Jesus Loves the Little Children

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The Gospel and the young.

However you define the “children” Jesus refers to in Matthew 18:1-14, the result is the same—don’t cause the young to stumble in their faith, or else!

Jesus was responding to a question put to Him by His disciples: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (18:1) Considering some of the other discussions they had among themselves I suspect they wanted Jesus to affirm that they, for the sacrifice of following Him, qualified for the position.

Instead Jesus takes a young child and uses the simplicity and fervour of a child’s faith as an illustration of who will be the greatest in the kingdom. That provides a launch pad for this:

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (18:6). Yikes!

This leads to an even more graphic description of what is necessary to protect the budding faith of the young. In verses 8 and 9, Jesus tells His disciples that whatever in the more mature believer might cause the young to sin must be severely dealt with—cut off, eradicated, destroyed. He pronounces “woe” on the one whose disregard of His instructions leads the young in faith to offend God.

C. Herbert Woolston wrote the words to a little song we used to sing in Sunday School. It illustrates what Jesus is teaching here in these verses.

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children
Of the world.

Jesus died for all the children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus died for all the children
Of the world.

Jesus rose for all the children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus rose for all the children
Of the world.


As the Lord stands with His arm around this young child He tells His disciples: “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones…your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (vss. 10, 14).

We can broaden the application to include believers young in the faith—the truth applies. But I believe Jesus is specifically referring to children here, and the importance to model Christlikeness before them. His words remind us that what we do is what they will do. If we cause them to sin because they see deliberate and unapologetic sin in us, and follow our example, God will hold us accountable. And it will not simply be a slap on the wrist!

But we will sin. What follows in Matthew 18 is a description of how sin and forgiveness are to be handled. Those young in the faith need to see repentance and forgiveness as part of the fabric of our lives as well—especially when we have sinned against them and need to go, confess that sin and ask for their forgiveness.

Whether we confine our definition to children or expand it to include believers young in the faith the lesson applies. We must watch our lives and live before the young as Christ would have us live. God will hold us responsible.

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