? God knows we can’t be perfect, so when we sin after baptism, he offers to make us clean again if we confess, ask in prayer, and repent (1 John 1:7-9, Matthew 6:12, Acts 8:22). Although babies don’t always cooperate in the tub, for us to be washed we must participate. God is all-powerful, but he has never forced man to do anything against our free will. He can’t make us clean if we don’t choose to submit. Note that the Corinthian brethren had to stop their sinful behaviors when they were washed and live sanctified lives instead (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). While we are completely dependent on God for spiritual cleansing, it is on our own shoulders to stay as clean as we can in service to him (James 1:27).
Dependent for protection. Toddlers can drown in less than an inch of water. They get into chemicals and poison themselves, confuse medicine with candy. My two-month old could choke in her own spit up, smother in a blanket, or slide off of a smooth surface and hit the floor. Kids need protection. While thankfully adults are safe from blankets and Tylenol, spiritually we bumble around as much as a toddler does on his feet. God knows that sin has physical consequences. Drugs and alcohol can cause illness and brain damage. Sexual promiscuity can cause heartbreak, spread disease, and bring children into the world that can’t be provided for. Gambling can ruin your family and get your kneecaps busted. These are just a few examples. Have you ever noticed that living a life according to the principles found in the Bible is fraught with fewer of these struggles? While we are never promised an easy life, as Christians there are some obstacles we can avoid, and we have God to thank. Just like toddlers who swallow pills, it may not be evident at the time why God would keep us away from certain activities, but we need to trust that as our Heavenly Father he knows what is best for us. Even more than a parent, God is our creator and designer. He has the right to tell us what to do.
Dependent for learning. With a newborn, it’s easy to feel like physical needs are all mommies are supposed to attend to. Feed them, change them, and get them to nap, right? But babies are learning machines. They are busy soaking in everything they can about their world, from light and color to language and motor skills. Because baby spends about 75% of her time with me, I know I’m majorly influential in her language development. I try to help by narrating to her as we go about our day, and she loves it! Likewise, we should love to learn from God. Everyone should read Psalm 119 every so often to be reminded what zeal for God’s word looks like–David praises God’s law in practically all 176 verses! God’s word is truth (John 17:17), and it is the only reliable source for spiritual knowledge. Proverbs 23:23 admonishes us to “buy the truth, and sell it not.” In New Testament times, very few people had access to God’s word in its entirety, but now you and I can have it anywhere, anytime! God’s perfect truth is in books, on the internet, on my iPad! And it is free! My baby may end up with 75% of her language learning from me, but we must depend on God’s word for spiritual understanding 100%.
Dependent for compassion. I have often thought that maybe God made babies so cute so that adults would want to take care of them. (Even that doesn’t motivate me much at 3am!) God has provided for our spiritual nourishment, cleanliness, protection, and education because he loves us. (Maybe he thinks we’re cute, ha!) The Psalmist described God as being “gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy” (Psalm 145:8). During the three-year ministry of Christ on earth, Jesus showed us compassion in so many ways. When he was so very tired from teaching and he withdrew to rest, because he had compassion on the crowd he pushed through the exhaustion to share a little more of the word (Mark 6:31-34). Time and time again he healed the sick and afflicted out of compassion (Matthew 14:14, 20:34; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13; just to name a few). And in the ultimate demonstration of love, God gave his only child–something I could never do with my baby–and Jesus freely offered his own body and life to purchase our opportunity to be free from sin. We are totally unable to save ourselves, but because he had compassion on us he shed the blood that can make us whole (Hebrews 9).
As much as we don’t like to think of ourselves as dependent, when we think of ourselves compared to God, we truly are and we would do well to recognize it. We must be humble enough to submit to his will in order to receive his loving care and all the benefits that come from being his child.