THREE Gospels (Matt. 18:1-4; Mark 9:33-50; Luke 9:46-50) record the touching incident of our Lord and the little children. The disciples had been disputing as to who should be greatest in His kingdom. Our Lord upsets all prevailing standards by putting a child in the midst. We adults, who like to act as though wisdom would die with us, might have found it more comfortable to our pride if Christ had used a rabbi, a scholar, some “successful” man for His model, but He commands us to be converted and childlike.
Most of us are like children, but, like the other group our Lord described in Matthew 11:16-19, we are childish rather than childlike. He would have us be simple in faith, in life, in spirit, in service—nothing affected or forced. And woe unto him who offends a child or a young believer! Notice what a stern term our Lord used: “Better that a millstone be hanged around his neck and he be cast into the sea.”
He commands us to cut off hand or foot if they offend us—anything that cripples our Christian experience, however precious. He tells us that the children have their guardian angels in the presence of God just as all saints have ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14). And He came to seek and to save the lost, going as a good shepherd after the sheep that is lost.
In speaking of hell, the Lord uses most awful terms: “… where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” Some who want to hear love preached all the time and who cannot reconcile hell with the meek and lowly Jesus should remember that He had more to say about hell than anyone else in the Bible. Here He has in mind the valley of Hinnon, where the worm worked in the putrefaction of decaying bodies and where the smoke continually ascended. The worm does not die in hell because the putrefaction never ceases.
The disciples also complain in this passage about someone who was casting out demons in Christ’s name but who was not associated with them. Our Lord’s rebuke, “Forbid him not, for he that is not against us is for us,” ought to govern us more today than it does. We censure other disciples who are not of us, but if they do the work and carry it out in His name we should esteem them as brothers and not as competitors. It is deplorable that the ranks of true Christians, few enough at most, should be divided by rank jealousies and petty criticisms.
So here is a double warning—against offending weak Christians and children on the one hand, and against censuring others who work in His name on the other. Rather, we are to have salt in ourselves and have peace one with another. Too many of us are “fresh” Christians; we must be seasoned and salted so that our speech may be seasoned with salt—and often that takes fiery trial and suffering. It is not easy for the childish to become childlike.