SCRIPTURE: Matthew 18: 1-10
About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” 2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. 5 “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. 6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. 8 So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. 10“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.
It doesn’t matter what translation you read, Jesus lays down some stern warning to those who despise, hinder, reject or take advantage of the innocence of a child. Jesus loves the little children is more than a song, it is a fact and He will judge you according to your attitude toward children.
I want to begin the message with a confession: I love little children but sometimes they get on my nerves. I hate to get on a plane and be seated beside or even near a family with little children. If parents had any control over little children it would be different but the last thing I want to do is being cooped up in a hollow metal tube with a crying baby. Some I have some guilt when it comes to this passage.
On the other hand, I am a child’s advocate. I have nine grandchildren and at least five of them are still in a state of innocence. I do remember what it was like being a child. I know what it feels like to see other kids eating candy bars and drinking drinks when I had to money. I started working for the Newby’s when I was in 7th grade and one of the great things about working for them was: if they got a coke, you got a coke. If I take your kids or grandkids with me and we stop at McDonald’s, everyone will eat or no one will eat. For the past 35 years, DBC has been a church that put heavy emphasis on children. It is costly to run a weekly childcare program but that was one of my dreams. VBS, AWANA, Block Party, Trunk-A-Treat, Easter Egg hunt are all major children’s events. Don’t get me wrong, I am not tooting my horn: in spite of all we do, I feel extremely guilty about what we do not do. If I could find a great story-teller, I would hire him/her to come to the Wee Care daily and tell a bible story.
With this said, there are four things that we dare not do when it comes to children:
I. WE DARE NOT REJECT THEM OR MAKE THEM FEEL REJECTED
Rejection is a tough emotion to deal with. We adults face it but we are seasoned vets. If it hurts us, imagine how much it hurts a child. I believe that rejection scars a child emotionally. They can sense when they are not wanted. Millions of children are growing up in surroundings where love and affection are absent and they are never given the basic assurances that all children need. Be careful not to give a child a sense of rejection. To give you some idea about how huge this problem has become; lets look at some facts about foster care in America.
- On any given day, there are approximately 400,000 children in the foster care system
- The average age of these children is 10…52% are boys and 48% are girls.
- The majority, 65% are cared for in foster homes and 15% or in institutional homes.
- Parental rights have been terminated on 14.5 % of these children.
- Over 50% of these children have medical problems…in most cases from lack of care.
- Over 80% have serious emotional problems. [I think rejection is the main contributor to this problem…my opinion]
- The first goal of the foster care program is to reunite the child with their biological family and this happens 52% of the time.
- The second goal is adoption. Let’s look at a breakdown of 100 children in foster care…
- 52 are reunited with family
- 8 are placed with relative
- 20 are adopted
- 11 become independent
- 6 go into the guardianship program
- 2 are transferred to other agencies
- 1 runs away [in America, that would translate to 4,000 kids running away each year]
Can you imagine the rejection a child feels when their biological parents do not want them and refuse to give them proper love and care. I am not a fan of DHR or any government agency but you have to be pretty sorry for them to take your children. The last thing you want to do, is make a child feel rejected. Jesus said, “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.”
II. YOU DARE NOT CAUSE ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES TO SIN [v.6-9] But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.
- First of all, you do not want to be the cause of the child falling into sin. This not only includes placing stumbling blocks but the removal of stumbling blocks. In other words, we are responsible to PROTECT the child. If we see any thing in the child’s path that might cause them to stumble, we are to remove it at all cost. Your neglect could be the primary cause a child falls into sin. I heard a story when I was boy about some teenagers celebrating their high school graduation. Their parents went to a club with other parents and one the kids went by the house and got some liquor out of his daddy’s private stash. The kids got intoxicated and had a high-speed accident and it killed everyone in the car. It so happened that the father whose son borrowed his liquor and car arrived at the scene of the accident. He was devastated by grief but when the officers showed him the liquor in the car, he vowed on the spot to kill them man who sold them the liquor. When he got home and went to get a drink, he saw the note his son had left: “It’s a big night for us dad, we didn’t think you would care if we borrowed some of your whiskey.”
- Secondly, we are not to tempt a child to sin. A double woe on those who entice little children to sin. Here we get into an even more troubling subject than foster care and that is child abuse. There are many forms of abuse but I want to focus on sexual because it is a problem and it leaves intense emotional scaring.
- Despite what you have heard or may think, 90% of sexual abuse comes from parents, sibling, relatives or friends of the family [someone the child trust]. Only 10% comes from complete strangers.
- Studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18. This means there are more than 44 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S. [If you were abuse, you are not alone]
- Secrecy is a big issue: 73% of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year. 45% of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years. Over 25% never tell anyone.
- Perpetrators report that they look for passive, quiet, troubled, lonely children from single parent or broken homes.
- Most abusers are male [90%] and the victims are the females 80%. [When Jesus says it would be better for a mill stone to be tied around your next and you cast into the depths of the sea, you know you’ve done some horrible. If you destroy a child’s innocence, you have committed a horrible sin]
- When Jesus says it would be better for a mill stone to be tied around your next and you cast into the depths of the sea, you know you’ve done some horrible. If you destroy a child’s innocence, you have committed a horrible sin.
- Jesus also made in clear that unhealthy relationship should be severed. People who tempt you to sin or not your friends. A big part of our responsibility as parents, teachers and leaders is to protect innocent children from predators. Jesus said, So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet.9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. I saw a situation just a few weeks ago, a woman had allowed a man to move it with her and she had a 13-year-old daughter. Predators prey on passive, lonely children that come from broken homes. I saw them together for less than an hour and I can tell you there are problems and this women will be responsible. It is a relationship that is not healthy and it needs to be severed immediately.
III. YOU DARE NOT DESPISE ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES [V. 10] 10“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.
Jesus valued children. He loved them. He states the affection His father has for a child. Their guardian angels are always in His presence. It is almost as if children have preference. I have been in many cultures and I am telling you that this fallen world is out of touch with the FATHER. What do not value what He values. When I went to Africa in 1986, I saw grown adults take candy away from children. I saw them push and even use whips to drive them back. The most humbling thing I’ve experienced was on that trip. At night, as my driver would ease through the crowd, I kept my window down and my arm extended with open hand, the kids one by one would touch my hand. Most of them had never seen a white man until I came to their village. There I was, a Baptist preacher who was actually homesick and I done a pitiful job as a missionary that week but they were enamored just to touch my hand. I wept each night as I left: some much need and I was so impotent, just a piece of red clay sitting in the back of a taxi. I did feel small and it made me very conscience of the fact that only Christ can meet man’s needs.
Jesus loved children and He fully intends for us to love them too, to love them for His sake and to minister to them in His name. Getting someone to teach adults in no big deal. Some folks have left churches because they could not get an adult class but finding Children’s teachers is like finding hen’s teeth. The younger you go, the harder it gets.
We have had a Child-Care program since 1987 and back in the late 80’s we had a little girl named Beth. She was about 8 and had one little brother about 3. These children are what we call full timers: they mom dropped them off at 6:00 am when we open and picked them up at 6:00 pm when we closed. Beth got to acting out and it got so back they the workers ask me to talk with her. In talking with this child, I soon discovered the source of the problem. Beth told me that she woke up one day and her dad was gone and she had not see or heard from him since, this was when her mom got pregnant with her brother so the dad had been gone for over 3 years. Her mom was young, fairly attractive and lonely and she let some good ole boy start spending the night and then just move in. We all know what he was there for and it was not the kids. The home environment was atrocious. The mother was putting boy friends needs before her children and there was constant fighting over the children who were not behaving well. Basically, this is what Beth told me, “My daddy left and I’ve never seen him since and now when I lay down at night, I am afraid my mother will leave me and my brother. I am afraid I will wake up and she will be gone and I want to see her again either.” There are a lot of Beth’s out there and it is because we parents are not doing our job. No child should be made to feel insecure.
Beth also told me that day: “I am not a good child and nobody loves me.” I may have fudged a little but I assured her that her mother loved her and was not going to abandon her and her brother but deep down inside I had the same fears as Beth. I did tell her that there was one person for sure that loved and His name was Jesus.